National Cancer Institute
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Integrating the Physical Sciences Perspective to Open a New Frontier in Oncology meeting report

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In February 2008, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) held the first of a series of three Think Tanks designed to explore how the fields of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering could advance cancer research and clinical oncology by bringing fresh insights and new tools to some of the most challenging problems in cancer.Those workshops led to the creation of the Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers (PS-OC) program and the funding of 12 transdisciplinary Centers in September 2009. By all accounts, the PS-OC program has made strong progress in producing innovative research and has resulted in developments that are not only reshaping how we look at cancer as a disease, but also clinically relevant.

At the midpoint of this 5-year program the NCI convened another Think Tank in February 2012 to reflect on progress made and, more importantly, to identify additional aspects and problems in cancer biology and clinical oncology that would benefit from a physical sciences perspective. For this Think Tank, the NCI brought together a mix of current PS-OC investigators along with cancer biologists, clinicians, and physical scientists who have no involvement in the program. Over 2 days, the invited scientists listened to talks from thought leaders and heard the perspectives and advances of scientists working at the intersection of physical sciences and oncology. However, most of the time was spent brainstorming emerging areas and formulating questions that leverage a physical sciences perspective and would, if answered, greatly advance cancer research.

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