Neuroblastoma (NB) is a common pediatric malignancy characterized by clinical and biological heterogeneity. A host of prognostic markers are available, contributing to accurate risk stratification and appropriate treatment allocation. Unfortunately, outcome is still poor for many patients, indicating the need for a new approach with enhanced utilization of the available biological data. Systems biology is a holistic approach in which all components of a biological system carry equal importance. Systems biology uses mathematical modeling and simulation to investigate dynamic interactions between system components, as a means of explaining overall system behavior. Systems biology can benefit the biomedical sciences by providing a more complete understanding of human disease, enhancing the development of targeted therapeutics. Systems biology is largely contiguous with current approaches in NB, which already employ an integrative and pseudo-holistic approach to disease management. Systems modeling of NB offers an optimal method for continuing progression in this field, and conferring additional benefit to current risk stratification and management. Likewise, NB provides an opportunity for systems biology to prove its utility in the context of human disease, since the biology of NB is comprehensively characterized and, therefore, suited to modeling. The purpose of this review is to outline the benefits, challenges and fundamental workings of systems modeling in human disease, using a specific example of bottom-up modeling in NB. The intention is to demonstrate practical requirements to begin bridging the gap between biological research and applied mathematical approaches for the mutual gain of both fields, and with additional benefits for clinical management. © 2010 Expert Reviews Ltd.
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