The Fundamentals of Late Stage Cancer - Workshop

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Example of using neural network trained model to segment comet bodies from image and create masks for each object.

The Physics of Life is a network is a Grand Challenge research scheme, launched in 2012 via a NetworkPlus grant. It unites physicists and biologists in order to better understand problems across huge scales, from down to the molecular and cellular level right up to the complexities of entire organ systems. On September 19th the North West Cancer Research Centre hosted a Physics of Life Workshop: The Fundamentals of Late Stage Cancer. It ran over two days, with invited talks from a range of international speakers. It focused on the evolution of tumours and their heterogeneity development, and how this affects the onset of metastasis.

QUASAR Selina Dhinsey participated in the event by presenting a poster on her research, which involves using artificial intelligence to improve image analysis of cancerous cellular images. In particular, she is writing an algorithm to automate the image analysis of comet assay images.

The comet assay is a very sensitive technique that allows imaging of the DNA of individual cells. Selina is using neural network architecture in order to apply instance segmentation to the images, picking out instances of the cells. This then makes measuring and thus quantifying the damage caused easier and more consistent than other methods currently used.

It was very insightful to hear about the current cutting edge research going on in the field. The talks were very varied, to address the range of research areas within the field. This included genomics with the talk ‘Measuring tumour evolutionary dynamics from genomic data’ by Dr Eszter Lakatos, from Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London. Another area explored was adaptive therapy with a talk from Professor Alexander Anderson of Moffitt Cancer Centre in Florida, USA.

The workshop was a true collaborative environment giving a diverse number of researchers a platform to share their research and ideas, as depicted by Professor Anderson’s concluding slide.

Professor Alexander Anderson (Moffitt Cancer Centre) talked about adaptive therapy.