High-throughput experimental technologies, high-performance computing platforms, and large public data repositories like The Cancer Genome Atlas have transformed basic cancer research into a data-rich science. Considering that concepts such as high-dimensionality, complexity, dynamics, and stochasticity are all essential features of these datasets, mathematicians and physicists have important roles to play in translating this information into the next generation of precision cancer therapies.
The Columbia University Physical Sciences-Oncology Center for Topology of Cancer Evolution and Heterogeneity is working to address this need by promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. On the one hand, we strive to provide quantitatively oriented scientists a deep appreciation of the opportunities that big data offers for the field of cancer biology, while also helping them to understand the key challenges facing the field. On the other, our goal is to raise cancer biologists’ awareness of new quantitative methodologies being developed at the frontiers of mathematical research, providing opportunities for them to consider new ways for analyzing biological data. Our education and outreach initiatives involve these key activities.