The Straits Times
Published on Feb 20, 2013

Star-gazing software helps scientists fight breast cancer


LONDON (REUTERS) - In an unlikely tie-up, astronomers and cancer researchers have joined forces to study breast tumours using image analysis software originally developed to explore the distant stars.

The automated system offers a speedy way to test if tumours are aggressive and may mean pathologists one day no longer have to peer down a microscope to spot subtle differences in tissue samples.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge said on Wednesday that astronomical algorithms, or problem-solving procedures, adapted to biology had proved much faster and just as accurate as traditional tumour analysis procedures.

Astronomers have long used sophisticated computer systems to help pick out indistinct objects in the night sky, and the software used by the Cambridge team first developed to help spot planets that might harbour life outside our solar system. But such star-gazing skills have gone largely unnoticed in biomedical field, at least until now.