Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomathematics and Biostatistics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Gary L. Rosner, ScD

Committee Member

J. Jack Lee, DDS, PhD

Committee Member

Yuan Ji, PhD

Committee Member

Varsha Gandhi, PhD

Committee Member

Veerabhadran Baladandayuthapani, PhD


The considerable search for synergistic agents in cancer research is motivated by the therapeutic benefits achieved by combining anti-cancer agents. Synergistic agents make it possible to reduce dosage while maintaining or enhancing a desired effect. Other favorable outcomes of synergistic agents include reduction in toxicity and minimizing or delaying drug resistance. Dose-response assessment and drug-drug interaction analysis play an important part in the drug discovery process, however analysis are often poorly done. This dissertation is an effort to notably improve dose-response assessment and drug-drug interaction analysis.

The most commonly used method in published analysis is the Median-Effect Principle/Combination Index method (Chou and Talalay, 1984). The Median-Effect Principle/Combination Index method leads to inefficiency by ignoring important sources of variation inherent in dose-response data and discarding data points that do not fit the Median-Effect Principle. Previous work has shown that the conventional method yields a high rate of false positives (Boik, Boik, Newman, 2008; Hennessey, Rosner, Bast, Chen, 2010) and, in some cases, low power to detect synergy. There is a great need for improving the current methodology.

We developed a Bayesian framework for dose-response modeling and drug-drug interaction analysis. First, we developed a hierarchical meta-regression dose-response model that accounts for various sources of variation and uncertainty and allows one to incorporate knowledge from prior studies into the current analysis, thus offering a more efficient and reliable inference. Second, in the case that parametric dose-response models do not fit the data, we developed a practical and flexible nonparametric regression method for meta-analysis of independently repeated dose-response experiments. Third, and lastly, we developed a method, based on Loewe additivity that allows one to quantitatively assess interaction between two agents combined at a fixed dose ratio. The proposed method makes a comprehensive and honest account of uncertainty within drug interaction assessment. Extensive simulation studies show that the novel methodology improves the screening process of effective/synergistic agents and reduces the incidence of type I error.

We consider an ovarian cancer cell line study that investigates the combined effect of DNA methylation inhibitors and histone deacetylation inhibitors in human ovarian cancer cell lines. The hypothesis is that the combination of DNA methylation inhibitors and histone deacetylation inhibitors will enhance antiproliferative activity in human ovarian cancer cell lines compared to treatment with each inhibitor alone. By applying the proposed Bayesian methodology, in vitro synergy was declared for DNA methylation inhibitor, 5-AZA-2'-deoxycytidine combined with one histone deacetylation inhibitor, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid or trichostatin A in the cell lines HEY and SKOV3. This suggests potential new epigenetic therapies in cell growth inhibition of ovarian cancer cells.


Combination Index method, Drug interaction, Emax model, Interaction index, Median-effect principle, Loewe additivity model, Non-parametric regression methods, Monotone regression splines



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