The Loh Down On Science

Can Google help cure cancer?

Oh no.  In terms of invading your life, Google’s now going where it’s never gone before!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

Saying, stay calm, people.  There’s an upside.

Scientists are taking inspiration from the browser's PageRank algorithm to model how lung cancer spreads. 

The PageRank algorithm predicts where people will browse to next.  So it could help predict where a tumor in the lungs will go next.  That's important, because it’s often not the original tumor that kills—it’s the cancer’s ability to spread so that it’s no longer a localized problem.

The team applied a similar algorithm to lung-cancer autopsy reports from before the age of chemo and radiation.  These documented how lung cancer spreads naturally.
    
And?  They found that lung cancer doesn't always spread in one direction, as scientists had thought.  It spreads in multiple directions, sometimes even doubling back!

Knowing this atypical pattern could help tailor treatment to specific patients.

So if Google seems to know a bit too much about your online shoe-buying preferences, just think: I'm helping cure cancer!  More shoes!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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