June 29, 2007 Members of a Harvey Mudd College (HMC)-led research team recently present their research "Curing Cancer with Mathematics" at the 13th annual meeting of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) on Tuesday, June 26, in Washington, D.C.
Leading the team was Lisette de Pillis, HMC professor of mathematics, who is lead principal investigator (PI) on the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored research project. The team is working to develop and test models of cancer growth and to implement mathematically optimal approaches to controlling multiple simultaneous cancer treatment strategies, which include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and vaccine therapy.
According to de Pillis, "Harnessing the power of the body's own immune system is a promising approach to combating a growing cancer. However, precisely how cancer immunotherapies work, and how they should be administered optimally, either alone or in conjunction with chemotherapies, remains an open question of great interest and import to the medical community.
"In this cross-disciplinary project, we are developing computational and mathematical tools capable of modeling the complex cascade of biological tumor-immune interactions, and of determining effective combination treatment strategies. Our tools have the potential to provide clinical guidance in the development of new treatment protocols through preliminary evaluations of simulated scenarios."
HMC Professor of Mathematics and co-PI Weiqing Gu brings to the project her expertise in analytic geometry. Renee Fister from Murray State University (Ky.) is the other co-PI, bringing her expertise in optimal control theory. Also representing HMC were students and recent graduates: Benjamin David Preskill '09 of Claremont, Calif., David Gross '08 of Pasadena, Calif., and James Moore '07 of Mercer Island, Wash.
The project and team were selected to represent the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) at the CNSF exhibition, where they will showcase the kind of active research that takes place with undergraduates at Harvey Mudd College. In 2006, the American Mathematical Society recognized HMC with its first Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department.
Since 1995, the Coalition for National Science Funding has sponsored an exhibition and reception each spring, showcasing research made possible by the National Science Foundation. Exhibit booths display a wide range of scientific research and education projects, and university researchers and educators are on hand to describe their work to interested members of Congress and their staffs.
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