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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Mathematician presents new way to fight cancer

    Breast cancer may have a new opponent-a combination of biological, mathematical and computer science-said a mathematics professor in a seminar Friday.
    Suhrit Dey of Eastern Illinois University said he participates in seminars to heighten awareness and interest in the field. He hopes this will encourage others to further his research.
    “Everyone has to work together if we want to stop this disease,” Dey said. “We can do so much through the next generation of researchers. We can start the project, but we cannot finish it. Someone else has to come along and do the research to build on top of what I have done.”
    With a background in mathematics, Dey said many people might not understand why he is doing research for breast cancer, but he said that his interest was sparked by a very personal experience.
    “In 1993 my wife was diagnosed with lumps in her breasts,” Dey said. “The doctors said that they were cysts, but at the time I didn’t even know what that meant.”
    In addition to teaching mathematics, Dey also teaches yoga at EIU. He said he invited his wife to join yoga, and soon the cysts were gone.
    “When the cysts were gone, I knew it had to be science,” Dey said. “It wasn’t a miracle or anything like that. It was science.”
    Dey explained the biological part to his research by showing the processes that lead to breast cancer cells attacking the body.
    He began by explaining the role that the thymus plays in the body’s immune system and the outside factors that can have influence on it.
    “The immune system will grow very weak if the thymus is not working properly,” Dey said. “But the thymus can be affected by stress, food, posture and your social environment. Most importantly, though, it is weakened by stress.”
    He said that through keeping the thymus strong, people help reduce the risk of illness.
    “The thymus grows strong through yoga and exercise and the immune system’s performance goes up,” Dey said. “A simple way of strengthening the thymus is by laughing and being happy. Anger and depression reduce its strength and can cause it to go into atrophy.”
    If a cell has mutated and become cancerous during a time that the immune system is strong enough to fight it, the cancer cell can hide in adipose tissues and scar tissues for several years and then strike when the immune system is weakened, Dey said.
    By knowing all of these biological aspects of illness, Dey said the information can then be transferred into mathematical equations to find ways to fight cancer.
    “Mathematically we can find the properties needed to suppress cancer at the primary site,” Dey said. “We can know how much and what kinds of treatment are necessary to fight the disease.”
    Dey showed a series of equations used to examine tumors and the effects that certain types of treatments and outside factors have on them. These included radiation treatment, antioxidants, exercise, and overall happiness.
    Dey said that they received the information about these from doctors who have treated cancer patients.
    These mathematical equations derived from the information were then put into a computer program called Dynamic Field Animator. The program showed the cancer cell being killed out, but Dey said that after keeping the program running for about 18 hours the cancer cells came back.
    He said that through using this computer program he also found that rather than taking cancer out of the body as soon as it is detected, it could be better to shrink the cancer to about 50 percent of its size first.
    “We then made two important predictions from using the computer models,” Dey said. “If cancer is gone from the body, some type of therapy must follow to keep the cancer from coming back. Also, if cancer is taken out of the body when it is first detected, then it will spread even quicker.”
    Dey said that he believes there is hope in the future of breast cancer research.
    “Cancer is a disease; it is not a death sentence,” Dey said. “If we fight back it can be contained.”
    “We used the code to tell how much of what treatment we want to use in real life, but because of patient privacy issues we have not been allowed to examine patients that the treatments have been used on,” Dey said. “We have received confirmation from the doctors that it has worked, but we still need people to provide the data to test it.”
    John Koontz works as the director of distributed computers at EIU and also helps Dey with his research. Koontz said the mathematical approach to examining the disease is somewhat different from the traditional biological ones used.
    “Usually people research under one field of study,” Koontz said. “But this approach is novel because it uses mathematics and computer science in health care. It helps validate the results.”
    Another researcher, Santanu Chatterjee, is a graduate student in computer science at EIU.
    “This research shows the possibilities that can come from using mathematics and computer science in medicine,” Chatterjee said.
    This seminar was the first in Mississippi State University’s Biomedical Computing Seminar Series. It was funded by a grant for a national program of excellence in biomedical computing.
    Joe Thompson, a professor in aerospace engineering, is a co-principal investigator for the grant.
    “The whole purpose is to create an understanding and communication among computer science, physical science and biological science,” Thompson said. “Our ultimate intention is to establish biomedical computer research at MSU.”
    The next seminar in this series will be at the Wise Center on Oct. 27. Dr. Hisham A. El-Masri of the Computational Toxicology Laboratory of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta will speak on the computational methods that can be applied to toxicological assessment of mixtures.

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    Mathematician presents new way to fight cancer