Math Path to Personalized Medicine

Tumor progression may soon be mathmatically calculated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The path cancer takes to develop and progress is as unique as the patient dealing with the disease. Scientists are now developing ways to predict that process - one patient at a time.

Scientists have designed a math model as a means of understanding and predicting the path of a tumor - from its first formation to metastasis, when it spreads beyond the original site. They hope this method can be used to provide extemely personalized treatment for each cancer patient.

"Mathematical model may predict the growth and spread of cancer."

Scientists from the University of Miami (UM) and the University of Heidelberg in Germany collaborated on this model, and their findings are published in Scientific Reports, the new online journal from Nature.

When a tumor develops, several things can happen. It forms in a specific location, then stops growing and becomes dormant. Or, it can be fed with a network of blood vessels and get bigger. These vessels can become the paths for the cancer cells spreading to other areas of the body, a process known as metastasis.

This mathematical model focuses in on and uncovers a connection between the tumor and the vessels that are nourishing it.

Co-principal investigator of the study, Neil Johnson, Ph.D., professor of physics, director of the Complexity Research Group at UM College of Arts and Sciences, says this model analyzes information about the how tumors grow in relation to the nutrients they receive.

The process sort of feeds on itself to keep the tumor growing. That is, the vessels feed and are fed by the tumor at the same time. This information can be used to look at the specific course a tumor is likely to take, according to Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., interim director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, at UM Miller School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the study.

Co-investigator, Sehyo Choe, post-doctoral research fellow at the Division of Theoretical Bioinformatics at the German Cancer Research Center in Germany and at the Institute for Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology University of Heidelberg explains that these findings move science closer to being able to use real-time information from a specific patient to describe their tumor's expected growth pattern.

Dr. Rosenblatt explains the method could then be used to design personalized treatments, intervals and dosages for individual patients. Therapies could be developed to interrupt the whole feeding mechanism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 1, 2011
Last Updated:
August 3, 2011