In Design

A Systems Perspective Of Cancer.

Through studying cancer as a dynamic complex system, we gain invaluable insight into the system behaviors that make it such a difficult disease to treat. We have found cancer to be dynamic along 3 dimensions:


Cancer cells develop addictions to certain signals that transmit a message of growth and override healthy cell behavior. These signals perpetuate cancer growth, and take root in the signaling networks of normal cells.


The physiology of the cancer cell itself does not tell its complete story. Cancer develops in an environment and interacts with multiple systems, including vasculature, the immune system, non-cancer cell types, and neighboring tissue. Understanding their roles in tumor development can help optimize drug delivery and efficacy.


The signaling dependencies that drive tumor growth have the potential to evolve with the growth and development of the tumor as a response to treatment. Anticipating potential resistance and targeting redundant signaling pathways are critical to delivery of the most effective therapy.

Our understanding of these dimensions has guided the biology-specific engineering of Merrimack’s targeted investigational therapies. Integrated Medicine

photo of Douglas Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
“Systems Biology is an interdisciplinary science that brings together biology, computing, and engineering to create a new comprehensive understanding of how signaling networks govern cell behavior.”

— Douglas Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
Ford Professor of Bioengineering, Systems Biologist, MIT