PS-OC Archive Workshops

Mechanical Properties of Cancer Cells

No area of research better illustrates the constructive engagement of physics and cancer biology than the burgeoning field of cell mechanics. This workshop focused on the mechanical properties of healthy and cancer cells and the surrounding tissues. It covered topics such as changes in the elastic properties of cancer cells, the internal chemical and genetic changes triggered by the physical properties of the micro-environment (such as its hardness or surface adhesion) and the motility of cells, with special emphasis on metastasis.

Cancer as a Dynamical System

Understanding cancer in the context of evolutionary biology, how neoplasms evolve within the host organism, the nonlinear feedback between cancer cells and stroma, and how cancer behaves as a complex adaptive system. Emphasis will be on the application of dynamical systems theory, game theory, systems biology and related fields of inquiry to cancer and its progression to malignancy.

Cellular Differentiation and Response to Stress: Modeling Cancer Initiation and Progression

The core focus of this workshop was the differential response of tumor cells to environmental stress. This central issue was approached by three groups: i) experts in the cancer field, ranging from cell biologists to bioinformaticists to pathologists, ii) biologists and bioengineers with expertise in cell differentiation in the context of stem cells and developmental biology, and iii) a cadre of biological modelers, with backgrounds in physics, engineering, and mathematics.

Quantum Mechanics and Cancer Biology

The conjecture that quantum mechanics plays a key role in life dates back to the 1940s, and Erwin Schrödinger’s famous book “What is Life?” However, decades later, most scientists still assume that classical ball and stick models suffice in the realm of molecular biology. Recently there have been claims that quantum effects are essential in at least two biological processes – photosynthesis and bird navigation.

Exploring the links between chromatin configurations, gene expression, nuclear morphology and cancer.

he DNA in every human cell is about two metres long. Somehow it has to be packed into the tiny cell nucleus. Which presents nature with a problem: how can a thread so long be compacted without excessive tangling and knotting? Furthermore, in order for genes to be read, they need to be exposed to enzymes. That requires the DNA to be continually unraveled and re-packaged in an exquisitely precise and controlled manner.

Invasion: How cancer cells spread around the Body

Ninety per cent of cancer deaths occur when the neoplasm spreads beyond the primary tumor and invades other organs. This process, known as metastasis, normally signals a sharp deterioration in prognosis. The manner in which cancer cells migrate around the body remains an ill-understood process, but it is clearly a topic in which physical science is deeply involved.

Electrical Properties of Cells

Most cell biology is dominated by focusing on biochemistry, but electromagnetic effects also play a crucial role in regulating cell behavior. Cells maintain an electrical potential difference of a few hundred millivolts across their membranes by actively pumping charged particles. A similar potential difference is maintained across mitochondrial membranes

Oxidative Stress and the Deep Evolutionary Roots of Cancer

There is a growing realization of the importance of oxygen in understanding cancer, combined with a serious effort to trace the evolutionary roots of cancer back to the dawn of multicellularity, and perhaps even to the dawn of oxygenic metabolism. Many tumor cells are hypoxic, and use glycolysis in favor of oxy-phosphorylation to metabolise.