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Poor drug delivery and low rates of cell proliferation are two factors associated with hypoxia that diminish the efficacy of many chemotherapeutic drugs. Since macrophages are known to migrate specifically towards, and localize within, hypoxic tumour regions, a promising resolution to these problems involves genetically engineering macrophages to perform such anti-tumour functions as inducing cell lysis and inhibiting angiogenesis. In this paper we outline a modelling approach to characterize macrophage infiltration into early avascular solid tumours, and extensions to study the interaction of these cells with macrophages already present within the tumour. We investigate the role of chemotaxis and chemokine production, and the efficacy of macrophages as vehicles for drug delivery to hypoxic tumour sites. The model is based upon a growing avascular tumour spheroid, in which volume is filled by tumour cells, macrophages and extracellular material, and tumour cell proliferation and death is regulated by nutrient diffusion. Crucially, macrophages occupy volume, and hence contribute to the volume balance and hence the size of the tumour. We also include oxygen-dependent production of macrophage chemokines, which can lead to accumulations in the hypoxic region of the tumour. We find that the macrophage chemotactic sensitivity is a key determinant of macrophage infiltration and tumour size. Although increased infiltration should be beneficial from the point of view of macrophage-based therapies, such infiltration in fact leads to increased tumour sizes. Finally, we include terms representing the induced death of tumour cells by hypoxic engineered macrophages. We demonstrate that reductions in tumour size can be achieved, but predict that a combination of therapies would be required for complete eradication. We also highlight some counter-intuitive predictions-for example, absolute and relative measures of tumour burden lead to different conclusions about prognosis. In summary, this paper illustrates how mathematical models may be used to investigate promising macrophage-based therapies.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





377 - 391


Cell Death, Cell Hypoxia, Chemokines, Chemotaxis, Drug Delivery Systems, Humans, Immunotherapy, Macrophages, Models, Biological, Neoplasms