Can cancer be boiled down to a mathematical equation? That's the question researchers at Ohio State University are trying to answer. Scientists there designed a mathematical model that one day could be used to help clinicians make treatment decisions for patients with advanced prostate cancer, a university press release says. The model, which was published in PNAS this week, is currently theoretical, but the researchers were able to show that incorporating personalized data from patients — such as details about individual tumor cell characteristics — gives doctors a better idea of what they're dealing with when they make treatment decisions, OSU says, adding, "the researchers have selected parameters to plug into the equations that more specifically detail what could be going on in an individual tumor: cancer cell growth rates, cancer cell death rates, the level of activation of PSA in tumor cells, and how quickly one person's PSA can travel from the prostate to the bloodstream."
The researchers also took into account the strengths of different cancer cells and how they compete with each other to affect the growth and development of a tumor. They are now working to refine the model, OSU says, by adding information on the vasculature of prostate tumors, which can indicate how persistent a cancer will be.