New smartphone game can ‘help beat cancer’

A new intergalactic gaming app has been launched by Cancer Research UK that allows people to contribute to scientist's understanding of cancer.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is the first free smartphone game that unravels real genetic data in order to "help beat cancer sooner".

"By playing Genes in Space you'll be analysing significant amounts of genetic data which would have taken scientists hours to do," Cancer Research UK explains on the game's webpage. "This data can then be used to develop new life saving treatments".

Set in the year 2824, the mission for players is to collect and harvest a mysterious new substance dubbed Element Alpha.

By mapping a route through the densest areas of Element Alpha, players are in fact analysing vast amounts of genetic cancer data.

The collective force of players means that significant amounts of genetic data can be analysed and used to help researchers determine which genes cause the disease.

"We're in a strange position as scientists," said one of the scientists involved in the development of the game. "We've got really good at collecting information about the world, but we're not very good at analysing that data, at turning that data into knowledge."

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Academics, scientists, gamers and designers joined a team of developers from Cancer Research UK, Amazon, Facebook and Google last year to come up with the concept for the game. In just 48 hours concepts for 12 different games were created, the most sucessful of which was Play to Cure: Genes in Space.

"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," said Professor Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK.

"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."