The fight with Cancer has now been going on for several decades. Slowly but steadily scientists (biologists) are understanding and getting good picture of cancer, how it progresses, what signals and genes it suppresses to prevent detection and apoptosis. However, biology is complex system and inherently does not yield to simple mathematical models. Especially difficult in this is to be able to reverse engineer the system from symptoms.
This interdesciplinary effort seems to be attempting to do exactly that. There is a lot of arrogance in this where just because computer science can model physical systems. The reason the battle against Cancer has not made progress is because Cancer is inherently terminal disease. Complex systems like social networks, rely on cooperation and competition for resources. In such a system maintaining balance is a constant struggle. In social settings (socieities) you have police that maintain law and order, battle those that voilate the laws laid down by society. Cheating has it’s advantages if you don’t get caught. At least in the short term cheaters can get away with more access to the resources. If they are caught by the police however, they get punished. Similarly cells that can cheat by rebuilding telomeres, suppressing p53 etc. gain a definite short term advantage in that they can get access to resources and there by thrive. There are built in mechanisms to repair the damaged DNA, trigger apaptosis and recycle the cells. It’s a struggle between the built in defence mechanisms and the rogue cells. There is only one end to this – break down of the society because death of the organism is the eventual equillibrium state. The approach should be to better understand how cancer works not by modeling in simple ways but building more realistic complex models (simulation and actual experimentation) and find ways to prolongue the hormony, prevent suppression of the built in mechanisms and also finding ways that the cancer imprint does not make it into the germ cells so that inheritence of cancer is prevented.
Researchers from other desciplines should learn from past research and also understand deeply the complex/biological systems before attempting to fix it. In computer science you debug and when you find the problem you fix it. Not throw darts at the problem hoping something hits. (That’s more like physicist approach).
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