Cancer Forum

The Cancer Forum acts as the conceptual driver for the entire Center, and provides a resource for the PS-OC network and the wider scientific community. In the spirit of the national PS-OC program, the Forum harnesses expertise from the physical sciences and directs it to the problem of understanding and controlling cancer in radically new ways. A key feature of the Forum’s philosophy is to critically question the hidden assumptions that underpin our current understanding of cancer and its role in biology, and spotlight the foundational issues that require elucidation. The Forum’s deliberations follow the highly successful model of ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, whose motto is “Confronting the Big Questions”.


Workshops form a key part of our Cancer Forum. Emphasis is on bringing together scientists from different disciplines and different cultures to trigger the creative synergy that so often results from such encounters. A notable feature of the workshops is the hand-picked mix of scientists with roughly one-third coming from outside the cancer community. We put special emphasis on seeking the involvement of astrobiologists, physicists, mathematicians and information scientists.

These cutting-edge invitation-only meetings are designed to stimulate radically new thinking about the nature of cancer, by focusing on foundational and conceptual questions. Some of them zero-in on specific hypotheses, others openly challenge existing assumptions and paradigms in cancer research. The format discourages set-piece presentations in favor of intensive brainstorming to encourage creative synergy. The goals are always to identify new lines of research, both theoretical and experimental, and encourage new collaborations.

Recent Workshops

View all past workshops

For a fuller description of our philosophy, read this article by Paul Davies, Rethinking Cancer, which appeared in the June 2010 edition of Physics World.