Theoretical (cancer) biology is, for me, the perfect marriage between physics and medicine. As theoreticians, we aim to understand complex biological processes from the ground up. This is fundamentally different than traditional experimental biology - which typically adopts a top down approach. The experimental approach focuses on observation and perturbation while the theoretical approach focuses on first principles in an attempt to build a system - this often involves espresso and chalkboards and heated debate and is what I love about this work. For a recent essay on this interesting bridge discipline and its denizens - who I call 'Phase i trialists', click here.
I enjoy building theoretical models of cancer but I realize now that while I can structure the models, I am unable to effect them. To this end, I have just begun a long journey which will culminate with a doctorate in applied mathematics from Oxford University at the Centre for Mathematical Biology under the tutelage of Philip Maini and Alexander Anderson. My thesis work is focussed on glioblastoma - an incurable brain cancer that takes people from the prime of health.
My published work so far has focused on evolutionary game theoretical predictions in glioma and prostate cancer, as well as a recent theory paper in Nature Reviews Cancer defining a universally applicable theoretical construct by which to understand metastasis.
I have also recently had accepted a piece on the relevance of a newly discovered mutation in isocitrate dehydrogenase-1 (IDH1) in certain types of glioblastomas in the journal Neuro Oncology which you can read here. Whether my position is right or wrong, I hope to get the community talking.
I also have a funded project to study Glioma Stem Cells and their role in blood vessel creation in glioblastomas. This project is funded through the PS-OC with a pilot grant with David Basanta and Prakash Chinnaiyan and will serve as validation for my thesis work.
My other funded project is in collaboration with MIT and Leonid Mirny and his graduate student, Christoper McFarland. This project is focused on the role of otherwise ignored, slightly deleterious, passenger mutations and metastasis. A sample of our current work can be seen here, keep an eye on PubMed for our first paper...