Mohit Jolly (Rice U.): Circulating tumor cell cluster: A model for cancer metastasis

Despite major advances in cancer biology, we do not fully understand the molecular cues that trigger metastasis. Cancer cells need to leave behind the organ of origin and travel through the blood or lymph node system. This requires cancer cells to leave the epithelial (non-mobile) characteristics of the original tumor and acquire mesenchymal features of mobile cells (e.g. red blood cells). Dr. Mohit Jolly developed a model combining theoretical math and molecular biology that predicts cancer cells with both characteristics, epithelial and mesenchymal, have higher tumor-initiating potential. Jolly and colleagues experimentally showed that this hybrid state allows cancer cells that travel in clusters to have higher chances of survival. This work highlights the value of using theoretical math to provide new insights on how to treat cancer metastasis and progression.

Speaker Biography:
Dr. Mohit Jolly earned his Bachelor and Master degrees at the Indian Institute of Technology Kapur. Here he began to recognize the promise of theoretical mathematics to understand complex biological systems. He joined Dr. Herbert Levine at Rice University in Texas for his PhD to study the intrinsic characteristics of cancer metastasis. During his PhD work he became a key contributor to the scientific community leading initiatives for outreach and science communication, including co-founding Notes on Engineering Research and Development (NERD), a quarterly campus science magazine.

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