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Evolutionary dynamics in cancer control and cure
Published on October 31, 2022 44 min
A selection of talks on Cancer
Connecting aging and cancer through the lens of evolution
- Prof. James DeGregori
- University of Colorado, USA
Hi, my name is Bob Gatenby. I'm a physician-scientist at the Moffitt Cancer Center. I'm a member of the Department of Integrated Mathematical Biology and the Department of Radiology. My topic is on the evolutionary dynamics in cancer control and cure.
I want to start with some background. The first is that cancer is a complex dynamic system. It's complex because it has many components and dynamic because those components interact with each other often producing non-linear dynamics. To put that in perspective, human intuition is very good at linear dynamics. If 1x = 2y and 2x = 4y, 3x = 6y, we are very good at predicting that. However, if 1x = 2y and 2x = -5y and 3x gives us 12y, those are non-linear dynamics and human intuition is not very good in dealing with that. I think this is obvious in what is the most complex dynamic system that's well known, and that is the weather. Just as an anecdote, I want to tell a little story about Benjamin Franklin who was actually a very outstanding scientist in colonial America. He wanted to see a lunar eclipse. When he was living in Philadelphia, he went out to see it. But he was interrupted by a violent storm, in the US these are called Nor'easters because the wind comes from the northeast. Like all scientists of his day, Franklin thought that the wind carried the storm. Therefore, since the wind was coming out of the Northeast, it would be coming from Boston. Therefore, his brother who lived in Boston, would also not be able to see the lunar eclipse. He was shocked the next day to learn that the storm did not arrive in Boston until after the eclipse was over. Franklin was the first person to really question this dogma, that the wind carried the storm. Now, this idea that wind carried the storm is very linear. If you ask a child, they'll say that because it makes sense. But he was the first to recognize that this is a linear thinking, but it's applied to a complex dynamic system. In fact, he very astutely began to learn that weather storms follow variations in the barometric pressure. It's important to recognize when we're thinking about cancer and cancer therapy, that it is a non-linear system. For that reason, sometimes things that are intuitively obvious are also completely wrong. We have to be able to accept that.