Google’s PageRank algorithm is the inspiration for a new lung cancer study published in the journal Cancer Research.
Researchers fron the University of Southern California (USC), Scripps Clinic, The Scripps Research Institute, University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York used an algorithm described as “similar to the Google PageRank and to the Viterbi Algorithm for digital communication” to gain insights about spread patterns of lung cancer.
“This research demonstrates how similar the Internet is to a living organism,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Paul Newton, Ph.D., the lead and corresponding author of the study. “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.”
In fact, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen PageRank used to study other areas of science or even cancer. A Washington State University chemistry professor claimed to have adapted the PageRank algorithm to help determine molecular shapes and chemical reactions. Then, a study came out last year looking at improving outcome prediction for cancer patients by network-based ranking of marker genes, using the PageRank concept.
We first reported on this new study in December, but now the results are out.
The team learned that metastatic lung cancer doesn’t progress in a single direction from the primary tumor site to distant locations, according to a news release on the findings. They also say they learned that the first site to which the cells spread plays a key role in the progression of the disease, with the study showing that some parts of the body serve as “sponges” that are unlikely to further spread the cancer cells to other areas of the body. The study did identify other areas as spreaders for lung cancer cells, with the main spreaders being the adrenal gland and kidney, and the main sponges being the regional lymph nodes, liver and bone.
More on the study here.