- Pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis.
- Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often made too late to be treated effectively.
- Microsoft scientists collaborated
with the Columbia University researchers to find how Internet search engines can be used to
detect pancreatic cancer.
- The study showed that there is a
possibility to detect the upcoming diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with the
help of the Internet search engine log.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth
most cause of the cancer-related deaths in the USA and sixth most cause of
the cancer-related death in Europe. 75% of patients who are not
candidates for surgical treatment die within one year after diagnosis;
only 4% of them will survive after 5 years after diagnosis. The disease progresses from stage
I to stage IV in a span of one year.
has both endocrine and exocrine function. The pancreatic cells develop mutations in the DNA, which lead to the rapid replication of the pancreatic cells and formation of the tumor. The risks of pancreatic cancer
include genetic predisposition, excess body weight, tobacco use, diabetes mellitus and chronic pancreatitis.
‘Internet search engines are found to play an important role in the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.’
The symptoms of the pancreatic cancer
are pain in the upper abdomen which
radiates to the back, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite and generalized
pruritus. But the symptoms are not very specific to suspect pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis. Early diagnosis plays a key role in the improvement of the survival. So screening tests should detect the early invasive or the pre-invasive stage of the disease; when they are still curable with chemotherapy
or surgery. In high-risk patients, it is essential to screen for the disease. Currently, endoscopic ultrasound along with surveillance is used to detect cancer at the curable stage by screening high-risk patients But till date, there is no cost-effective and sensitive screening modality for the general population.
We all search
our queries on the Internet every day for valid answers. Likewise, people with
symptoms of pancreatic cancer and those who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer search the Internet regarding disease management.
A feasibility study was conducted by the
Microsoft scientists and the Columbia University researchers to find how the Internet search engines can help detect pancreatic
cancer before the clinical diagnosis.
In the study, the Internet searchers with the
presumptive diagnosis of the pancreatic cancer were identified based on the
type of the search query by them. The past Internet search history was traced
among these Internet searchers before they made the landmark query, to observe
the pattern of the symptoms based on their search queries related to the
concerning symptoms. The statistical classifiers were built to predict the
upcoming landmark queries based on the pattern of the queries in the search
log. They found that the patterns of the search log queries can predict the
future queries that are highly suggestive of the diagnosis of the pancreatic
The study could identify 5 to 15% of the cases. So, there is a possibility to detect the upcoming diagnosis of pancreatic cancer
with the help of the Internet search engines.
Application of the Study
- The results were hopeful, and the
use of the Internet search history for the screening of the pancreatic
adenocarcinoma is achievable.
- The study suggests that the low
cost and wide coverage surveillance systems can be arranged to observe the
pattern of the search queries and provide early warning to the web
searchers about pancreatic
- The same methods can be expanded
to other cancers too.
This study based on the temporal association
between the web search queries log and the landmark query showed hopeful results. Hence, it is implied
that pancreatic cancer detection is
possible with web search engines.
- Paparrizos, J., R.W. White, and E.
Horvitz, Screening for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Using Signals From Web
Search Logs: Feasibility Study and Results. J Oncol Pract, 2016.
- Larghi, A., et al., Screening for
pancreatic cancer in high-risk individuals: a call for endoscopic
ultrasound. Clin Cancer Res, 2009. 15(6):
- Pancreatic Cancer