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CCS Seminar
Friday - April 8, 2011
12:00 noon
Physics Research Building - Room 595
3 Cummington Street
Pablo Tamayo - Senior Computational Biologist
Cancer and Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Programs
Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

"Cancer and Statistical Mechanics: Characterizing Oncogenic States and Finding Genes that are Essential for Tumors but not for Normal Cells."

Large scale efforts at genomic characterization of cancer have begun to define a catalog of genetic lesions and molecular abnormalities present within human tumors. The emerging view from the preliminary analysis of this data is that while some tumors are driven by the co-activation of one or two cooperating oncogenes, more often individual tumors harbor different combinations of dozens of mutations and genomic aberrations consistent with the same clinical presentation. The unraveling of this multi-layered complexity poses an enormous analytical challenge, and highlights the need for methods that decompose the oncogenic state of individual tumors directly in terms of more fundamental biological mechanisms. In this presentation we review two computational projects relevant to better understand the diversity and complexity of cancer. The first is an effort to develop molecular signatures to characterize the oncogenic state of individual tumors. The second is the search for synthetic lethal genes, i.e. genes that are essential for tumors but not for normal cells. We will present these projects in the context of characterizing oncogenic states as complex macrostates, and viewing oncogenic and synthetic lethality transformation as phase transitions using analogies from Statistical Mechanics.




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