Invited Address

Jana Gevertz, Associate Professor
The College of New Jersey

How Mathematics Can Help to Design Cancer Treatment Protocols

Over the last several decades, much has been learned about cancer through experimental and clinical research. However, the more we learn about cancer, the more it is recognized that cancer is a multi-faceted disease that depends on a large number of complicated nonlinear processes. In this talk, I will introduce the field of mathematical oncology – the subfield of mathematical biology that aims to quantify the many components that contribute to tumor growth and treatment response. 

After this broad overview, I will use the power of mathematics to study a perplexing clinical problem: why does a treatment protocol result in cancer remission for some patients, but fail to control the cancer in other patients? Ideally, cancer treatment protocols would be robust, meaning they would be effective in a large percent of cancer patients. In an effort to identify such robust protocols, we have developed a framework that couples experimental data, statistical analyses, ordinary differential equation-based modeling, and techniques from optimal control theory. In collaboration with an undergraduate researcher, we applied this framework to melanoma data and discovered a robust protocol for treating melanoma with two experimental cancer drugs.