How This Formula Might Be the Best Way to Predict Disease Outcomes

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Mathematical formulas may better predict the outcome and response to prescribed treatments.Do you rely on your doctor for treatment advice?

What if I told you that a mathematical formula may better predict the outcome and response to your prescribed treatment? You would probably be highly skeptical. The human brain is very complex and capable of adjusting for all sorts of subtle and seemingly unrelated factors. And yet, a research team has proven that their mathematical model for predicting treatment outcomes in cancer patients is better when compared with the conclusions drawn by experts in the field.

These researchers looked at lung cancer in particular. A lot of  thought and science has gone into creating better and faster treatments for lung cancer. But now researchers are wondering if math might provide greater insight into the treatment outcomes for patients suffering from lung cancer.

The mathematical model would compare a patient’s medical history with the available treatments, calculating—based on research and statistical information—a corresponding treatment model with the best chances for success.

And so far, it looks like mathematical models might work better at predicting treatment outcomes than doctors. In a study on lung cancer, researchers recruited lung cancer patients and their radiation oncologists. The oncologists were asked to predict the likelihood of surviving for two years in patients who were suffering from shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing. They were to make these predictions after they had seen a patient for the first time and then again after a treatment plan was made. The researchers then compared these predictions with those made by a mathematical model.

It turns out that the mathematical model “substantially outperformed” the doctor’s predictions—so are the days of listening to your doctor over?

MORE: How much can you trust your doctor?

Not necessarily. This trial demonstrated that mathematical models are beneficial to predict a patient’s outcomes—but the outcome will also depend on the treatments that a doctor prescribes.

The belief that the answer to life’s biggest illnesses lies in science and math is gaining momentum quickly. Another study published in May 2013 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface used a mathematical model to determine how HIV cells reproduce. Previously, researchers had believed that the HIV virus that’s in a patient’s bloodstream will indicate—to the hidden eye—how it’s reproducing. But the problem is that standard blood tests weren’t able to detect these subtle blood level changes. Now, with the aid of a mathematical model, researchers hope that it will help them uncover exactly what’s going on beneath the surface.

So how does this impact your health? This new research has the potential to help millions of people, and I hope that more research will be done so that way we can apply mathematical models to every disease and illness.

In the meantime, this is an opportunity for you to talk to your doctor about your own treatment plans. You should feel comfortable making your voice heard.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Mathematical Models Out-Perform Doctors in Predicting Cancer Patients’ Responses to Treatment,” ScienceDaily web site, April 19, 2013;
“Mathematical model measures Hidden HIV,” ScienceDaily web site, May 8, 2013;, last accessed May 10, 2013.