Sunday, July 10, 2016

A big move and a new research group. Join us!

My decision to leave the IMO and Moffitt Radiation Oncology was one of the hardest professional (and personal) choices I've ever made. I've made friends I won't ever be able to replace, and learned lessons I'll never forget. However, for many reasons, including family and professional and personal growth, it is time for me to move on. I'm very lucky to have found a post in my home town at the Cleveland Clinic doing exactly what I want to do. They have hired me be a physician-scientist, to start a research group in the department of Translational Hematology and Oncology Research (yes, they call it THOR - how awesome) studying the evolution of resistance, and to continue my work as a sarcoma radiation oncologist.

I'm lucky to be joined by two brave souls who will begin their DPhils under my co-supervision between Oxford and my lab at the Cleveland Clinic. +Artem Kaznatcheev , a theoretical computer scientists and mathematician (who is also a prolific academic blogger - see his blog TheEgg here) will begin in the department of Computer Science this Michelmas with Peter Jeavons, David Basanta and myself supervising. Artem's thesis project will focus on the evolutionary process, but beyond that we're not sure - we'll find something that piques all of our interests I'm sure. Artem's work with David and I to date has included attempts to bring spatial structure into evolutionary game theory using the Ohtsuki-Nowak transformation. We found, broadly, that game dynamics can change significantly based on local neighborhood size. This finding has, I think, broad implications for understanding spatially heterogeneous tumors using game theoretic methods.

and more recently using time lapse microscopy to quantify competition dynamics in vitro - something I'm presenting a poster on at ECMTB2016 later this week.

There are more ideas than time, in general, when working with Artem, so I'm quite keen to begin this new journey and strengthen the connection between computer science that we began with +Dan Nichol doing his DPhil with Pete Jeavons and +Alexander Anderson - which we kicked off with Dan's evolutionary steering paper.

I'm also very luck to have +Andrew Dhawan joining, who will begin his DPhil in Oncology with Francesca Buffa and Adrian Harris. Andrew's DPhil will be slightly more prescribed, it being under a CRUK studentship. He will be focussing on building a comprehensive map of the transcriptional response to hypoxia in (breast) cancer. Many of you will note that this is reasonably far from my expertise, but I think it will be a great opportunity for me to hone my Next Gen Sequencing chops, and also to inject some theoretical thinking into Oxford Oncology.

Andrew has spent this summer, since he finished medical school in Ontario, Canada at Queen's University School of Medicine, working with me and +Andriy Marusyk on collateral sensitivity in non-small cell lung cancer. He is attending a summer school (sponsore by the Cancer Research UK coincidentally) on ecology and evolution in cancer - annoying scheduled the same week as ECMTB. He'll be presenting the following poster there:

On another random note: it turns out, unbeknownst to any of us, Andrew and Artem did their undergrad at the same institution, in the same department! They both went to the 'MIT of Canada' in Waterloo. Small world.

Anyways, I am immensely looking forward to this move - the next few weeks will see me at ECMTB, then home to Tampa for one day, and then the move Cleveland, where I start August 1st. I am also looking for someone interested in joining the team as a post-doc who wants to work with us to make a difference in patient's lives through the study of evolution in cancer (or bacteria) with primarily mathematical methods.

If you're coming to ECMTB, look me up!

Friday, July 1, 2016


Last night +Alexander Anderson hosted a going away party for me. It was a lot sadder than I thought. I am going to dearly miss the people in the IMO, and Moffitt Cancer Center in Radiation Oncology and elsewhere that I've worked with over the past 7 years. While there was a lot of silly-ness, in particular some of the funny shots of me and others from IMO over the years displayed on the big-screen:

There were also some sad farewells

The whole evening reminded me how strongly I feel about the work we're doing in the IMO, and also of the courage it took to create such a place. Originally started by +Alexander Anderson and Bob Gatenby the IMO, when I joined was about 5 people: the two fearless leaders and +David Basanta , +Edward Flach  and +Kasia Rejniak. In the intervening (only 6) years, it has grown to nearly 25 people, with 5 faculty members. I say it took courage to start, because at the time it began, mathematical oncology was nearly an unknown phenomenon. Since, however, it has become much more accepted - supported by specific initiatives from the NCI like the Physical Sciences in Oncology Network (formerly PSOC, now PSON) as well as the Integrative Cancer Biology Program.

The work is meaningful to me on many levels. First, the fact that we're chasing down the fundamental principles of a disease which has proven largely impenetrable for most of human history is intellectually satisfying. But moreso, for me at least, it brings hope to my time in clinic, when times become difficult. The fact that I can take that energy back to the lab lifts me back up and drives me to work harder, and also let's me reassure my patients that we're doing everything we can, both for them and for the future.

Moffitt started a new campaign, called the community of courage, to allow researchers and clinicians to talk about what courage means to them. I was flattered to be asked to join this campaign, and through it talked both about the courage I see in +Alexander Anderson and his group to go outside the norm in mathematical onoclogy, but also the courage I see in my patients, who choose to get up and LIVE every day, even in the face of difficult odds.  They made a little video, which you can see below, and also wrote a nice article, which captures what I've said here quite a bit better than I have.

You can find the article here:

Next post there will be a post-doc advertisement attached...  so if you know someone who is interested in a post-doc position in mathematical oncology, or in studying the evolution of resistance to antibiotics, let them know there's a new lab coming to the +Cleveland Clinic - mine!  Oh, and also that Cleveland Rocks...