Physical Sciences Oncology Center (PSOC):
The Moffitt PSOC (1 of 10 current PSOC centers nationwide) embraces the physical science research paradigm that has combined empirical studies with mathematically-based theoretical models that integrate and organize diverse data. We view cancer as an open, complex, dynamic, adaptive system. “Complex” because it contains a large number of components linked through a variety of mostly non-linear interactions. “Adaptive” because the tumor cells evolve and coevolve phenotypic strategies in response to their micro-environmental circumstance, each other, and eventually to therapy. “Dynamic” because all of the elements of the tumor, the cancer cell population sizes, adaptive strategies, and their interactions with each other and their environment change through space and time. “Open” because it continuously interacts with normal tissue in large part through its vascular network. Similar to Riparian ecosystems, blood vessels provide nutrients and growth factors to and remove metabolites from surrounding cancer population as well as providing a highway for the transport of tumor cells to distant organs.
We investigate the cancer as a complex system through an integrated, multidisciplinary approach that includes physicists, applied mathematicians, cancer biologists, computer scientists, oncologists, and evolutionary biologists. Like all living systems, we assume that cancer populations are ultimately governed by Darwinian dynamics which we view as first principles. Complex systems are notoriously difficult to predict as illustrated by the famous “butterfly effect.” However, we have found that predictive models can be developed through the integration of large data sets (similar to weather forecasting), evolutionary first principles, and sophisticated computational methods that ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of the underlying dynamics. Furthermore, we have demonstrated both theoretically and empirically, that the tendency of complex systems to magnify small perturbations can be exploited to guide cancer towards less aggressive outcomes.
Integrated Mathematical Oncology (IMO):
In 2008, the Moffitt leadership formed the Department of Integrated Mathematical Oncology, IMO. The main goal of the IMO is the integration of theoretical and computational modeling tools into clinical and experimental cancer research to aid in both the core understanding of cancer processes and the mechanisms that drive them. By using a range of mathematical modeling approaches targeted at specific types of cancer the IMO aids in the development and testing of treatment strategies. This multi-model, multi-scale approach allows for a diverse and rich interdisciplinary environment that will create many novel approaches for the treatment and understanding cancer. Crucial to our success is the true integration of theoretical models with real cancers and treatments, which requires sophisticated imaging techniques and potentially new experimental and clinical protocols. To this end the IMO is an interdisciplinary team of scientists incorporating experts in the field of mathematics, computer science, physics, imaging and visualization to name but a few.
IMO faculty consists of 6 internationally renowned cancer researchers and mathematical modelers. Research topics within the IMO groups: Mathematical modeling of tumor growth and treatment, Individual cells based models, Tumor imaging, In vitro 2D and 3D assays, Cancer evolutionary dynamics, Bio-mechanics of tumor development, Modeling tumor microenvironment, Drug interstitial transport, Cancer stem cells, and Tumor dormancy.
Moffitt Cancer Center:
The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute is a domestic, non-profit organization that provides and ideal environment for nurturing young scientist. It is a freestanding institution and Florida’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. The Center serves a population of over 15 million people and ranks third in the United States in terms of total patient volume with 6,208 hospital admissions and 212,562 outpatient visits in 2005. The Center includes a hospital with 192 licensed beds and a 22-bed Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program that has completed over 1,400 transplants, the largest such program in the Southeast; the Lifetime Cancer Screening Center, which screens approximately 20,000 healthy and cancer patients annually; and affiliations with a large and growing number of hospitals in Florida, as well as other centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Distinguishing features of the Moffitt include its commitment to Mathematical Oncology, Databasing and Imaging. In 2008, the Moffitt Cancer Center established a Department of Integrated Mathematical Oncology (IMO), and was the first Cancer Center in the World to do so.