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Physical Sciences – Oncology Network (PS-ON)

The logo for PS-ON which is a cube sitting on a purple and white gradient background. On the top side of the cube is binary code and the other two sides show graphical representations of mathematical expressions

The Physical Sciences – Oncology Network (PS-ON) brings together cancer biologists and oncologists with scientists from the fields of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering to address some of the major questions and barriers in cancer research.

The goal of the network is to foster the convergence of physical sciences approaches and perspectives with cancer research to advance our understanding of oncology through transdisciplinary team science.  

Impact of Physical Sciences in Oncology Research

Since 2009, PS-ON has supported physical sciences in oncology research addressing complex and challenging questions in cancer research from a physical sciences perspective.

Celebrating a Decade of Physical Sciences-Oncology

Celebrating a Decade of Physical Sciences-Oncology

Highlights of research advances from this NCI program include:

  • Determined mechanisms behind the generation of mutations in cancer genomes based on 3-D architecture and polymer physics
  • Optimization of dosing strategies for lung and brain cancer treatment using computational physics and evolutionary theory
  • Progress in understanding the role of mechanics in tumor progression and metastasis using physical parameters
  • Determined the 3-D structure of protein complexes responsible for regulating gene expression in cancer using computational approaches

Additionally, PS-ON workshops identified opportunities and challenges in tissue engineering for cancer research, which guided the development of the Cancer Tissue Engineering Collaborative (TEC).

PS-ON Funding Opportunities

  • PAR-22-147: Research Projects in Physical Sciences-Oncology (U01 Clinical Trial Optional
  • NOT-CA-23-030: Adaptive Biomaterials for Cancer Biology (Notice of Special Interest)

PS-ON News

Three new research projects are joining the Physical Sciences – Oncology Network! 

Drs. Jacob Scott and Andriy Marusk are extending experimental evolutionary game theory in cancer and integrating spatio-temporal dynamics using mathematical modeling to enable clinical transition.

Drs. Ankur Singh and Cheng Zhu are investigating how mutations affect epigenetic states and dysregulate B cell mechanobiology, leading to the development of lymphomas. They are also preclinically testing the efficacy of epigenetic-targeted treatments for cancers of the lymphatic system.

Using an integrated experimental – mathematical oncology approach, Drs. Bryan Spring and Heiko Enderling are investigating strategies to harness low-dose immunostimulation in ovarian cancer related to fractionated photoimmunotherapy.

PS-ON Resources for Researchers

The Cancer Complexity Knowledge Portal contains the latest available resources generated through the PS-ON. Information in the database includes:

  • Grants
  • Investigators
  • Publications
  • Datasets
  • Tools

PS-ON Patient Advocacy

PS-ON Patient Advocate Spotlights and Partnering with Advocates Presentations

PS-ON Patient Advocate Spotlights and Partnering with Advocates Presentations

Videos showcasing the impact of the PS-ON Research Advocacy Program.

Research advocates play an important role in the network, and have been important members of the program since it started.

PS-ON currently supports research advocacy efforts that intersect with Junior Investigators to Early-Stage Investigators. PS-ON highly encourages the participation and support of cancer research advocates with physical sciences - oncology research project activities, including advocacy efforts that intersect with Junior Investigators to Early-Stage Investigators.

Additional information about cancer research advocacy at NCI can be found at the NCI Office of Advocacy Relations website.

PS-ON Social Media

PS-ON research and funding opportunities are shared on Twitter: @NCIPhySci

Contact for PS-ON

For additional information about PS-ON, please contact Dr. Eric Johnson Chavarria or the Physical Sciences in Oncology Team.

Funded Projects

Physical Sciences – Oncology Projects (PS-OPs)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Project Title
City of Hope Russell C. Rockne, Ya-Huei Kuo, Guido Marcucci Information flow and state transitions at the system and multi-dimensional scales in leukemia progression
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine Jacob G. Scott, Andriy Marusyk Extending experimental evolutionary game theory in cancer in vivo to enable clinical translation: integrating spatio-temporal dynamics using mathematical modeling
Columbia University Raul Rabadan, Michael M. Shen A transdisciplinary approach for dissecting stem cell states in prostate cancer
Georgia Institute of Technology Cheng Zhu, Rafi Ahmed Exploiting the mechanobiology of PD-1 for cancer immunotherapy
Georgia Institute of Technology Ankur Singh, Cheng Zhu Dysregulated mechanoimmunology of epigenetics-driven lymphomas
Houston Methodist Research Institute  Xuewu Liu, Milos Kojic, Fransisca Leonard Biophysical roles of pre-metastatic niche evolution on transport of circulating tumor cells
Massachusetts General Hospital Mehmet Toner, Daniel A. Haber, Shyamala Maheswaran Metastasis and biophysics of clusters of circulating tumor cells in the microcirculation
Massachusetts General Hospital Lance Munn, Rakesh J. Jain Targeting physical stress-driven mechanisms to overcome glioblastoma treatment resistance
Mayo Clinic Arizona Kristin Swanson, Peter Canoll, Leland Hu Image-based models of tumor-immune dynamics in glioblastoma
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Benjamin Greenbaum, David T. Ting A statistical physics framework for understanding the role of repeat RNA in tumor immunity
Moffitt Cancer Center Conor Lynch, David Basanta Gutierrez Defining bone ecosystem effects on metastatic prostate cancer evolution and treatment response using an integrated mathematical modeling approach
Moffitt Cancer Center Heiko Enderling, Shari Pilon-Thomas Predict radiation-induced shifts in patient-specific tumor immune ecosystem composition to harness immunological consequences of radiotherapy
Northeastern University Bryan Q. Spring, Heiko Enderling Fractionated photoimmunotherapy to harness low-dose immunostimulation in ovarian cancer
Texas Engineering Experiment Station Tanmay P. Lele Nuclear dysfunction in Cancer: the role of mechanical stresses transmitted by the LINC complex
University of California, San Francisco Zev J. Gartner, Andrei Goga, Mark A. Labarge, Matthew Thomson Understanding breast cancer progression as a defect in the mechanics of tissue self-organization
University of Michigan Gary Luker, Joerg Lahann Environmental regulation of cancer stem cell plasticity in metastasis
University of Pennsylvania Ravi Radhakrishnan, Wei Guo, Valerie Weaver A physical sciences approach to investigate the role of exosomes in metastatic progression
University of Pennsylvania Dennis E. Discher Live cell reporters of genetic changes in stiff vs soft surroundings - causes & consequences
Wake Forest University Health Sciences Pierre-Alexandre Vidi, Keith Bonin Chromatin mobility in response to DNA damage

Multi-Consortia Coordinating Center (MC2 Center)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Project Title
Sage Bionetworks Julie A. Bletz, James A. Eddy Multi-Consortia Coordinating Center (MC2 Center) for Cancer Biology: Building Interdisciplinary Scientific Communities, Coordinating Impactful Resource Sharing, and Advancing Cancer Research


Past Projects

Physical Sciences – Oncology Centers (PS-OCs)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Project Title
Columbia University Raul Rabadan, Antonio Iavarone Topology of Cancer Evolution and Heterogeneity
Cornell University Claudia Fischbach-Teschl, Lewis C. Cantley Center on the Physics of Cancer Metabolism
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Franziska Michor, Eric. C. Holland Evolution and Treatment Response of Brain, Breast, and Hematologic Malignancies
Houston Methodist Research Institute Haifa Shen, Jenny C-N Chang Center for Immunotherapeutic Transport Oncophysics
Johns Hopkins University Denis Wirtz, Kenneth J. Pienta The Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences Oncology Center
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Forest M. White, Jann N. Sarkaria MIT/Mayo Physical Sciences Center for Drug Distribution and Efficacy in Brain Tumors
Moffitt Cancer Center Robert A. Gatenby, Alexander R.A. Anderson, Robert J. Gillies Cancer as a Complex Adaptive System
Northwestern University Thomas V. O’Halloran, Jonathan D. Licht Spatio-Temporal Organization of Chromatin and Information Transfer in Cancer
University of Minnesota David J. Odde, David A. Largaespada, Steven S. Rosenfeld Center for Modeling Tumor Cell Migration Mechanics
University of Pennsylvania Dennis E. Discher Liver Cancer: Pre-Malignant Stiffening, Membrane Transduction, & Nuclear Rheology

Physical Sciences – Oncology Projects (PS-OPs)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Project Title
Georgia Institute of Technology Cheng Zhu, Michelle Krogsgaard Mechanisms of impaired T-cell mechanosensing of melanoma antigens
Harvard School of Public Health Jeffrey Fredberg Epithelial layer jamming in breast cancer cell migration
Institute for Systems Biology James R. Heath, Wei Wei Steady states and cellular transitions associated with carcinogenesis and tumor progression
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Roger D. Kamm Quantitative analyses of tumor cell extravasation
University of California, Berkeley Jay T. Groves, Valerie M. Weaver ECM geometrical and mechanical properties modulate RTK signaling
University of Utah Orly Alter Multi-Tensor decompositions for personalized cancer diagnostics and prognostics
Vanderbilt University Lisa J. McCawley, Dmitry Markov, Katarzyna A. Rejniak Physical dynamics of cancer response to chemotherapy in 3D microenvironments

PS-ON Coordinating Center

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Project Title
Sage Bionetworks Justin Guinney Coordination Center for Open Collaboration in Systems Biology