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Every Cancer Patient Deserves Their Own Equation: Kristin Swanson at TEDxUChicago 2014

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Post-Production: Hamid Bendaas | Fire Escape Films ()

Kristin Swanson, PhD, is a pioneer in the field of Mathematical NeuroOncology, a field that represents a marriage between applied mathematics, clinical oncology, cancer biology, radiology, pathology, and informatics to enable practical clinical tools to benefit brain tumor patients.

The Swanson Lab at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine generates data to support new approaches to personalize treatment choices and thus improve the lives of brain cancer patients. The Lab accomplishes the above through the development of patient-specific mathematical models ideally applied to routinely acquired clinical imaging data to generate accurate predictions of disease course and response to therapy in individual patients that can be used to inform novel therapy design.

Swanson has been awarded a 2014 Dixon Translational Grant in the category of Innovation for her project, "Patient-Specific Mathematical Modeling of Pediatric High Grade Gliomas," which "focuses on the development of a mathematical model that forecasts pediatric brain tumor growth similar to how meteorologists predict a storm's path"; like storms, "each tumor is unique, and the current clinical paradigm of a one-size-fits-all treatment approach does not benefit all patients equally."

Swanson received her B.S. in Mathematics, with a minor in Physics, from Tulane University, and her M.S. in Applied Mathematics and PhD in Mathematical Biology from the University of Washington. In 2000, she also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, in Mathematical and Computational Medicine.

Swanson is a Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Neurological Surgery and a Professor in the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. She is also affiliated with the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.


In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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