30 Jan 2016

The mathematics of cancer

From This Way Up, 12:42 pm on 30 January 2016
Dr Trevor Graham of Barts Cancer Institute

Dr Trevor Graham of Barts Cancer Institute Photo: Supplied

Mathematics is a handy way to analyse and quantify the world around us.

It's a language based on numbers, patterns, relationships and equations that can be used to explain things in the physical world, as well as theories about stuff we can't actually see, like dark matter or the chaos that followed the Big Bang.

The human genome is a code made up of 3 billion pairs of letters, C, G, A and T and we can use this code to discover where we've come from, what we've inherited from who, and what diseases we're likely to get. Every cell in our body has a genome inside it, and cancer cells are no different. 

Now maths, along with biology, is proving to be a powerful tool for decoding this information.

Dr Trevor Graham of Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London is using mathematics as a way to identify patterns of growth in cancerous tumours because if we know how they grow, and that there's a pattern or law that cancer follows, then maybe this could help us manage and treat this disease.