How star-gazing could help cancer fight

Image caption Astronomers and scientists worked together on the project

Astronomers and researchers have worked together to use star-gazing techniques to find new ways of analysing tumours.

The Cancer Research UK and Cambridge University has adapted a computer programme used for spotting distant galaxies to help them assess the aggressiveness of breast tumours.

This novel approach has led to an automated checking system for checking tumour samples.

It could replace some of the time-consuming process of using microscopes.

Experts expect it to help speed up research to develop more targeted treatment for the most common form of cancer in the UK, which is diagnosed in almost 50,000 women a year.

To test the new approach, researchers used the computer system to measure the levels of proteins linked to more aggressive cancers across more than 2,000 tumour samples.

The results suggested it was as effective as the manual approach, and faster.

It is now being tested on 20,000 patients, according to the research published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Targeted treatments

Study lead author Raza Ali said it would be particularly useful for cutting down the lengthy process of analysing large numbers of tumours in research projects.

It could also eventually become a useful additional test to help doctors chose the best treatment for a patient.

"While at first glance astronomy and pathology do not seem to have anything in common, they are both connected through the study of a large number of images, and not as different as might be expected," Dr Ali added.

Dr Richard Francis, head of research at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "This technique will allow us to develop new targeted treatments for breast cancer even faster.

"It's great to see that they are already planning to further develop this method in a larger study, so in the future it can be used in clinical research."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites