SU-E-J-115: Using Markov Chain Modeling to Elucidate Patterns in Breast Cancer Metastasis Over Time and Space




Traditionally, breast cancer metastasis is described as a process wherein cancer cells spread from the breast to multiple organ systems via hematogenous and lymphatic routes. Mapping organ specific patterns of cancer spread over time is essential to understanding metastatic progression. In order to better predict sites of metastases, here we demonstrate modeling of the patterned migration of metastasis.


We reviewed the clinical history of 453 breast cancer patients from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who were non-metastatic at diagnosis but developed metastasis over time. We used the variables of organ site of metastases as well as time to create a Markov chain model of metastasis. We illustrate the probabilities of metastasis occurring at a given anatomic site together with the probability of spread to additional sites.


Based on the clinical histories of 453 breast cancer patients who developed metastasis, we have learned (i) how to create the Markov transition matrix governing the probabilities of cancer progression from site to site; (ii) how to create a systemic network diagram governing disease progression modeled as a random walk on a directed graph; (iii) how to classify metastatic sites as ‘sponges’ that tend to only receive cancer cells or ‘spreaders’ that receive and release them; (iv) how to model the time-scales of disease progression as a Weibull probability distribution function; (v) how to perform Monte Carlo simulations of disease progression; and (vi) how to interpret disease progression as an entropy-increasing stochastic process.


Based on our modeling, metastatic spread may follow predictable pathways. Mapping metastasis not simply by organ site, but by function as either a ‘spreader’ or ‘sponge’ fundamentally reframes our understanding of metastatic processes. This model serves as a novel platform from which we may integrate the evolving genomic landscape that drives cancer metastasis. PS-OC Trans-Network Project Grant Award for “Data Assimilation and ensemble statistical forecasting methods applied to the MSKCC longitudinal metastatic breast cancer cohort.”