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Building Models of Tumor Heterogeneity: Insights into Prostate Cancer and the Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis

On March 13, in the MAA's new conference center in Washington, D. C., the young and accomplished mathematician Trachette L. Jackson, of the University of Michigan, tackled the subject "Building Models of Tumor Heterogeneity: Insights into Prostate Cancer and the Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis."

In giving her talk—the third of five scheduled lectures in the MAA's new Distinguished Lecture Series this year—Jackson came across as engaging, poised, and knowledgeable in mathematics and biology. MAA President Joseph Gallian introduced her to the attendees.

According to Jackson, cancers are composed of clonal subpopulations of cancer cells that may differ among themselves in several ways. They may vary immunologically, by growth rates, the ability to metastasize, the production and expression of markers, and their sensitivity to therapeutic treatment.

This complex heterogeneity has been demonstrated in a wide variety of tumors, including tumors that cause prostate cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. males.

In an effort to better understand the cellular processes that mediate this disease and to give the medical community insights into treating prostate cancer, Jackson outlined mathematical models that describe the pretreatment growth and the post-therapy relapse of human prostate cancer xenografts. These models involve the use of partial differential equations and complex nonlinear systems in cancer biology.

By understanding the interplay among the multiple mechanisms that have been postulated as the causes of hormone-independent relapses of the disease, the goals of more effective treatment and cure of prostate cancer may not be far off.

For Jackson's lecture abstract and additional information about the MAA's Distinguished Lecture Series, see /dist-lecture/welcome.html.—H. Waldman

An interview with Trachette Jackson (pdf) appeared in the August/September 2007 issue of MAA FOCUS. 


This MAA Distinguished Lecture was funded by the National Security Agency.