Intensity-modeled radiation therapy optimizationPodcastDetection and treatment of cancer have progressed, but neither is as precise as doctors would like. For example, tumors can change shape or location between pre-operative diagnosis and treatment so that radiation is aimed at a target which may have moved. Geometry, partial differential equations, and integer linear programming are three areas of mathematics used to process data in real-time, which allows doctors to inflict maximum damage to the tumor, with minimum damage to healthy tissue.

One promising area of investigation is virotherapy: using viruses to destroy cancerous cells. Researchers are using mathematical models to discover how to use the viruses most beneficially.The models provide numerical outcomes for each of the many possibilities, thereby eliminating unsuccessful approaches and identifying candidates for further experimentation.Testing by simulation, which led to the development of anti-HIV cocktails, means good medicine is developed faster and cheaper than it can be by lab experiments and clinical trials alone.

Eva K. Lee
Eva K. Lee
Georgia Institute of Technology
Top image: Large-scale intensity-modulated radiation therapy optimization (tumor in red), courtesy of Eva K. Lee.

Listen to Eva K. Lee talk about her research on destroying tumors.

For More Information: “Treatment Planning for Brachytherapy,” Eva Lee, et al, Physics in Medicine and Biology, 1999.