Statistical Mechanical theory for spatio-temporal evolution of Intra-tumor heterogeneity in cancers: Analysis of Multiregion sequencing data

2022-07-28 09:00 - 10:00
CMSA Room G10
Address: CMSA, 20 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

CMSA Interdisciplinary Science Seminar

Speaker: Sumit Sinha, Harvard University

Title: Statistical Mechanical theory for spatio-temporal evolution of Intra-tumor heterogeneity in cancers: Analysis of Multiregion sequencing data (

Abstract: Variations in characteristics from one region (sub-population) to another are commonly observed in complex systems, such as glasses and a collection of cells. Such variations are manifestations of heterogeneity, whose spatial and temporal behavior is hard to describe theoretically. In the context of cancer, intra-tumor heterogeneity (ITH), characterized by cells with genetic and phenotypic variability that co-exist within a single tumor, is often the cause of ineffective therapy and recurrence of cancer. Next-generation sequencing, obtained by sampling multiple regions of a single tumor (multi-region sequencing, M-Seq), has vividly demonstrated the pervasive nature of ITH, raising the need for a theory that accounts for evolution of tumor heterogeneity. Here, we develop a statistical mechanical theory to quantify ITH, using the Hamming distance, between genetic mutations in distinct regions within a single tumor. An analytic expression for ITH, expressed in terms of cell division probability (α) and mutation probability (p), is validated using cellular-automaton type simulations. Application of the theory successfully captures ITH extracted from M-seq data in patients with exogenous cancers (melanoma and lung). The theory, based on punctuated evolution at the early stages of the tumor followed by neutral evolution, is accurate provided the spatial variation in the tumor mutation burden is not large. We show that there are substantial variations in ITH in distinct regions of a single solid tumor, which supports the notion that distinct subclones could co-exist. The simulations show that there are substantial variations in the sub-populations, with the ITH increasing as the distance between the regions increases. The analytical and simulation framework developed here could be used in the quantitative analyses of the experimental (M-Seq) data. More broadly, our theory is likely to be useful in analyzing dynamic heterogeneity in complex systems such as supercooled liquids.

Bio: I am a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard SEAS (Applied Mathematics) and Dana Farber Cancer Institute (Data Science) beginning Feb 2022. I finished my PhD in Physics (Theoretical Biophysics) from UT Austin (Jan 2022) on “Theoretical and computational studies of growing tissue”.  I pursued my undergraduate degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in India (2015). Boradly, I am interested in developing theoretical models, inspired from many-body statistical physics, for biological processes at different length and time scales.