HOUSTON – (June 2, 2021) – A new strategy to reduce the side effects experienced by patients on treatment for head and neck cancers now has support from the National Institutes of Health.
Andrew Schaefer, Noah Harding Chair and Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, won a prestigious four-year R01 grant for $ 1.2 million to develop a personalized approach to radiation therapy adaptive (ART) for head and neck cancers.
The aim of the study is a tool to personalize chemotherapy and radiotherapy-based therapies that both reduce risks for patients and make the process more efficient for providers.
Schaefer works with co-investigators Clifton Fuller, associate professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and his colleagues Rice Mallesh Pai, associate professor of economics, and Joey Huchette, assistant professor of calculation and applied mathematics.
Head and neck cancers account for nearly 3% of cancers in the United States and most commonly affect people over the age of 50, mostly men. The main concern is unwanted radiation damage to structures adjacent to tumors, including glands, bones and muscles, related to speech, eating and swallowing.
The grant, which is administered by the National Cancer Institute, will allow Schaefer and his team to develop a mathematical model that helps providers optimize both individual treatment strategies for patients and the policies of healthcare providers. for the implementation of new technologies.
ART will take advantage of computed tomography (CT) technology used since the early 2000s. It allows clinicians who collect real-time images of changes in a tumor to tailor treatment. ART-based strategies vary. The simplest ‘fixed-interval’ approach requires a mid-course review of treatment, and the more sophisticated ‘cascade’ approach involves daily assessment of tumors and continuous adjustment of chemotherapy and / or drug therapy. radiation therapy in response to changes in tumor geometry.
Schaefer and colleagues plan to integrate imaging data into custom Markov decision-making processes, mathematical models commonly used to optimize decisions over time in dynamic situations. Schaefer compared the models to maps that suggest how a driver should change course when an unexpected roadblock appears.
“The models will allow us to adaptively decide how we are going to adjust a treatment,” he said. “It will be real-time navigation, not through physical space but through all treatment options.”
ART, he said, replaces one-off, initial decisions about a patient’s treatment with a set of points requiring a decision to reschedule, thus balancing the needs of all parties.
“Rescheduling a patient’s treatment on the fly, regardless of the model used, realistically involves parties with different incentives: the insurer, including Medicare, and the clinical team, including the patient.” , Schaefer said.
Schaefer, who received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice in 1994, said MD Anderson has one of the first MRI-guided linear accelerators (MR-linAc), which will enable cascade treatment plans. by allowing real-time views. tumors during treatment.
He said the team will develop the best cascade treatment plans for a variety of patients under conditions of uncertainty and come up with the best simple policies to implement those policies in cancer centers without MR-linAc machines. Researchers will also strive to understand the insurance implications in all treatment plans.
“Just like with other drug regimens, some bodies will tolerate radiation very well and others not at all,” Schaefer said. “With head and neck cancers, there are a lot of organs that we are trying to protect because we cannot deliver radiation precisely to the tumor and nothing else around it.
“So there are tradeoffs,” he said. “This program will allow us to adapt our treatment plan to what we see in terms of toxicity for the patient and what happens to the tumor. This new generation of machines will allow us to reschedule the treatment in a much more agile way. . “
For facilities without the latest imaging technology, “We’re going to be able to tell, these are the adjustments we make for patients in a similar situation,” Schaefer said.
This press release can be viewed online at http: // news.
Follow Rice News and media relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.
Andrew Schaefer: https: /
Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics: https: /
George R. Brown School of Engineering: https: /
Images to download:
LEGEND: Andrew Schaefer (Credit: Rice University)
Located on a 300-acre wooded campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the country by US News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of architecture, business, continuing education, engineering, humanities, music, natural and social sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,978 undergraduates and 3,192 graduates, Rice’s undergraduate student-faculty ratio is just under 6: 1. Her residential college system builds close-knit communities and lasting friendships, one of reasons Rice is ranked # 1 for many race / class interactions and # 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as the best value for money among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
Warning: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of any press releases posted on EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information via the EurekAlert system.