Cancer Cures from Smartphones?

Players of a new smartphone game may provide scientists with important information on genetic indicators for cancer.

The new game, “Play to Cure: Genes in Space,” has been created by the charity organization Cancer Research UK (CRUK) with the hope of identifying which genes are faulty in cancer patients. The game requires players to guide a spaceship through a hazardous intergalactic course. The patterns established by players actually provide an analysis of various patterns in genetic data, enabling scientists to more quickly zero in on those genes that may be faulty in cancer patients, and potentially speeding the development of drugs to target specific genetic defects.

According to Professor Carlos Caldas of CRUK, scientists generally use computers to assess huge amounts of data, but that computer processing is often not accurate enough. “Computers are very good, but they’re not perfect,” Caldas told Reuters News Service. “The human eye is still the best technology we have for picking up these patterns.”

CRUK used a similar approach for assessing data in 2013 with a smartphone game called CellSlider. Using that game, researchers were reportedly able to reduce the time need for analyzing breast cancer samples from 18 months to just three.