Mathematical Oncology


Come join us.

Written by Editorial Board - July 21, 2019


It seems an appropriate coincidence that, as many of us travel hundreds (or thousands) of miles to lovely Montreal for this year’s Society for Mathematical Biology’s annual meeting to catch up with friends, colleagues and the latest research ideas, that we propose a complementary way for this community to do so.

We propose to launch a community blog for mathematical and computational oncology. A space where we can all develop new ideas, share tips and tricks, and announce or discuss the latest work.

Blogging is not new, nor is the passion that many mathematical and computational oncologists feel for communicating ideas, algorithms and equations with each other and the public. The list of blogs that a few of us have started over the years (list) is a testament to that. But this is often solitary and hard work. With dedication, blogs can have a big reach but this is difficult to achieve alone. Hence, we aim to work together as a community to build the reach of mathematical and computational oncology.

On twitter, we have seen an effort parallel to blogs. Twitter has become, arguably, the favorite way for many mathematical and computational oncologists to keep up with each other’s research (even if alternative social networks like FB, and LinkedIn, and the now defunct Google+ have also been popular in the community). Social networks allow us to use familiar and user-friendly tools and easily reach friends and colleagues. They make participation easy and rewarding and allow for inclusion of additional interdisciplinary scientists and newcomers to the community. Yet, these media also are ad-supported, mix personal and scientific content and it is often harder to refer to said content outside of the platform in which it was created.

Our idea is thus to create a place where mathematical and computational oncologists can meet without those constraints. We want to create a space that is more structured, long-form, and permanent than twitter threads, but still flexible and responsive enough to highlight and foster the scientific method in action in a way that journals are too stifling to allow. The intention is not to replace journals, preprints, personal blogs or social platforms, but to add to the ecosystem in a synergistic way. We would like this community blog to point to what other people are writing on their blogs, posting to bioRxiv, or publishing in journals if they chose to continue using those. For those passionate about twitter, we would encourage the unrolling and fleshing out of certain twitter-threads if the authors support that, and allowing people to comment on the blog posts or twitter. Most importantly, the blog will serve as a platform for new bloggers to develop and share their ideas with the computational and mathematical oncology community. The greater good is better served if the community keeps sharing ideas and commenting, regardless of the tools used for that purpose.

The benefits of blogging are many but perhaps the most obvious is in terms of space and flexibility to articulate and illustrate our ideas, potentially using interactive content, as part of a greater community of scientists. In addition, as public engagement becomes increasingly important, we must embrace the challenge of encouraging participation from a wider audience. Cancer affects everyone, and so we need to both articulate our discoveries and find new ways to listen to public insights. Blogging allows us to develop our ideas in the public sphere alongside a wider community that is not limited to just the ivory towers. We aim to write for this new blog in a way that is open and accessible to all scientists -- not just mathematical and computational oncologists -- and interested communities of patients, advocates, and the public more generally. We aim to amplify the wonderful new ideas brought to the table by our junior colleagues and recognize the central role of graduate students and early career researchers in computational and mathematical oncology.

We are working on a system based on Google Forms to make submitting a post as fast, convenient and easy as possible but in the meantime please keep sending us your drafts or finalized posts to any of the editors or our dedicated email address (

If you are not sure what to write then let us point you to some of our favourite existing content from across the computational and mathematical oncology blogs.

Consider Jan Poleszczuk’s posts on general computational topics of interest to oncologists like how to estimate uncertainty in treatment outcomes of ODE models, or how to avoid boundary effects in ABMs by dynamically expanding lattices. These are general computational techniques that are useful for all modelers, but aren’t linked to any specific traditional publication. Or consider Rob Noble’s posts explaining newly developed open source code like ggmuller, introducing his (now) iconic Box-Einstein plot for the tradeoff between model ‘wrongness’ and complexity, or pointing out the ambiguity in the use of ‘de novo resistance’ between biologists and clinicians. These are the ideas that through community iteration grow into the bedrock of our science. And they provide a window into our thinking that is much clearer than journal publications. Blogs also allow us to share teaching resources, like Vincent Cannataro’s interactive evolutionary game teaching aid. And to report work in progress, like Andrew Dhawan’s posts on a cursory analysis of the abundance of miRNA or a new hypothesis about circRNA as a cellular speedometer, or the numerous reports of work-in-progress after Integrated Mathematical Oncology workshops by Vincent Cannataro, Jill Gallaher, David Robert Grimes, Ryan Schenck, Robert Vander Velde, or Matthew Wicker.

Finally, if you are not yet comfortable sharing work-in-progress then we welcome announcement, digests, and behind-the-paper posts on your latest work. Or even better, on cool work that you have been reading from others in the community. This sort of writing is a challenge to us as a community to do our science in the open. This blog is a challenge to our community to interact with other scientists and the public while work is underway, and to include a more diverse set of voices.

We appreciate any and all computational and mathematical oncologists that are willing to step up to meet this challenge and contribute to our new community blog.

Thank you from the Editors:

David Basanta, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, USA
Christina Curtis, Stanford University, Palo Alto, USA
Elana Fertig, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
Stacey Finley, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
Jakob Nikolas Kather, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
Artem Kaznatcheev, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Jacob G. Scott, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, USA
Jeffrey West, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, FL. USA
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