Quantifying ERK activity in response to inhibition of the BRAFV600E-MEK-ERK cascade using mathematical modelling

Sara J. Hamis (Lead / Corresponding author), Yury Kapelyukh, Aileen McLaren, Colin J. Henderson, C. Roland Wolf, Mark A. J. Chaplain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Simultaneous inhibition of multiple components of the BRAF-MEK-ERK cascade (vertical inhibition) has become a standard of care for treating BRAF-mutant melanoma. However, the molecular mechanism of how vertical inhibition synergistically suppresses intracellular ERK activity, and consequently cell proliferation, are yet to be fully elucidated.

Methods: We develop a mechanistic mathematical model that describes how the mutant BRAF inhibitor, dabrafenib, and the MEK inhibitor, trametinib, affect BRAFV600E-MEK-ERK signalling. The model is based on a system of chemical reactions that describes cascade signalling dynamics. Using mass action kinetics, the chemical reactions are re-expressed as ordinary differential equations that are parameterised by in vitro data and solved numerically to obtain the temporal evolution of cascade component concentrations.

Results: The model provides a quantitative method to compute how dabrafenib and trametinib can be used in combination to synergistically inhibit ERK activity in BRAFV600E-mutant melanoma cells. The model elucidates molecular mechanisms of vertical inhibition of the BRAFV600E-MEK-ERK cascade and delineates how elevated BRAF concentrations generate drug resistance to dabrafenib and trametinib. The computational simulations further suggest that elevated ATP levels could be a factor in drug resistance to dabrafenib.

Conclusions: The model can be used to systematically motivate which dabrafenib-trametinib dose combinations, for treating BRAFV600E-mutated melanoma, warrant experimental investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1552-1560
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2021


  • Computational science
  • Melanoma
  • Numerical simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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