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DetEction of skin canceR: integrating Morphoelastic theories in biomechanical Analysis (DERMA)

Final Report Summary - DERMA (DetEction of skin canceR: integrating Morphoelastic theories in biomechanical Analysis (DERMA))

The DERMA project has been focused to propose both a multidisciplinary approach and new theoretical models of the complex phenomena underlying cancer evolution. A particular focus has been given to skin tumors for proposing new strategies towards early diagnosis in clinical dermatology.
The research activities have been carried undertaking an interwoven scientific program involving applied mathematics, soft matter physics, tissue biomechanics and biology.
In particular, the main research objectives are listed below:
- Objective1: developing novel mathematical frameworks of the different phenomena (e.g. growth, remodeling) underlying cancer evolution to be used as an input for a theoretical description of tumor’s invasion mechanisms;
- Objective 2: modeling the mechanical characteristics of benign and malignant skin tissue, accounting for the multi-structural composition of the skin layers (the stratum corneum, the epidermis, and the dermis), each presenting different mechanical properties.
- Objective 3: investigating how mechanical changes may influence the development of living matter, especially in solid tumour development, proposing multi-scale treatments of mechano-transduction deriving stress-driven evolution laws from basic thermodynamic principles.
- Objective 4: comparing the results of the mathematical models and of their numerical modelling simulations, with the traditional data from dermoscopic analysis and histopathologic examination, in order to identify the critical biomechanical parameter driving tumor invasion (see Fig.1).

Figure 1. Top: (A) Nodular basal cell carcinoma presenting a cluster of tumour cells.
Inset: Dermoscopy image of a pigmented basal cell carcinoma. (B) Melanoma with nests of various sizes and shapes, irregularly distributed inside the lesion.
Bottom: Numerical simulation of the mathematical model, showing spinodal decomposition of an initially homogeneous tumor (from Chatelain et al., New Journal of Physics, 2012).

The scientific quality of the undertaken work is evidenced by the publication of 12 scientific articles in peer-reviewed international journals and 6 abstracts in international conferences. The consolidation of the scientific independence of the fellow is particularly underlined by the presence of three publications in international scientific journals as single author. Another important achievement of the ERG grant concerns the strengthening of the existing international collaboration and the development of new international research partnerships.
Furthermore, the ERG has had a great impact for the research career development and re-/ integration of the fellow, who has obtained the national scientific qualification in Italy to practice pursuant to art. 16 of Law 240/2010 for the Competition Sector MAT/07 Mathematical Physics as Associate Professor.