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British Researchers 'Gamify' Cancer Cure Search

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the still-no-cure-for-cancer-oh-wait dept.

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nk497 writes "Scientists from Cancer Research UK are working with Amazon, Facebook and Google to design and develop a mobile game aimed at speeding up the search for new cancer drugs. The first step is for 40 computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists to take part in a weekend "GameJam" to turn the charity's raw genetic data into a game format, with a working title of GeneRun. 'We're making great progress in understanding the genetic reasons cancer develops. But the clues to why some drugs will work and some won't are held in data that needs to be analysed by the human eye — and this could take years,' said Carlos Caldas at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute. 'By harnessing the collective power of citizen scientists we'll accelerate the discovery of new ways to diagnose and treat cancer much more precisely.'"

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Captchas (2)

Bookwyrm (3535) | about a year ago | (#43045963)

Pity they can't make this work as a captcha -- harnessing the power of all the spammers instead of the gamers to solve the problem.

Re:Captchas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43046597)

I thought there was a /. story sometime last year about doing this sort of thing with competative enzyme modelling or something like that. The only bit that I remember in detail was a segment about a group that by brute cunning (similar to binary tree forcing, but a bit more complicated) achieved an extremely low-energy shape for some huge molecule by discoverring that one chain of atoms is more stable as an almost straight line away from the main mass of atoms than any other geometry.

Computer games about nutrition instead? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#43050821)

Re:Computer games about nutrition instead? (1)

rs79 (71822) | about a year ago | (#43051435)

This has been around since before WWII and is the reason Hitler became a vegetarian. It's good, but it doesn't work all the time and where it does work they can't explain why.

Gerald Potter figured out the solution in 2007 and his work makes the work described here redudent.

It took 100 years for medical "science" to understand omega-3 oils were a good thing. Hopefully it won't take as long to start treating cancer properly and successfully like a very small number of people already are.

Re:Computer games about nutrition instead? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#43053601)

Interesting: http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Private-hell-Leicester-scientist-searching-cancer-wonder-drug/story-12084144-detail/story.html [thisisleic...hire.co.uk]
"Gerry's relentlessly obsessive pursuit of medicine's holy grail shattered his sanity -- and saw him sectioned for his own safety. He read about his breakthrough, plastered over the front pages of the national press, while locked up in a mental health unit. Today, we tell his remarkable story -- the eureka moment that saw him imagine the blueprint for a $1 billion drug, how he built abiraterone in a fortnight, how it was so very nearly dumped, and how the desperate pleas for help from people dying of the disease pushed him over the edge..."

Reminds me of what happened to the guy who ended up essentially beaten to death in a mental institution after trying to convince people doctors caused illness because they did not wash their hands:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis [wikipedia.org]
"Semmelweis demonstrated that puerperal fever (also known as childbed fever) was contagious and that this incidence could drastically be reduced by appropriate hand washing by medical care-givers. He made this discovery in 1847 while working in the Maternity Department of the Vienna Lying-in Hospital. His failure to convince his fellow doctors led to a tragic conclusion, however, he was ultimately vindicated and cleared of blame. ...
    Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time. The theory of diseases was highly influenced by ideas of an imbalance of the basic "four humours" in the body, a theory known as dyscrasia, for which the main treatment was bloodlettings. Medical texts at the time emphasized that each case of disease was unique, the result of a personal imbalance, and the main difficulty of the medical profession was to establish precisely each patient's unique situation, case by case.
    The findings from autopsies of deceased women also showed a confusing multitude of physical signs, which emphasized the belief that puerperal fever was not one, but many different, yet unidentified, diseases. Semmelweis's main finding â" that all instances of puerperal fever could be traced back to only one single cause: lack of cleanliness â" was simply unacceptable. His findings also ran against the conventional wisdom that diseases spread in the form of "bad air", also known as miasmas or vaguely as "unfavourable atmospheric-cosmic-terrestrial influences". Semmelweis's groundbreaking idea was contrary to all established medical understanding.
    As a result, his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Other more subtle factors may also have played a role. Some doctors, for instance, were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands, feeling that their social status as gentlemen was inconsistent with the idea that their hands could be unclean."

Gerald Potter was still focusing on a "magic bullet" though of a specific compound. My guess is that his mental health would improve if he ate a lot better, including lots of omega 3s, vitamin D, vegetables, etc.. He might want to look into medically supervised juice or water fasting as well for a time.

Here is more on the history of how mainstream medicine went off the rails a hundred years ago by focusing on profitable hands-on heroic cures by accredited specialists rather than focusing on nutrition and community education (like Natural Hygenists focused on):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexner_Report [wikipedia.org]
"One of the consequences of Flexner's advocacy of university-based medical education was that medical education became much more expensive, putting such education out of reach of all but upper-class white males. The small "proprietary" schools Flexner condemned, which were contended to be have been based in generations-old folk traditions rather than relatively recent Western science, did admit African-Americans, women, and students of limited financial means. These students usually could not afford six to eight years of university education, and were often simply denied admission to medical schools affiliated with universities. While many such doctors continued to practice, they did so under proscribed circumstances and for less pay. It also made it more difficult for people of color, residents of rural areas, and for those of limited means generally to obtain medical care in any form."

Flexner also helped create the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies by get the Bamburgers, who wanted to create a medical school (and presumably community hospital) for Newark, NJ where there business was based, to instead create an elite think tank. I wrote Freeman Dyson about this issue, given IAS is also now creating an biomedical institute looking for genome-based special cures while totally ignoring the low hanging fruits and vegetables of good nutrition.
http://www.sns.ias.edu/csb [ias.edu]
http://www.ias.edu/people/flexner/legacy [ias.edu]

Note by the way that Flexner's original observation, that hands-on education was excellent for K-12 learning, was spot-on, and unfortunately has been ignored by most. But then it was inappropriate to transfer that idea to medical education, which really should have been more reflective about a patient's situation (like the Gesundheit institute and Patch Adams talks about).
http://www.patchadams.org/ [patchadams.org]

Modern sanitation (Semmelweis), clean water, quarantines, and more food also have played a huge role in increasing lifespans in industrialized countries.

Still, I won't deny that some (guestimating) 20% of modern medicine is miraculous. Trauma medicine for car accidents for example. Or being able to treat some diseases with antibiotics after you catch them for some reason. But much of the rest is essentially a disabling painful scam when applied inappropriately instead of focusing on the basics of nutrition, stress, sleep, sunlight, exercise, community, spirituality, song, humor, social equity, etc.:
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/PCI_angioplasty_article.aspx [drfuhrman.com]
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03076/A-Health-Care-Call-to-Action-by-Andrew-Weil-MD.html [drweil.com]

As Dr. Joel Fuhrman wrote in "Eat to Live", paraphrasing, we have not yet seen as a society what might be possible if we combined the best of interventional modern medicine with the best of nutritional science (and lifestyle choices as well I might add). Instead, what we have is a modern medicine that has kept people alive longer, but mainly by just increasing patient's (profitable-to-doctors) "frailspan".
http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/life-extension.html [nickbostrom.com]

While advances from biogenetics no doubt promise to do amazing things like provide a real "fountain of youth" perhaps someday, the path from here to their is fraught with the horrors of engineered diseases (which may be much easier to make than preventions or cures). Thus my other recent comment:
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3507285&cid=43050789 [slashdot.org]
"Your DNA is lke the keys to your house... except that you can't easily change the locks..."

We would be much better off IMHO increasing the general physical and mental health of most people on the planet through proven and increasingly well-understood ways like better nutrition *before* focusing on letting the genomic genie out of the bottle -- since that genie is likely to be abused by mentally sick people still obsessed with fighting over perceived material scarcity. It would also be good if we could first as as society learn to see the universe as the abundant place it seems to be relative to our current needs, like Bucky Fuller talked about, or JD Bernal, or Gerry O'Neill, or James P. Hogan, or Ursula K. Le Guin, or John and Mary Jack Todd, or Amory and Hunter Lovins, or Steve Slaby, or many others.

Re:Captchas (2)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about a year ago | (#43046699)

Or bitcoin mining. Though I suppose if the cure for cancer was found the bitcoin economy would collapse.

Re:Captchas (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | about a year ago | (#43047107)

Either Bitcoin thrives for a decent while, or cancer gets cured. How is this a bad thing? :D

(Intentionally simplifying things, yeah, but still)

Re:Captchas (1)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | about a year ago | (#43047199)

That was my first thought too, but the issue in not a lack of resources/computing power, but the number of people available to analyse visual data. They need to convert the visual data into something that any human can identify as falling into group A or group B (or c, etc)

Re:Captchas (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year ago | (#43047483)

They need to convert the visual data into something that any human can identify as falling into group A or group B (or c, etc)

al la Galaxy Zoo.
http://www.galaxyzoo.org/ [galaxyzoo.org]

Re:Captchas (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year ago | (#43048647)

I think the problem using it as captcha (note speculation, ftfa) would be that the answer is almost always the same (not interesting). My bot would simply need to always say nothing of interest here to pass.

Cheat code (1)

ahow628 (1290052) | about a year ago | (#43046011)

It will be awesome when some gamer comes up with the "Up up down down left right B A" combo to defeat cancer.

Re:Cheat code (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#43046821)

but don't forget that you need to use the SHOULDER A and B buttons for it to work (the top A and B will make the cancer worse)

Folding@Home? (1)

NuAngel (732572) | about a year ago | (#43046169)

Evidently we've all forgotten about http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] - scores, stats, levels, competition.... ? Let's kick some cancer ass, please. Too many family members fighting it at this very moment.

Re:Folding@Home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43046265)

Folding@Home uses digital computers. TFA is about using human computers in an optimized way: providing a pleasure response for computing something digital computers are bad at.

Re:Folding@Home? (2)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#43046641)

Besides, why not both? Play this game on your mobiles, and fire up F@h on your less shackled machines--a one-two punch to the disease. :)

Re:Folding@Home? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year ago | (#43048409)

Evidently we've all forgotten about http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] ...

This is much more akin to foldit [fold.it] . foldit is quite satisfying in its own way, but the learning curve is very steep.

And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43046773)

Amazon, Facebook and Google do no evil with the knowledge?

off topic... (1)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about a year ago | (#43048549)

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She is working though the last leg chemotherapy now. She had recently visited the local American Cancer Society, liked it, and thought about getting a job there.

Last week she visited the job section of their site, and found a job that seemed interesting to her. I said 'what does the job description say? "Must love cancer?"'. She thought that was hilarious.

Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43049881)

It has always been a game; if you lost you died.

But seriously; we're still there where we were 50 years ago: swallow chemicals and/or expose yourself to a radiation source. How many billions of dollars have been put into cancer research EVERY YEAR? To me it looks like that no one wants a generic cure (small cures for very specific forms are OK) since that would stop the gravy train of dependable, long term, high-dollar amounts of funding.

CAPTCHA: industry

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