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€1.7million Grant to Help Solve Maths Cancer Puzzle

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Dundee has long pioneered the use of mathematics to develop models which can predict how cancerous tumours develop, measuring their shape and the speed and spread of growth.

This new project, funded by the European Research Council, will lead to a full “virtual cancer” model which could be used to assist clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

“One of the big challenges in addressing cancer treatment is that you can have two patients with the same kind of tumour in the same area of the body, but they will react to it completely differently,” said Professor Mark Chaplain, Head of Mathematics at Dundee and the lead researcher in the new project.

“The factors which contribute to the creation and growth of cancerous cells can all be measured - most biological processes in the human body involve many different but inter-connected phenomena to which mathematical values can be applied.
“By using cutting-edge applied and computational mathematical techniques to track the many factors involved in cancer growth and spread we can develop a virtual model of how cancers can be expected to grow, which would give clinicians another valuable tool in diagnosing and treating individual patients.”

The modelling approach is unique in its development of an individual-based model focussed at the cell level treating the biomechanical properties of each cell.

Professor Chaplain and his team will collaborate with researchers in Life Sciences, Medicine and Physics at Dundee to develop the new models.

“We are uniquely placed in Dundee in having all the relevant expertise needed across the different disciplines to work on this project,” said Professor Chaplain.

The grant covers five years and will provide seven new posts at the University - three post-doctoral research assistants, three PhD students and one research lecturer.