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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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Google Model Predicts Lung Cancer Spread

A model that ranks webpages on Google now offers insight to how lung cancer spreads.

The same mathematical model that allows Google to rank web pages on its search engine can now help map out how lung cancer spreads in the human body, according to a new study released on Monday in the journal Cancer Research.

The finding can potentially change clinical care by developing better targeted treatment options for lung cancer.

"This research demonstrates how similar the Internet is to a living organism. The same types of tools that help us understand the spread of information through the web can help us understand the spread of cancer through the human body," said Paul Newton, USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor, Ph.D and lead and corresponding author of the study in a USC press release.

A team of researches found an algorithm similar to the Google PageRank and to the Viterbi Algorithm for digital communication to analyze lung cancer patterns and how it spreads.

"Surfing from site to site on the Internet is somewhat along the lines of the way circulating tumor cells go from site to site," Newton told ATVN.

Researchers found that the spread of lung cancer likely spreads in more than one direction at a time and unveiled that the first site the cancer is found in is key to understanding how it will progress.

The study showed that some parts of the body, such as the adrenal gland and kidney are more likely to spread the disease. Whereas other parts such as the regional lymph nodes, liver and bone are more unlikely to spread the cancer to other parts of the body.

"The final goal is to have a model that is tailored to every specific patient because every patient's genome is different, every patient's situation is different, so the goal of all medicine will be to have very, very precise tailored and modeled simulations and treatments. We're not there yet but that's sort of the long term goal," Newton said.

The mathematical model was applied to data from human autopsy reports based on 163 lung cancer patients in the New England area, from 1914-1943.

Experts from USC, Scripps Clinic, The Scripps Research Institute, University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering made up the team of researchers.

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