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Math could help cure leukemia
Date:6/19/2008

When kids complain that math homework won't help them in real life, a new answer might be that math could help cure cancer.

In a recent study that combined math and medicine, researchers have shown that patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) may be cured of the disease with an optimally timed cancer vaccine, where the timing is determined based on their own immune response.

In the June 20 edition of the journal PLoS Computational Biology, University of Maryland associate professor of mathematics Doron Levy, Stanford Medical School physician and associate professor of medicine (hematology) Peter P. Lee, and Dr. Peter S. Kim, cole Suprieure d'lectricit (Gif-sur-Yvette, France) describe their success in creating a mathematical model which predicts that anti-leukemia immune response in CML patients using the drug imatinib can be stimulated in a way that might provide a cure for the disease.

"By combining novel biological data and mathematical modeling, we found rules for designing adaptive treatments for each specific patient," said Levy, of the University of Maryland Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling. "Give me a thousand patients and, with this mathematical model, I can give you a thousand different customized treatment plans."

Math and Leukemia

While the marriage of math and biology is only beginning to catch on in science, there have been other attempts to use equations to understand how leukemia develops and evolves over time. Levy, Lee, and Kim's study differed in that it took into account the patient's natural immune response in conjunction with the effects of imatinib, a drug that has been successful in putting CML patients into remission.

They wanted to see if they could develop a mathematical model, or set of rules, that would increase chances for long-term remission in individual patients. Over four years, Lee's laboratory collected data from CML patients, measuring the st
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Contact: Ellen Ternes
eternes@umd.edu
301-405-4627
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert

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