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Space Tech Could Improve Chances Of Cancer Recovery

Follow @HealthcareG Oncologists at Cambridge University have discovered that a computer programme used by the astronomy department allowed them to ana...

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|Feb 21|magazine6 min read

 

Oncologists at Cambridge University have discovered that a computer programme used by the astronomy department allowed them to analyse cancerous cells much more quickly than they had before.

Researchers are apparently so impressed with the shortcut that they believe the technique could eventually improve survival rates for cancer sufferers.

According to a report, the technology could give patients and doctors much quicker access to information about the type of cancer the patient has at an earlier stage. The process of identifying which patients are suitable for different types of chemotherapy, which is done through cell analysis, can also be dramatically sped up using the programme.

Dr Nicholas Walton, of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, said the work of oncologists and astronomers was more similar than people realised. “The beauty of this is the types of images we get out of our largest telescopes observing the sky are in many ways very similar to things you'd see looking down a microscope at breast cancer, for instance,” he said.

“It's nice to think that my normal job is hunting for the most distant supernova but now I'm helping oncologists speed up their work and improving survival rates for people much closer to home. It's an inspiring thought.”

The partnership was formed when the two departments held a meeting; they discovered that their work tackled the same problem of how to analyse vast amounts of data.

Dr Elena Provenzano, of the University Pathology Department, said the technique used in the astronomy department allowed her to do her work much faster. “I think it's going to make a huge difference to the analysis of results for clinical trials,” she said.

“You do clinical trials to see if one type of chemotherapy is better than another but often you also need to identify which specific group of patients is going to benefit the most - for us to do that we need to look at thousands of tumours to generate enough data. And if you're sitting looking down a microscope at all those tumours that takes a very long time and it becomes a major bottleneck in terms of generating research results. These sorts of technologies where a computer can do the analysis give us a shortcut and it enables us to do it much faster.”