Using math to determine if cancer cells will spread

Researchers at Ohio State University are working on a math equation for cancer cells, by using math to predict if abnormal cells are likely to invade the body.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Huseyin Coskun, an Ohio State University researcher, thinks there's a better way of looking at cancer cells.

While the progression of cancer might be riddled with uncertainty, Coskun has a formula that can predict if a cancer cell is the aggressive type or not.

By looking at how the cell acts, how it looks, and how it moves, Coskun can tell if the cell is sick. Just as we act differently when we are sick, our cells do too.

Cancer cells have a personality, and the bad ones tend to stick out.

“When we get sick, our behavior changes. We may stay in bed, sleep a lot -- maybe we are coughing or sneezing. These are basic symptoms that a doctor will consider to determine if we’re sick. Abnormalities oftentimes manifest themselves as behavioral changes in all living organisms. Therefore, a careful analysis of and profiling the behavioral patterns of single cells could provide valuable information," Coskun said in a statement.

Our current way of identifying cancer is okay for present analysis, but sucks for predicting the future. A pathologist looks at photos of biopsied cells and has to figure out how advanced the cancer is. A pathologist does a good job at diagnosing cancer, but can't really say much about the future of the disease.

“That’s why I believe that one of the most important applications of this research is profiling cancer cells. Given a cell’s motion and its morphological changes, we want to be able to determine what’s happening inside the cell. If it looks like a cancer cell, and a particularly aggressive one, we would like to quantify how likely it is that the cancer cells will invade the body,” Coskun said in a statement.

Coskun uses continuum mechanics to model how the cells act and how they look. He found that theoretical results matched experimental data that came from previous cancer studies. To get data for his models, he used CellTrack to make movies of how the cells behaved and extracted the data to derive cell motion.

The Ohio State researcher pointed out that living cells constantly change and react to whatever is going on around them.

For instance, to fight off an infection, white blood cells have to move in a certain way to fight off invading pathogens. In the same way, cancer cells that are of the aggressive variety are more likely to migrate from the tumor and move into the blood stream and spread to other parts of the body.

Soon, Coskun might take the guess work out of cancer progression - and make it a little bit more predictable.

Coskun believes there's a quantitative way to predict the future, and expects that we'll be seeing more of these mathematical models being used to make sense of the unknown.

via Ohio State University

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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