For one Florida Tech researcher, the study of breast cancer hits home, and an analysis of mathematical data enables her to do something about it.
The unfortunate truth is there are few degrees of separation when it comes to the average American and cancer. So many have dealt with the relentless disease personally or watched as family or friends waged their own battles.
That includes Munevver Mine Subasi. An assistant professor in Florida Institute of Technology’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, Subasi’s involvement in a research project on breast cancer has both personal and professional connections.
“I was motivated to get involved in breast cancer research during my post-graduate studies,” she says, noting an abundance of opportunities through several projects. “However, in observing the devastation of cancer in my own family and with close friends, I gained a better understanding about the impact of cancer research.”
Subasi, who earned her Ph.D. in operations research from Rutgers University in 2008, counts a grandmother and a cousin as cancer survivors in her own family and saw two close friends lose their mothers to aggressive pancreatic and bone cancers in recent years. With a background as a mathematician, and a B.S. and M.S. in mathematics from Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey, Subasi was not initially intending to focus on cancer research specifically. Driven by a strong curiosity about the causes of disease in humans, however, she began to explore cancer biology. She credits Gyan Bhanot at Rutgers’ BioMaPS Institute as having helped her bridge the gap between mathematics and physical science.
Subasi’s current project focuses on tamoxifen, a drug taken orally in tablet form, which has had intermittent success in the treatment of estrogen-positive (ER+) breast cancers. In some cases, tamoxifen has had tremendous impact, eliminating primary tumors while preventing long-term metastasis; in others, the drug has proven less effective or not effective at all.
Through a rigorous analysis of microarray breast cancer data, Subasi aims to develop mathematical tools to identify tamoxifen-resistance in individual patients. While clinical, molecular and genetic differences among the many subtypes of breast cancer have been identified, researchers have had difficulty predicting drug resistance and which patients are at greatest risk in each subtype.
Subasi hopes her mathematical expertise will help her develop ways to mitigate the erratic performance of tamoxifen, identify new gene targets and suggest alternative therapies for the most beneficial outcomes. “The successful results of this research are expected to lead to the discovery of novel biological information, improving breast cancer risk management,” she says. “Risk stratification would directly help clinicians to identify the patients most likely to have early disease recurrence who might benefit from more aggressive therapy. The proposed research activities [could then] be extended to the analysis of other human cancers.”
Florida Tech is pioneering new partnerships aimed at enhancing its role as an international leader for flight training. The university’s flight training organization, FIT Aviation, has earned authorization from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to become the first Approved Training Organization (ATO) to achieve compliance under new European standards. Florida Tech is the first university in the U.S. with an independently approved EASA ATO certification.
“This gives us the authority to provide flight training towards EASA pilot certificates and ratings,” says Ken Stackpoole, Florida Tech vice president for aviation programs. “This is important because the European airlines operating the European, Middle East and Asiatic routes in many cases require EASA pilot certification to pilot their airliners.”
Stackpoole said Airbus heard of Florida Tech’s progress towards gaining EASA ATO authorization and asked to visit the campus and flight training operation. The company and the university are working together to develop innovative training solutions for Airbus customers.
“Florida Tech is pleased to be on the leading edge of these developments with EASA and Airbus,” comments Anthony J. Catanese, Florida Tech president and CEO. “We are excited to be a unifying force in the aviation industry, with the goal of offering the best aviation training programs possible to a range of clients from around the world.”