Physics of cancer: The impact of heterogeneity

Qiucen Zhang, Robert H. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


It is a common mistake to view cancer as a single disease with a single possible cure which we have just not found yet. In reality cancer takes on many forms that share a common symptom: uncontrolled cell growth and successful invasion of cancer colonies to remote regions of the body. The key reason why we may never be able to defeat cancer may lie in the extreme heterogeneity of the population of the cells in a tumor: there is no one magic bullet. We will try in this review to show how the developing field of the physics of biological heterogeneity can help us understand and quantify the emergent heterogeneity that makes cancer such a fundamental puzzle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-382
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Condensed Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


  • evolution
  • genomic meltdown
  • resistance
  • spin glasses


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