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October 29, 2019 Tuesday 03:55:03 PM IST

How Information Theory in Mathematics Can Help Treat Cancer

Science Innovations

An effective cure for cancer need not come from biological sciences alone. Scientists are now examining how information theory, a mathematical theory most commonly used in computer science can be used to shed light on cellular communication. Impaired information transmission in response to changes in environment influences to the activity of diseased cells, according to researchers at University of Geneva.
The new methodology is to view cancer as an information disease and not just cells replicating itself. Karolina Zielinska, a mathematician and biologist feels that Claude Shannon's probabilistic theory that led to modern communication systems and computers has not been applied in cell signalling yet. " Our idea is to use this powerful tool to examine the decisions made by diseased cells and compare them to those made by healthy cells."
Applied to cell signalling, information theory allows studying how cells process the information they receive from their environment. When a cell receives a stimulus – an information – from its environment, what concentrations of information can the cell process without error? Knowing a cell response, can we distinguish between different stimuli to evaluate which one triggered this particular response? These questions are essential in the field of cancer. Indeed, cancer cells may be unable to process information from the environment as well as healthy cells, and start to proliferate and divide when it is not necessary to do so. 
Researchers will now test the validity of their approach by studying how breast and lung cancer cells process information from their environment. Indeed, current treatments generally aim to remove or completely extinguish certain signalling pathways, despite significant side effects. “The new approach we are proposing is not aimed at shutting down the signalling pathways, but rather at restoring their proper activity”, says Vladimir Katanaev. “By applying pure mathematical concepts to biology, we hope to identify information transmission failures that need to be fixed to correct them.”

Source Universite De Geneve