Physics, maths to provide cutting edge to cancer research

January 31st, 2009 - 4:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 31 (IANS) Physics and mathematics will provide the cutting edge to ongoing cancer research and help oncologists unravel how tumours develop and can be halted.Traditional approaches like looking at a slice of cells to understand what signals and pathways are does not capture the full picture, said Sofia Merajver, co-director of the Breast Oncology Programme at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

“The living cell is really a dynamic process. We need to consider the properties of physics to help us understand these data… We need to understand how that molecule is sitting in the cell, interacting with other molecules,” said Merajver, professor of internal medicine at the University’s Medical School.

Merajver and her team have developed a sophisticated mathematical model to help researchers apply these concepts to cancer. By understanding the full complexity of signalling pathways, researchers can better target treatments and identify the most promising potential new drugs.

Researchers have learned from this modelling that a well-known and major type of signalling pathway naturally transmits information forward and backwards, too. That implies new considerations for developing drugs to inhibit major growth and metastasis pathways in cancer.

“When you simplify, you do not know exactly what you are throwing away because you never looked at the complex case,” Merajver says. Mathematical modelling allows researchers to look at the complex case more thoroughly, said a Michigan release.

“To understand how the laws of physics can be applied to biological systems is a new frontier,” she said. Merajver and colleagues even got the journal Cancer Research to add a new regular section focussed on mathematical modelling.

The study appeared in the January issue of Cancer Research.

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