Close up of equations on a board

Can calculus cure cancer?

The value of using mathematics in a medical context
Oxford professor and mathematician Helen Byrne will highlight the exciting applications of maths to model, predict and ultimately improve the effectiveness and development of cancer treatments.

Cancer is a complex disease. While research by clinicians and experimental biologists has dramatically improved outcomes for patients, treatment of cancer's many forms still requires immense work. This work is one of Australia's health imperatives, particularly when we consider that almost 46,000 Australians died from cancer in 2016, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics.

In her talk, Professor Helen Byrne will explain how mathematical models are being used to understand how tumours grow and to predict how they will respond to treatments involving, for example, novel combinations of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

She will also outline how mathematical and computational modelling is helping to accelerate the development of new treatments such as immunotherapy and virotherapy.

Professor Jennifer Byrne, who heads up the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at Westmead, will join Helen in a conversation to explore how maths and medicine can come together to improve research and outcomes. 

This event was co-presented with the Sydney Mathematical Research Institute and held on Tuesday 12 November, 2019 at the University of Sydney. 

The speakers

Helen is a Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the development and analysis of mathematical and computational models that describe biomedical systems, with particular application to the growth and treatment of solid tumours, wound healing and tissue engineering.

Her aims in studying such models are two fold: to identify the mechanisms responsible for observed biomedical phenomena and to pinpoint novel features that merit theoretical investigation from the resulting mathematical models.

She is an international representative on the Advisory Board of the University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute.

Jennifer has spent her scientific career analysing childhood and adult cancers at a molecular level. Her PhD studies mapped loss of chromosome 11p15 loci in embryonal tumours, and she then identified a novel gene family during postdoctoral studies in France.

She is Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Unit in the Kids Research Institute at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and Professor of Molecular Oncology in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, Sydney Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health. She is also the Deputy Director of the Kids Cancer Alliance, a Translational Cancer Research Centre funded by Cancer Institute NSW.

Event image: Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

Sign up for our newsletter

Each month we'll send you details about upcoming events, and a selection of podcasts.