University at Buffalo Receives Grant for Innovative Cancer Research

Rachael Hageman Blair, Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics

Published November 8, 2013

Dr. Rachael Hageman Blair, assistant professor in the department of biostatistics at the University at Buffalo SUNY School of Public Health and Health Professions, aims to break new ground in cancer research by developing mathemati­cal models of skin and breast cancer metabolism with a three-year, $185,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences. According to Dr. Hageman Blair, the project will involve embedding probabilistic graphical models of gene networks into traditional deterministic models of cellular metabolism.

“It’s exciting to me because this has never been done,” she says. “It’s a high-risk, high-impact project that has the potential to bring us closer to personalized medi­cine and, in particular with this project, to leverage computational biology to make predictions about things we can’t measure.”

Dr. Hageman Blair’s research will advance the work that already has been achieved using mathematical models to clarify networks of molecular traits from high-throughput data. “Despite this progress, integrating diverse types of data remains a major challenge that has limited our ability to take full advantage of the wealth of post-genomics data for knowledge and discovery,” she notes in her research abstract. “This project addresses this challenge and represents a bold new direction in systems biology, which can be general­ized to model different biological sys­tems. A broader impact of this project is the software development, which aims to bridge the gap between com­putational and experimental biology by putting accessible tools in the hands of the biologist.”