Mathematics professor Qing NieMathematics professor Qing Nie and his collaborators have been awarded $455,000 to study cancer drug resistance by the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health & Policy and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Along with an interdisciplinary team of experimental cancer biologists, engineers and mathematicians, Nie hopes to identify novel and more effective treatments for patients with breast cancer. Drug resistance is a key impediment to breast cancer therapy. While genetic mechanisms of drug resistance have been a focus of many studies, the ability of a cell to dynamically evade drugs through nongenetic means – such as plasticity, an organism’s capacity to adapt to environmental changes – is an often overlooked mechanism for lack of drug efficacy. “Cellular plasticity gives rise to dynamic tumor difference through the generation of distinct subpopulations with diverse properties, including susceptibility to therapy,” Nie said. “We hypothesize that cell state plasticity contributes to drug resistance and that an integrated experimental and modeling approach can be used to identify rational approaches to overcome plasticity-induced resistance.”