domingo, 27 de febrero de 2011

Cancer seen by physicists and mathematicians

Four decades after the United States declared war on cancer "(in the words of President Nixon) and researchers from around the world have left their brains trying to find a solution to this group of diseases, the truth is that it follows being one of the medical and health problems most serious facing our society.

There has been significant progress, many of them in terms of prevention, but mortality rates have not fallen dramatically, contrary to what has happened with many other illnesses in recent times.

At this point, many experts think it is time to seek new approaches to the problem. In this spirit, the National Cancer Institute, the largest U.S. government agency dedicated to this issue, has decided to attract specialists from other areas such as physics and mathematics, to help find solutions from different points of view. To this end, the agency has distributed since 2009 and forward five years, some 45 million euros from 12 multidisciplinary groups distributed throughout the country, first-rate institutions such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Princeton University .

"Mortality rates for many cancers are stable or increasing, "said Robert Austin, professor of physics and leader of the joint center for cancer of the University. "It is true that people live longer, but in the end, the cancer is winning. Our current approach of 'shock and awe' [shock and awe, referring to the indiscriminate attack on tumor cells] may not be the most appropriate" , argues researcher.

Advocates of these programs argue that the cells, the biological units in which cancer occurs, not just chemical or genetic, but also complex physical systems in which mechanical processes take place amazing, and whose behavior might try to predict by mathematical models.

"Sure, mathematicians and physicists have to make, there will be significant progress, "predicts Fernando Peláez, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Research (CNIO). But "finding a formula or a law of physics or mathematics is not curing cancer, " he qualifies. "I do not think that these theoretical tools we will provide the solution. Now, sure you can help, "he summarizes.

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