Florida teenager Brittany Wenger has won the grand prize of the second annual Google Science Fair for her computer program that could help doctors detect breast cancer early and in a non-invasive manner, says Scientific American's Anna Kuchment at the Budding Scientist blog. Wenger, a 17-year-old student, wrote a "neural network" program based on human brain function to detect patterns in large databases of breast tissue samples, Kuchment says. The program, which was put through 7.6 million trials to test for accuracy, could help doctors detect malignancies from fine needle aspirate — a less invasive, but so far less conclusive, testing method than traditional biopsy. The Stroller Derby blog's Joslyn Gray adds that Wenger's program has a 99.11 percent sensitivity in detecting breast cancer. "The program 'learns' what to do by analyzing examples [it's] given," Gray says. "[It's] able to detect patterns in data that are too complex for human brains or other types of programs to analyze." The program, called Cloud4Cancer, is being hosted online, and Wenger says she hopes as many doctors and researchers as possible will add their data, as the more data the program receives, the more accurate it could become. "She also thinks her approach can be used to make neural networks that diagnose other diseases, including prostate cancer and ovarian cancer," Gray adds.
Wenger has won a $50,000 scholarship, a year's worth of mentoring and internship opportunities, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands, SciAm's Kuchment adds.