7th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
October 4-6, 2016
What can we gain from viewing cancer pathogenicity through the eyes of basic physical mechanisms and concepts?

On the one hand, real-world biological systems - from cells to tissues to living organisms - encompass an enormous complexity that simply cannot be fully captured in an exact manner.  On the other hand, there is no shortage of illustrations where the behaviors of even the most complexly interwoven biological systems can be capture by a simple physical approach:

Viewing blood cells purely in terms of their inherent viscoelastic character illuminates their function within organisms at different stages of their development [Ekpenyong et al., 2012].  Similarly, examining the retinas of the freshwater Elephantnose fish in terms of light propagation through photonic crystals has clarified fundamental questions evolutionary biology [Kreysing et al., 2012].

These simple insights can give us information and inspiration about the underlying nuts and bolts of how these complex systems function, react and interact with their surrounding environment.

The same holds true for picking out the key root causes when these complex systems go wrong - pathogenicity:

The chronic lung disorder asthma can be understood through considering epithelial cells analogously to a jamming transition of granular materials [Park et al., 2015].  Conversely, insights into the mechanism of kidney disease can be gained by an analysis of how mutation-driven changes to binding kinetics of a single protein affect force generation by cells [Ehrlicher et al., 2015].

Cancer is perhaps the most intriguing form of pathogenicity for this viewpoint since the broadly defined disease, arising from a vast array of root causes, is more often than not accompanied by a clearly defined set of physical commonalities:

  • individual malignant cells become softer
  • collections of malignant cells - tumors - become stiffer
  • cells gain the capacity to generate higher forces on their surroundings
  • malignant cells adhere less steadily to their neighbors
  • the surrounding membrane of cells become softer
These examples and others, when linked together with a deep knowledge of biological mechanisms, have been significant in both uncovering and learning about some of the essential signatures and causes of cancer.

However, the story is still only halfway complete; beneath the study of cancer or any other deadly disease is the innate suggestion to use the knowledge gained in order to develop strategies for prevention, advanced detection and treatment.  The knowledge must be applied, or it risks being a wasted effort.  This is the impetus, the obligation and the challenge lighting the path ahead.

This is the goal of the 7th Annual "Physics of Cancer" Symposium.  By bringing together exceptional researchers in the areas of quantitative cell biology, physical mechanisms of pathology, cancer biology, molecular design, diagnostic systems and beyond, we aim to create a forum for the exchange of new ideas and formulation of new solutions.

Topics Included

  • Biomechanics (Biopolymers, Networks, Rheology, Cytoskeleton, Cell Shape)
  • Forces, Motion, Adhesion (Cell Motility, Assembly, Molecular Motors, Cell Division)
  • Oncology
  • Imaging
Organizing Committee Invited Speakers
  • Allen Ehrlicher (Canada)
  • Roland Eils (Germany)
  • Ben Fabry (Germany)
  • John T. Fourkas (USA)
  • Kristian Franze (GB)
  • Peter Friedl (USA)
  • Diana Goncalves-Schmidt (Germany)
  • Christina-Maria Horejs (Sweden)
  • Paul Janmey (USA)
  • Sarah Köster (Germany)
  • Wolfgang Losert (USA)
  • Lisa J. McCawley (USA)
  • Claudia Mierke (Germany)
  • Jung Joon Min (Republic of Korea)
  • Dietger Niederwieser (Germany)
  • Joachim Rädler (Germany)
  • Ralf Seidel (Germany)
  • Friedrich Simmel (Germany)
  • David M. Smith (Germany)
  • Michael Szardenings (Germany)
  • Kandice Tanner (USA)
  • Ana Texeira (Sweden)
  • Daphne Weihs (Israel)
  • Rebecca Wells (USA)
  • Stefan Zahler (Germany

Ekpenyong, Andrew E., et al. "Viscoelastic properties of differentiating blood cells are fate-and function-dependent." PLoS One 7.9 (2012): e45237.

Kreysing, Moritz, et al. "Photonic crystal light collectors in fish retina improve vision in turbid water." Science 336.6089 (2012): 1700-1703.

Park, Jin-Ah, et al. "Unjamming and cell shape in the asthmatic airway epithelium." Nature materials 14.10 (2015): 1040-1048.

Ehrlicher, Allen J., et al. "Alpha-actinin binding kinetics modulate cellular dynamics and force generation." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.21 (2015): 6619-6624.

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