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New Research Suggests Lung Cancer Spreads Like Info On The Web

Aired 3/27/13 on KPBS News.

What does lung cancer have in common with how people navigate to certain websites? Plenty, says a new study.

— Researchers say a mathematical model used to forecast which websites get the most visits can predict how lung cancer spreads in the body. A new study published in the journal Cancer Research suggests this novel approach could lead to new ways of treating the disease.

In the study, researchers employed the math model used for Google PageRank on data from 163 lung cancer patients.

It found lung cancer doesn't move in a single path. Rather, it spreads in many directions at once.

The study also revealed certain organs like the adrenal gland serve as "spreaders" for cancer cells.

Dr. Peter Kuhn, the director of physics oncology at the Scripps Research Institute, said the similarities between lung cancer and the web are fascinating.

"We're trying to understand how this spreading actually works, which is quite similar to a search on the Internet, where you're trying to understand which one is most important and where do people go from one website to another website," he explained.

Dr. Kuhn said the study suggests aggressively treating organs like the adrenal gland may help slow the spread of lung cancer. He pointed out further research is needed.

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