Mathematical Oncology

2022 Recap

A year in review

Written by David Basanta - January 02, 2023

This is the 4th year I get to write this end-of-the-year post for the MathOnco blog, and this year, I would like to talk about something other than the posts we got from you, which obviously were excellent!

For one thing, we have a new member in the blog team: Alexander Zeilmann, from Heidelberg University. While, as you know, most of the work required to maintain this blog is done by this community writing those lovely, insightful and thought-provoking posts, there is still the job of (sometimes) soliciting them, lightly editing them, uploading them to the site and using social media to advertise them. Alex, Jeff and I have been doing that this year and we are very happy having Alex in the team!

During this 2022 we also kept working on better integrating the different parts of the MathOnco site. Together with Jeff West (Moffitt), Sandy Anderson (Moffitt), Saskia Haupt (Heidelberg) and Maximilian Strobl (Cleveland Clinic), we have ensured that posts appear in the newsletter and that, in the future, some of the best art in the blog is also featured there. Maxi wrote about this in the blog back in September and Saskia has compiled and written up this (interim) analysis of the MathOnco community. Saskia has also been working on featuring MathOnco research groups worldwide and the requirement to be listed includes a post on this blog you are currently reading so please consider doing this in this 2023.

We had some great posts in 2022. We were very happy to see, not just a few repeat posters, but also lots of new people volunteering to write about their work and their ideas for their first time in this blog. One of those new authors is also, unfortunately, someone that will not be able to contribute in the future. Sadly, 2022 saw the passing of Dr. Robert Gillies, one of the giants in modern cancer research and a pioneer in looking at cancer through the lens of ecology and evolution. As the US FDA continues to favor the administration of treatments using MTD (Maximum Tolerated Dose), together with Sandy Anderson and Bob Gatenby he co-authored an insightful post calling for the use of mathematical modeling and evolutionary thinking in the application of anticancer treatments so as to overcome the emergence of treatment resistance.

Bob, Bob and Sandy’s post was one of the ones describing a novel message or new perspective. We also had posts teaching this community about how to use existing tools such as Stan. We had great recaps of meetings, like last year’s ECMTB/SMB in Heidelberg. Very useful reviews of current topics such as this one about mathematical modeling of adaptive therapies in cancer.

But probably the most common type of post we get is what we refer to as ‘behind the paper’. Of those, we had a few that could be thought of as tools that could be widely used by the community, such as data science, transcriptomics, fast agent-based simulations, neural networks to compare model simulations or how to systematically quantitate treatment response in vitro.

Other posts describe new ideas that go beyond oncology but that, by explaining aspects of evolution and ecology, have a direct translation to the research of many mathematical oncologists. That is the case of this post describing how digital ecology can be used to explore interesting dynamics by creating novel ecosystems that do not try to mimic an existing reality. Tools like fitness landscapes have been traditionally used to implicitly capture selection in evolution but, do we need an upgrade? This post about fitness seascapes explores that very point.

Of course there are also posts where the goal is to show an interesting result such as in this one about phenotypic plasticity and how it can change intra tumor heterogeneity, treatment and the onset of metastasis, or this one following on the metastasis theme which uncovers the role of myeloid-derived suppressor cells which are described as the most important cells you neve heard of.

Many of these posts link to preprints. It is great to see more and more research on bioRxiv, medRxiv and other preprint servers, which allows us to be aware, use and critique research before (or instead) it gets published after peer review. This blog can be part of this process in a number of ways: it’s a great place in which to discuss ideas that might help shape the message of a new manuscript before the process itself is finished in the spirit of open science. The blog has been used (and we encourage you to keep using it this way) to advertise recently preprinted or published work by using it to give us the highlights of the research using a more direct language than the one that is often used to write academic papers. Finally, while bioRxiv has a (n unfortunately rarely used) comments section, this blog could be used to discuss at length the strengths and/or shortcomings of preprinted work, or maybe place it in a different context.

Happy 2023 everyone and please, keep those posts coming!

Image Credits

The title image was created using Stable Diffusion and bigjpg.
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