Pasadena City College, Home of the PCC Lancers

Pi Day Student Conference Poster Assignment

        Abstract:In the quest to understand the cluster of diseases wecall "cancer",  mathematicians andclinicians are working together to look for answersto a number of questions.  In this presentation, wewill discuss the following medical mysteries:Why does a cancer sometimes "vanish", making a patientappear to have been cured, butthen reappear years later?  Can there be a reason for a tumorto grow when it is treated, but shrink whenit is not?  Is is possible to harness thethe body's own immune system to combat cancer?How do the innate and specific components immune responsesaffect a growing tumor, andhow would a cancer vaccine work?  We have used mathematicalmodels both to give us insight into the possibleanswers to these questions, as well as to hypothesizeanswers to new questions, such as whether there are betterways to schedule chemotherapy treatments, and is thereany benefit to combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy? The "magic" of mathematical models is that they help usto investigate a huge array of questions thatthat are difficult, if not impossible, to address in any other way.

        Speaker: Dr. Lisette de Pillis is the director of the Harvey Mudd College Global Clinic Program. She is a professor of mathematics, and holds the Norman F. Sprague Professorship in the Life Sciences. She came to Harvey Mudd College after earning her Ph.D. in mathematics at UCLA. During her time at HMC, her research interests have moved from computational fluid dynamics and parallel computing to mathematical biology and cancer immunology. In 2000, Professor de Pillis’s multidisciplinary accomplishments were recognized by the Argonne National Laboratory with the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Distinguished Scholar award, an honor that had been bestowed on scientists from several fields and only once before to a mathematician. Dr. de Pillis is passionate about using mathematics to look for solutions to real-world problems.