Cancerous growth may be sudden and hard to predict, but there’s a new program that might help track its development.

The PiCnIc mapping program was made to help doctors respond quickly and proactively to cancerous cells. NYU professor and head of the program’s development, Bud Mishra, described PiCnIc, saying that it “takes in patient data, guesses potential scenarios and tells you the most likely scenario.”

The program focuses on the cancer to predict developments one stage at a time at the smallest possible scale. Mishra calls these “little blocks of causality.” PiCnIc examines all of these and keeps only the most likely scenarios in order to construct a graphical representation of the likely possible outcomes of a patient’s cancer. From this information, doctors can plan how to best combat the cancer.

According to Nicholas Navin, University of Texas professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, “[PiCnIc] can incorporate pretty much any cancer type.” So it can map mostly all cancers as long as the data is in place.

Computational biologist at the University of Edinburgh, Giulio Caravagna—also involved in the project—adds that PiCnIc can also update the maps to accommodate advances in cancer research.

The research work was published in June on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but for now, Navin says that the program “shouldn’t be interpreted too much in making decisions for individual patient.”

There is still a bit more development and fine-tuning to go, but Navin says that PiCnIc is already “clinically useful” at its current stage.


As a Midwestern girl, Josie enjoys living in the plains, but would love to travel the globe, already having spent several months abroad during her studies in Austria. After graduating, she spends much of her time reading, writing, walking, running, dancing, and living! Josie would love nothing more than to empower others to be able to do the same.