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A mobile game that could help cure cancer

Cancer Research launches Play to Cure: Genes in Space app

Cancer Research UK Play to Cure Genes in Space iPhone Can a combination of mobile technology and 'citizen science' help researchers tackle difficult generic questions about cancer?

Cancer Research UK thinks so and last week launched a free mobile game that allows the public analyse gene data, and highlight genetic faults which can cause cancer, simply by playing the game.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is available for Apple and Android smartphones and involves piloting a spaceship around an intergalactic assault course to collect 'Element Alpha'.

When players follow the Element Alpha path the information can be used by Cancer Research UK scientists to analyse variations in gene data, ultimately assisting in the development of new, personalised medicines.

Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, said: “Future cancer patients will be treated in a more targeted way based on their tumour's genetic fingerprint and our team is working hard to understand why some drugs work and others won't.

“But no device can do this reliably and it would take a long time to do the job manually. Play to Cure: Genes in Space will help us find ways to diagnose and treat cancer more precisely – sooner.”

Cancer Research UK Play to Cure Genes in Space iPhonePlay to Cure has been designed, first and foremost, as a game people will want to play, but its aim is to apply human analysis to the huge amount of information provided from the microarrays Cancer Research UK's scientists use.

It is hoped this will help them single out those genes that promote cancer development and, to ensure accuracy, each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players.

The game was developed by Dundee agency Guerilla Tea, whose recent credits include work for children's comics The Dandy and Beano as well as medical education app Ward Round.

The format was developed at Cancer Research UK's GameJam last year and is the charity's second citizen science project following its 2012 launch of Cell Slider, a simple game based on snap that presents users with real images of tumour samples for analysis.

Working with the Citizen Science Alliance, Cell Slider reduced the time it would have taken researchers to analyse a subset of archived breast cancer samples from 18 months to just three months – with more than 200,000 people classifying almost 2 million cancer images, echoing pharma's own experience with crowd-sourced research.

• Find out more about Play to Cure: Genes in Space

10th February 2014

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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