More

Does cancer follow the rules of math? This scientist certainly thinks so — and she's onto something.

Franziska Michor is quickly becoming a rising star in the worlds of math and medicine and for good reason.

Does cancer follow the rules of math? This scientist certainly thinks so — and she's onto something.

In 2005, at the age of 22, Franziska Michor finished her doctorate in evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Michor was born in Vienna, Austria, the child of a nurse and a mathematician. Early on, she developed a passion for math that — luckily for humanity — has stuck with her into her adult life.

In a 2007 profile in Esquire magazine, she joked about her father's policy that she and her sister either had to study math or marry a mathematician.


"We said, 'Oh, no, anything but that!' So we studied math."

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

While you might think that science, medicine, and math just go together, Michor says that's not the case.

"If you like science but don't like math, you go into medicine," she told Esquire, noting that while the people in medicine might not like math, cancer does.

If we're going to make progress in the fight against cancer, it's going to take math. And that's why her passion for both is so important.

In Vienna, she studied both math and molecular biology, a somewhat unique academic path. With her options limited at home, she moved to the U.S. for her graduate studies.

Since graduating, Michor has become known for her unique, mathematic approach to treatment of one of life's scariest situations: cancer.

Now a professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health, Michor incorporates quantitative methods and evolutionary biology in trying to understand what fuels cancer cells.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

As she frames it, "Cancer is the body's fight with rapid evolution within the body."

That is, the human body is in a constant state of change. At any given moment, the body is home to millions (or even billions) of mutated cells. While there's always the possibility that any one of these cells might become cancerous, the overwhelming majority of them are harmless and are eventually destroyed by the body (phew!).

The trouble with treating cancer is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are treatments that can wipe out cancerous cells, but if it's also destroying healthy cells essential to survival, that pretty obviously presents a problem.

In 2015, she received the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for her work developing new approaches to treating cancer.

So much of her work has centered around optimizing the scheduling and dosages used in drugs for treating cancer. Her approach has found some major success.

Vilcek Prizes are given to "immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research and the arts and humanities." Michor certainly fits that category.

From the Vilcek Foundation's website:

"Michor's efforts are driven by the courage to test approaches that defy convention. Her prominence in the United States cancer research community is embodied in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute-based Physical Science-Oncology Center, a collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavor that she has led since 2009, thanks to a competitive $11 million grant she received from the National Cancer Institute; at the center, researchers apply physical sciences to solve problems in cancer biology. Because the willingness to embrace path-breaking research is embedded deep within the DNA of the American scientific community, says Michor, she finds herself at home in the United States: 'What I love about the United States is that the people are not risk-averse. In Europe, you have to be very convinced that something is going to work before you try it. I am very grateful that I have collaborators who are willing to support me and help test my ideas in the clinic.'"

Her work may save millions of lives, and it's in part the product of her having the opportunity and resources to customize her academic path.

She wants to "teach math to medicine," meaning to take medicine, teach it math, and as a result, create better medicine. Better medicine is always welcome.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Canva

I got married and started working in my early 20s, and for more than two decades I always had employer-provided health insurance. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka "Obamacare")was passed, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. I was glad it helped others, but I just assumed my husband or I would always be employed and wouldn't need it.

Then, last summer, we found ourselves in an unexpected scenario. I was working as a freelance writer with regular contract work and my husband left his job to manage our short-term rentals and do part-time contracting work. We both had incomes, but for the first time, no employer-provided insurance. His previous employer offered COBRA coverage, of course, but it was crazy expensive. It made far more sense to go straight to the ACA Marketplace, since that's what we'd have done once COBRA ran out anyway.

The process of getting our ACA healthcare plan set up was a nightmare, but I'm so very thankful for it.

Let me start by saying I live in a state that is friendly to the ACA and that adopted and implemented the Medicaid expansion. I am also a college-educated and a native English speaker with plenty of adult paperwork experience. But the process of getting set up on my state's marketplace was the most confusing, frustrating experience I've ever had signing up for anything, ever.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn’t have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women’s rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn’t something we’d choose—and we’d hope others wouldn’t choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

Keep Reading Show less
via Lorie Shaull / Flickr

The epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in America is one of the country's most disturbing trends. A major reason it persists is because it's rarely discussed outside of the native community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women under age 19.

Women who live on some reservations face rates of violence that are as much as ten times higher than the national average.

Keep Reading Show less