Integrate: to combine one thing with another so that they become a whole
That is the definition of integrate and the key word that unifies mathematics with oncology. The power of mathematical modeling is its ability to integrate multiple interacting variables at once and predict in a dynamic manner how these variables change in space and time. Integration is not the antithesis of reductionism but is in fact a means to bridge the perspectives of reductionism and holism, as the component parts are vitally important but how they interact to produce the emergent whole is also critical.
Cancer is a dynamic complex multiscale system that can only truly be understood via the integration of theory and experiments. The mission of the Integrated Mathematical Oncology (IMO) Department is to use such an integrated approach to better understand cancer initiation, progression and treatment and to aid in the clinical utilization of integrated models in precision medicine. The multiscale nature of cancer, in which genetic mutations occurring at a subcellular level manifest themselves as functional changes at the cellular and tissue scale, requires modeling approaches of a similar nature. Within the IMO, we have been developing a suite of mathematical and computational models that allow us to consider each of these scales in detail as well as bridge them. Theoretical models are ideal for studying the complex dialogue between the tumor and its environment, and has brought a new foci to Moffitt developing around the themes of tumor evolution and the microenvironment.
Just because cancer is a complex dynamic process does not mean that we cannot fully understand it. In fact, many complex systems are driven by relatively simple laws. By using a range of mathematical modeling approaches targeted at specific types of cancer IMO is aiding in the development and testing of new treatment strategies as well as facilitating a deeper understanding of why they fail. This multi-model, multi-scale approach has led to a diverse and rich interdisciplinary environment within IMO, one that is creating many novel approaches for the treatment and understanding cancer.