Play this game to help find a cure for cancer

Cancer Research UK announces Play to Cure: Genes in a Space, a mobile game that aims to help researchers unravel gene data.

Playing a new video game could actually help researchers find a cure for cancer. Cancer Research UK today announced Play to Cure: Genes in Space, a mobile game that aims to unravel gene data to help scientists answer "some of cancer's toughest questions."

Professor Carlos Caldas of the UK's Cambridge Research Institute said that playing the game will "help us find ways to diagnose and treat cancer more precisely--sooner."

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is available today as a free download for iOS and Android devices. In the game, you guide a spaceship through an "intergalactic assault course" in an effort to collect material called "Element Alpha."

Every time you steer your spaceship towards this material, this data is fed to Cancer Research UK scientists, which in turn provides analysis of variations of gene data, the group said.

"Scientists need this information to work out which genes are faulty in cancer patients so they can develop new drugs that target them, speeding our progress towards personalized medicine," Cancer Research UK said. "Each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players to ensure accuracy."

More specifically, Play to Cure: Genes in Space aims to help scientists analyze massive amounts of data through a technology called "gene microarrays."

"Researchers use gene microarrays to look for regions of our genome that are frequently faulty in different cancers--a sign that they may be responsible for causing the cancer," organizers said. "If scientists can find genes that promote cancer development, they can design drugs to stop them."

"Microarrays let scientists analyze DNA from many thousands of tumour samples simultaneously, to find the most frequent changes that are more likely to be the culprits," the group added. "Many scientists are trying to use computer software to trawl through the huge amounts of data generated to spot the precise location of copy number changes, but in many cases these are not accurate enough. The human eye is still the best technology we have for picking up these patterns, and Play to Cure: Genes in Space is harnessing this power."

You can learn more about Play to Cure: Genes in Space at the game's website.

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Discussion

57 comments
Rayzakk
Rayzakk

Oh way to make people feel wonderful.  You helped cure cancer.  Nothing but a sad way to make money, and make idiots believe they were super duper people that were making a difference. 

GEMEAI
GEMEAI

So according to the error rate they will know if you got cancer and which cells are infected!! That's pretty cool, but does it really work?

severe_malky
severe_malky

I think Jedilink109 is pretty close to how this must work, but on their website Cancer Research UK say that both phases contribute to data analysis.

Perhaps the movement of the ship in the second phase is tracked and provides a second 'path' through the data, after all you see it differently in the play perspective than the plan so it may be that you choose a somewhat different route if you spot a particularly dense patch you missed initially. Since multiple people will play through the same data set their game score could be used to rank the paths flown.

Given what the quoted material says about copy numbers the data is probably from Array Comparative Genomic Hybridization (ArrayCGH) experiments. In ArrayCGH data is compared between a sample and reference genome to find regions of the genome that have been duplicated or deleted. Depending on the type of array these analyses can encompass whole genomes or just specific chromosomes in high resolution, so you can narrow down the affected region to with a few hundred bases. The maps certainly resemble such data and the paths are similar to what is seen in a type of analysis called smoothing which tries to automatically account for noise in the data and identify 'breakpoints' where a region is significantly below or above a reference baseline. In comparisons of normal tissue with tumours these duplicated or deleted regions are often associated with oncogenes (genes whose over expression is associated with cancer) or tumour-suppressors (which are kind of self explanatory).

I haven't run across any micro-transactions yet and they aren't mentioned anywhere so I'm not sure why anyone (such as nickyparmar92) would jump to the assumption they are present.

hystavito
hystavito

Cool idea, but it better not just be some PR stunt.  In addition, I hope that this game or ones like it in the future do not end up being used in cases where the results are not openly shared and are only used by certain parties for monetary gain.

Rayzakk
Rayzakk

Nope still don't want to play and I wont fold at home either.

Gary_Stanton
Gary_Stanton

You think Big Pharm is gonna let a cure destroy their profits of cancer?

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

How many achievement points should one get if they discover the gene leading to a cure for cancer?

hadlee73
hadlee73

Gamespot: Get Cam to review this one. :P

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

There's been a cure for cancer for years. It's called "Rick Simpson Oil."

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

I just gave it a shot, and maybe it's just my ageing phone but it's not the smoothest running game ever. Also I have to say I DON'T FUCKING GET IT!

Folding at Home on the PlayStation 3 made perfect sense as we were contributing our console's processing power during our 'down time'. It was a passive process and sounded logical, and was something I did on a regular basis despite my fears of leaving my console on overnight. But this?

Friend: You've been staring at your phone pretty intensely for three hours. What the hell are you doing?

Me: I'm helping to find a cure for cancer.

Friend: Really?! That's amazing. How are you doing that?

Me: I fly this spaceship through hoops and fire lasers at approaching asteroids.

Friend: .......

Me: .......

Friend: .......

Me: ......

Friend: Nurse!

And what if you're no good at the game? Will we be contributing to the creation of the deadliest biological weapon ever made? Without adequate explanation this just feels like the darkest practical joke ever.

Raeldor
Raeldor

Crowd sourcing data analysis through gaming.  Great idea if you can make the game interesting enough for people to play.  Especially for something as important as this.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

I like the idea but how does flying a space ship on your phone relate in any way to gene sequencing?

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

They might just have the cure already but they wont give it to us.

BraollusBeBack
BraollusBeBack

If you told someone, that you can cure cancer by playing a space shooter video game on your mobile phone back in the 80's, You'd receive a lobotomy.

kujel
kujel

There already is a cure for cancer, it's called cannabis!

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

I love these ideas.  The world is essentially a 'hive mind' at this point.  If we could tap into problems with all of the handhelds or consoles at gamers disposal, scientists could knock diseases and other maladies off the list one by one.  It is just like what FoldIt did with an AIDS virus a couple of years ago.  

I have a friend that is designing programs for neurological disorders caused by physical disabilities.  She is awesome and I think about the potential all of us gamers have to  solve the world's problems.  The crazy part is that what I am saying is not hyperbole.  We really have the ability to make the world a better place through gaming and our gaming machines.  Our combined knowledge and computer power is staggering.


Gamers, like you and me, will save the world... well maybe not the world.  The world will be fine without us.  Gamers will save humanity!

Sunuva22
Sunuva22

another similar game is FOLD-IT, where you try to arrange molecules and proteins to help scientists discover and analyze their structure. Its like a super hard puzzle game. If you make anything new and its useful, you will be listed as a co-founder.

jark888
jark888

Great idea! I wish it success.

DragonessAthena
DragonessAthena

Well I would if they had been considerate enough to release it on WINDOWS devices, but they didn't.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Ok so the actual "curing" part isn't in the gameplay, it's the setup beforehand.  The game shows you a gene map that (in game) is looked at as a map to treasure.  You plot out points along the gene and fly along that in your ship collecting space stuff.  The gameplay is merely to make it fun for people to play.  The scientific part is collecting all of the maps people make.


I just tried it out.  I think that Foldit did this in a more fun interesting way (making the proteins and all that stuff into a puzzle that needed to be unfolded.  Either way, if this helps out with finding answers towards curing major diseases, then I want to see more games do this very thing.

vadagar1
vadagar1

I wanna give these scientists pleasure......

Saidrex
Saidrex

Would be much more sense to release it on PC and consoles. Those android calculators can't do much

KiLLLeR150
KiLLLeR150

And this is probably better than 99% of the "free" games out on mobile. And for a good cause! And no IAP (that I can tell from the store front)!!

ziproy
ziproy

I don't get how flying towards power-ups is going to cure cancer?? How are our space ships genes??

feleas
feleas

that's..... brilliant 0_o

korvus
korvus moderator

@Rayzakk  You can't even buy anything in game; how are they going to make money out of it? By having people donate to Cancer Research UK by space indoctrination?

korvus
korvus moderator

@Dannystaples14  Yep, I'm feeling a bit stupid here since with all that explanation I still have no idea how the game will help. How does shooting stuff around helps filtering results?

Unholy123
Unholy123

@kujelAlso you may wish to look up the relationship between smoking marijuana and testicle cancer.


 If you think that smoking and inhaling things into your body is perfectly safe.


Then again your post seems like a burned out troll post.

tom2750
tom2750

@kujel  no its not you moron i am pro weed but anyone that thinks smoking weed if they get cancer will cure them is kidding themselves it helps relieve suffering it doesn't cure the disease tho

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

@Jedilink109  OK, that explains things a little bit. Thank you for that. But what is the result if we're crap at it?

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

@vadagar1  I consider myself very good in all aspects of sex, but no one ever referred to me as a fucking genius before.  Thanks for that, you made my day.

Coren_Larken
Coren_Larken

@ziproy  There was a game a while back that helped break down the AIDs virus. What scientists had looked at for years, gamers broke down in a matter of days. I think Gamespot wrote on it; I'll try to link the article.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

@Vidpci  Yeah because we've never cured diseases before.  That would take away from our profits!  Do you know how retarded that sounds?  And then if people find out there was a legitimate cure for something like AIDS or cancer and the company was sitting on it rather than letting people use it?  Well, I'm pretty sure that company would be run completely into the ground until only their bad reputation existed.

ziproy
ziproy

@Vidpci  Now Jonneh is going to do an entire Feedbackula saying just how evil of a person you are for realizing that (EA Cancer Feedbackula)

strikeTact
strikeTact

@Vidpci  I can only hope that for once the world wouldn't run on greed

korvus
korvus moderator

@PlatinumPaladin No idea, I'm sure we don't know the same people =P But it's likely that one of the guys there was a spokesperson for something you've seen before =)

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

@tom2750 Actually, hemp oil, which is a form of cannabis oil (I think) can cure every cancer almost every disease known to mankind. It's called Rick Simpsons Oil. Check it up online. A study in Spain recently said that hemp oil cures every cancer without any negative side effects.

Coren_Larken
Coren_Larken

@Vidpci @ziproy  Well, the online reaction to the EA thing was pretty appalling. And his opinion is usually pretty logical, so it does trump most others. There is such a thing as a baseless opinion.