Play to Cure: Genes in Space. - Cancer Research UK/AFP
‘Play To Cure’ from Cancer Research UK.
“PLAY To Cure: Genes In Space” may look like a space flight simulator – and technically speaking it is – but the maps that players use for navigating their spacecraft are actually cleverly disguised pieces of genetic data.
Developed by Cancer Research UK in collaboration with programmers from Amazon, Google, Facebook and games studio Omnisoft, the free app is available to download for iOS and Android devices.
The aim of the game is pretty simple: to plot a course through what look like asteroid fields in order to collect something called “element alpha”.
However, the fields are actually data gathered from 2,000 patients with breast cancer – data which, if thoroughly analysed, could lead to better testing procedures and treatments in the future.
Speaking at the game’s launch event on Feb 4 in London, Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at the charity’s Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge, said: “We did molecular analysis that generated massive amounts of data. Just to give you an idea: from each of those 2,000 patients the molecular analysis came up with more than two million data points.”
And that’s where gamers come in. This data could be analysed by computers, which would take a very long time and would not be as accurate as human analysis as people are much better at spotting patterns and fragments of patterns and spotting subtle differences.
At the same event, Hannah Keartland, citizen science lead for Cancer Research UK, explained that the only way to speed up research is to increase the number of human eyes looking at data and that Cancer Research UK believes the key to that is the growing popularity of crowd sourcing: “Every single person can have an impact in terms of accelerating cures for cancer. We want anyone, anywhere and any age to download and play this game. If every single person with a smartphone downloads this game and plays it for two minutes it could have a mind-blowing impact on accelerating research,” she said.
The game is completely free to play. There are no hidden in-app purchases or other charges. Course information generated by playing will be collected and analysed. – AFP Relaxnews