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How astronomers may save the lives of breast cancer patients

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Astronomers use very sensitive equipment and software to detect the faintest minutiae of detail in the heavens. Now, astronomers and doctors have teamed up to probe inner space, with some of the same software they use to view the stars. The result is a new way of detecting cancer in cells with greater speed and matching reliability as testing done by hand.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In order to see planets orbiting distant stars, astronomers need great telescopes and powerful software that can resolve the faintest fluctuation in light from thousands of light years away. The sensitivity of their equipment is amazing to say the least. When that same sensitive equipment is turned on human cells, the results can be lifesaving.

Using an automated system that can detect faint objects in the heavens, doctors have studied samples of tumors seeking to detect the presence of specific proteins in breast cancer patients. The results of the early tests are promising.

Instead of needing to manually study the sample, a time consuming process that can lead to delays in testing, the computer was able with great reliability, to detect key proteins within the tumor samples. 

This may sound complicated, but the end result is, doctors may soon be able to reliably identify key proteins in a tumor much faster than they do now. This means faster, more specific treatment, which means more lives will be saved.

The equipment which was specially designed for the test will now be tested again, this time with samples taken from 20,000 breast cancer patients. If the tests are successful, then the equipment could find itself in common usage.

The new equipment will help doctors to save lives.

Cancers are often different and indeed, quite specific to their victim. A treatment that is effective for one patient may be useless with another, even if they have the same type of cancer. The key to success is identifying specific proteins within each tumor and administering a custom treatment for each patient as an individual.

The new equipment will make that process much easier and faster, as doctors step up their battle against one of the world's greatest killers.

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