Cancer and theoretical sciences

System Administrator Saturday 17 of April, 2010
I'm stunned to find out how little we know about cancer after attending the Understanding Cancer via the Theoretical Sciences at Princeton University on Thursday. The list of things we don't know about cancer appears to be fundamental and includes
  • Basic material properties of biomaterials
  • Ability to measure basic properties and forces over various length scales
  • Understand the energy budget associated with cancer
  • Understand the physics of the disease
  • Understand the emergent behavior of cancer
The complexity of cancer is challenging to understand and the statistics are grim
  • 1 in 3 people will get cancer
  • 2009 spending on health care was $2.5T or 18% of the US economy
  • Health care spending projected to be $4.4T by 2020
  • 10.3 million people projected to die from cancer by 2020
  • 2.3 million people/year projected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2030; That's 17 million people/year world wide
  • The type of cancer you get depends where you live with the US having some of the highest rates
  • Cancer depends on your genome and epigenome
    • people in other countries that move to the US have the same cancer rates after one generation
We understand parts of the this complex system but not the parts that allow us to control the disease. The National Cancer Institute has be some new and promising initiatives to help understand the disease with the goal of developing techniques to control the disease. Some of these initiatives include
  • Better imaging techniques to measure across many length scales from the cell to the organ.
  • Cancer Genome Atlas
  • Using Physics to model the biology
  • Nanotechnology Alliance for Cancer
The thought is that Physics + Nanotechnology + Imaging will lead to a better understanding of cancer that can be used to develop more effective treatments to control cancer.