High density of macrophages in mammary tumors has been associated with a higher risk of metastasis and thus increased mortality in women. The EGF/CSF-1 paracrine signaling increases the number of invasive tumor cells by both recruiting tumor cells further away and manipulating the macrophages' innate ability to open up a passage into blood vessels thus promoting intravasation and finally metastasis. A 3-D individual-cell-based model is introduced, to better understand the tumor cell-macrophage interactions, and to explore how changing parameters of the paracrine signaling system affects the number of invasive tumor cells. The simulation data and videos of the cell movements correlated well with findings from both in vitro and in vivo experimental results. The model demonstrated how paracrine signaling is necessary to achieve co-migration of tumor cells and macrophages towards a specific signaling source. We showed how the paracrine signaling enhances the number of both invasive tumor cells and macrophages. The simulations revealed that for the in vitro experiments the imposed no-flux boundary condition might be affecting the results, and that changing the setup might lead to different experimental findings. In our simulations, the 3:1 tumor cell/macrophage ratio, observed in vivo, was robust for many parameters but sensitive to EGF signal strength and fraction of macrophages in the tumor. The model can be used to identify new agents for targeted therapy and we suggest that a successful strategy to prevent or limit invasion of tumor cells would be to block the tumor cell-macrophage paracrine signaling. This can be achieved by either blocking the EGF or CSF-1 receptors or supressing the EGF or CSF-1 signal.
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