Who We Are
We are an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers biologists committed to understanding cancer as a complex dynamic system.
The 'War on Cancer’ was formally declared before any members of our lab were born. But despite more drug options and better targeted therapies, the age-adjusted death rate from cancer has decreased little in the past 45 years.
One answer is that there are basic, fundamental properties of cell populations that we don’t understand because they have not been well studied. These include:
Heterogeneity is an essential property of all living systems. Tumors exhibit enormous cellular heterogeneity, at the genetic level and even more so at the non-genetic level. We investigate the mechanistic role of heterogeneity in tumor initiation, progression, and therapeutic response.
Another rarely articulated fundamental property is cellular plasticity. Cell states and behaviors change over time. Targeting a single cell state (such as a cancer stem cell) does not necessarily eliminate that phenotype from the populations; other cells can transition to the stem-like state. We quantify transition rates and seek to build models that predict the consequences of plasticity on drug response.
In the rush to identify particular genetic mutations (which are certainly of importance), the contribution of non-genetic changes has been overlooked. A single genotype can produce numerous observable cell states. Heterogeneity and plasticity at the level of individual cells give rise to whole populations of interacting cell subtypes, with rich dynamics. We aim to develop a theory of cancer that incorporates these fundamentals; this effort may suggest new strategies for eliminating the suffering caused by this disease.
Paper Accepted! Oct 2016
Congratulations to Amelia Clark on acceptance of her first manuscript. Full text to come soon!
Center for Computational Oncology July 2016
Dr. Brock is an affiliate faculty member at the new Computational Oncology Center within the renowned Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences here at UT Austin. Through weekly joint group meetings and ongoing collaborations, we are working towards understanding The Cancer Equation.
Welcome REU Students June 2016
We welcome Rachel Hegab of Louisiana Tech to the lab as an undergraduate research scholar in the BME CUReS Cancer REU Program.
Congratulations Class of 2016! May 2016
We congratulate our graduating seniors Katherine Young (Georgia Tech, PhD program in Biomedical Engineering), Julie Dorland (Baylor Medical School) and Adan Rodriguez (University of Washington, MS program). The lab appreciates your hard work over the past years and looks forward to hearing about your future accomplishments!
Senior Thesis Students Present April 2016
Two seniors in Biomedical Engineering presented Senior Theses this month to the Cockrell School of Engineering. Katie Young presented her work on "Effect of lysyl oxidase on tumor cell invasion" and Julie Dorland on "Variable response to chemotherapeutics by a subpopulation of breast cancer cells".
Dr. Brock Awarded Texas 4000 Foundation Grant Nov 2015
The lab is grateful to the Texas 4000 Foundation for a grant supporting research on progression of microscopic breast lesions. Texas 4000 is an annual bike ride that begins in Austin and ends in Anchorage, Alaska and cyclists raise money for cancer research and awareness.