Stem cells, branching processes and stochasticity in cancer

Another great blog post by Artem Kaznatcheev about the Cancer Ecology workshop we organised a little bit over a month ago at the MBI at the Ohio State University. Branching process are important when modelling hierarchical tissues (with stem cells) so I will be happy to work with Artem on that while he is at Moffitt. Other great examples of how this particular mathematical tool can help us understand different aspects of cancer are shown as well.

Theory, Evolution, and Games Group

When you were born, you probably had 270 bones in your body. Unless you’ve experienced some very drastic traumas, and assuming that you are fully grown, then you probably have 206 bones now. Much like the number and types of internal organs, we can call this question of science solved. Unfortunately, it isn’t always helpful to think of you as made of bones and other organs. For medical purposes, it is often better to think of you as made of cells. It becomes natural to ask how many cells you are made of, and then maybe classify them into cell types. Of course, you wouldn’t expect this number to be as static as the number of bones or organs, as individual cells constantly die and are replaced, but you’d expect the approximate number to be relatively constant. Thus number is surprisingly difficult to measure, and our best current estimate is…

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Las matemáticas del cáncer: entrevista a David Basanta

For those of you that can read Spanish, here is an interview I did with Ines Garmendia for Desayuno con fotones. This is as good as it gets given the interviewee.

Desayuno con fotones

David Basanta es una de las jóvenes promesas en un campo que empieza a ver la luz: la modelización matemática del cáncer. Desde hace 9 años ha estado investigando modelos matemáticos y computacionales aplicados al cáncer en el Departamento de Oncología Integrada en el Moffitt Cancer Center en Tampa (Florida, Estados Unidos) y ha publicado en revistas como Cell proliferation, Cancer research, The European Physical Journal B-Condensed Matter and Complex Systems y Physical biology.

El propósito de su investigación es “comprender la dinámica evolutiva del cáncer mediante aproximaciones integrales, para que algún día podamos llegar a tener un control sobre la progresión de esta enfermedad”.

David Basanta ante su pizarra en el Moffitt Cancer Center David Basanta ante su pizarra en el Moffitt Cancer Center

P: David, ¿qué pinta Darwin en la investigación del cáncer?

R: Es una buena pregunta Ines. Llevamos muchas décadas (y muchos euros/dolares/libras/yenes) tratando de encontrar una cura para el cáncer y con un éxito más…

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Evolving past Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s predictions at TED

An interesting early blog post by our very own Artem Kaznatcheev on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s talk on the uses of game theory in international politics. I think this highlights both the potential of game theory as a predictive tool but also the risk of complex and poorly validated mathematical models.

Theory, Evolution, and Games Group

Originally, today’s post was going to be about “The evolution of compassion” by Robert Wright, but a September 3rd Economist article caught my attention. So we will save compassion for another week, and instead quickly talk about prediction human behavior. The Economist discusses several academics and firms that specialize in using game theory to predicting negotiation behavior and quantify how it can be influenced. The article included a companion video highlighting Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, but I decided to include an older TED talk “Bruce Bueno de Mesquita predicts Iran’s future” instead:

I like the discussion of game theoretic predictions in the first part of the video. I want to concentrate on that part and side-step the specific application to Iranian politics at the end of the video.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita clearly comes from a political science background, and unfortunately concentrates on very old game theory. However, we know…

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