Math–A Matter of Life and Death

July 13, 2010

Crunching Cancer With Numbers

While traditional biological approaches to understanding and combating cancer have had some great successes, mortality rates remain stubbornly high. That’s why last year the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) enlisted Hillis and other high-powered researchers from physics, engineering, mathematics and computer science to see what extra ammunition they might supply.

The newcomers will not be required to design new death rays or high-powered imaging devices for tumours, the traditional metier of physical scientists. Instead, they will harness the mathematical tools and the broad-brush approaches of their disciplines for a new goal: to find simple laws that describe a cancer cell’s fate as surely as they do a falling apple.

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