Examining the efficacy of localised gemcitabine therapy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer using a hybrid agent-based model

Publication Name

PLoS Computational Biology


The prognosis for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) patients has not significantly improved in the past 3 decades, highlighting the need for more effective treatment approaches. Poor patient outcomes and lack of response to therapy can be attributed, in part, to a lack of uptake of perfusion of systemically administered chemotherapeutic drugs into the tumour. Wetspun alginate fibres loaded with the chemotherapeutic agent gemcitabine have been developed as a potential tool for overcoming the barriers in delivery of systemically administrated drugs to the PDAC tumour microenvironment by delivering high concentrations of drug to the tumour directly over an extended period. While exciting, the practicality, safety, and effectiveness of these devices in a clinical setting requires further investigation. Furthermore, an indepth assessment of the drug-release rate from these devices needs to be undertaken to determine whether an optimal release profile exists. Using a hybrid computational model (agent-based model and partial differential equation system), we developed a simulation of pancreatic tumour growth and response to treatment with gemcitabine loaded alginate fibres. The model was calibrated using in vitro and in vivo data and simulated using a finite volume method discretisation. We then used the model to compare different intratumoural implantation protocols and gemcitabine-release rates. In our model, the primary driver of pancreatic tumour growth was the rate of tumour cell division. We were able to demonstrate that intratumoural placement of gemcitabine loaded fibres was more effective than peritumoural placement. Additionally, we quantified the efficacy of different release profiles from the implanted fibres that have not yet been tested experimentally. Altogether, the model developed here is a tool that can be used to investigate other drug delivery devices to improve the arsenal of treatments available for PDAC and other difficult-to-treat cancers in the future.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number




Link to publisher version (DOI)