Embracing the complexity of cancer: a virtual collaboration event

Houda Boulahbel
3 min readSep 10, 2023

I’ve been reading about complexity lately.

I resisted for a while, put off by certain heated, theatrical debates on LinkedIn.

But then one of my wonderful readers challenged me to give complexity theory a chance, and sent me some resources. At roughly the same time, I was talking to amazing people from the Cancer Patient Lab about their experience with genomic sequencing, and what this taught them about genetic variation in tumours.

Then it hit me! As a previous cancer research scientist and student of genetics, I was trained to look at cancer as a disease of genomic alterations. Later, as a communications consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, I began to revere the ‘holy grail’ of oncology drug development: the driver mutation that promotes cancer development.

But that’s only part of the story.

Cancer is more than that! It is a complex adaptive system in which genomic alterations are intertwined with continuous evolution in time and space.

I wrote about this in my previous blog post : Looking for the missing pieces in the cancer puzzle.

And now I want to learn more…from you!

I would like to invite you to contribute your perspective, experience and wisdom to a virtual research event that I am conducting in collaboration with Hunome around approaches to dealing with the complexity of cancer as a disease.

What I am hoping to achieve through this event is to learn from different perspectives, and bring together thinkers from multiple disciplines such as (but not limited to): physics, energetics, complexity, chaos, futures, engineering, astronomy, lived patient experience, computer science, data science, oncology.

What we want to learn

Despite great scientific and medical advances, cancer is still a killer, and many aspects of the disease remain intractable.

Our approach to cancer is largely the result of conventional scientific thinking about the disease: a reductionist view that breaks the problem down into smaller parts, the mutation of a gene or several genes, and tries to understand and…

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Houda Boulahbel

Systems thinking consultant. Ex-cancer research scientist. Curious about the world. Love science and design.