Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Cancer Meets SEO

The same tools you use for looking up cat videos might also offer scientists new insights into cancer, Jason Bittel writes this week in Slate.

Highlighting a recent paper in the journal Cancer Research, Bittel describes how researchers at the University of Southern California are using an algorithm "similar to Google PageRank" to better understand patterns of lung cancer metastases.

Using data from old lung cancer autopsy reports, the researchers are using Markov chains to work backwards from this data to develop models of how metastatic lung cancer spreads.

As USC researcher Paul Newton tells Bittel: "Basically we're doing the inverse of what Google does. They know the transition probabilities and compute the steady-state, we know the steady-state and compute the transition probabilities."

Using this Markov chain-based analysis, the team has identified regions of the body – such as the liver, lymph nodes, and bones – that appear to trap and halt the spread of metastases, and regions – such as the kidneys and adrenal glands – that appear to promote their proliferation. Bittel notes that these findings could offer "a new way to target treatments and lessen or prevent the spread of cancer."

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.