Washington: Scientists are using the equations Google employs to predict the Web pages users visit to track the spread of cancer cells throughout the body.“Each of the sites where a spreading, or ‘metastatic,’ tumour could show up are analogous to Web pages,” said Paul Newton, a mathematician at the University of Southern California, who has been working with cancer specialists at the Scripps Research Institute.Google ranks Web pages by the likelihood that an individual would end up visiting each one randomly. These predictions are based on the trends of millions of users across the Web. Google uses something called the “steady state distribution” to calculate the probability of someone visiting a page.“You have millions of people wandering the Web, [and] Google would like to know what proportion are visiting any given Web page at a given time. It occurred to me that steady state distribution is equivalent to the metastatic tumour distribution that shows up in the autopsy datasets,” Newton explained.The dataset he’s referring to contains information about autopsy patients from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, who died before chemotherapy was available. By focusing on this group of patients, the researchers could track the natural progression of cancer, specifically lung cancer, without different treatments interfering with the data.
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