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Researchers get $3 million National Institutes of Health grant for mathematical models of prostate cancer aggressiveness

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alexander R. A. Anderson, Ph.D., co-director of Integrative Mathematical Oncology (IMO) at Moffitt Cancer Center, and his colleagues, Simon Hayward, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt University and Gustavo Ayala, M.D., at Baylor College of Medicine, have received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create new mathematical models to predict prostate cancer aggressiveness.

"Mathematical models have the potential to be useful prognostic tools, but they have not been optimally developed for the study of cancer progression," said Anderson. "Cancer is a complex disease driven by tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment, which can include stromal cells (connective tissue cells in any organ) and the tumor's vascular bed. The interactions between tumor cells and their microenvironment play a crucial role in both tumor progression and suppression."

Much of their current work on tumor invasion looks at the tumor microenvironment as a "selective force" in the growth and evolution of cancer. Anderson and David Basanta, Ph.D., another key investigator from IMO, believe that mathematical models can predict how the interactions between cellular and microenvironmental components of cancer drive progression. By developing mathematical models that incorporate signaling networks derived from both normal and cancer cells, they aim to help identify aggressive prostate cancer.

Using data collected from microscopy examination of tumor tissues donated from a large cohort of prostate cancer patients with more than a decade of follow-up information, the researchers will construct multi-scale mathematical models to capture both the cell scale signaling and tissue scale morphology. Using these models, parameterized from patient biopsies, they will predict which cancers are aggressive. Secondly, they will test the mathematical predictions in vivo. Finally, they will look for clinical validation of mathematical models as predictors of prostate cancer aggressiveness. This integrated approach could significantly reduce the substantial over-treatment of prostate cancer and dictate which cancer should be treated immediately.

"Our unique combination of resources and team expertise comprises an unparalleled research environment and provides a synergistic approach for gaining an understanding of prostate cancer that goes beyond current science," explained Anderson. "Our models begin and end with human data, assuring that our final products will provide a new and better understanding of human prostate cancer."

Contact: Ferdie De Vega
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

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