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New game aims to apply citizen science to cancer

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Citizen science is cool, and I’m without doubt a major fan of it as a concept.  I’ve written a few times on the blog about the various games that have been developed that allow players to contribute to scientific research whilst playing the game.

For instance, Eyewire is a game that aims to improve our understanding of neuroscience.  Phylo is a logic game that aims to bolster our knowledge of genetics.  EteRNA is a game that explores the folding patterns of RNA, whilst NOVA is tackling a similar issue, but with the hope that it will get youngsters involved.

Some really cool projects in other words.  The latest citizen science game to hit the market has been launched recently by Cancer Research UK.  The game, called Reverse the Odds, is a mobile game available on both Apple and Android platforms.

Players take control of creatures who inhabit a world that is breaking apart.  You are tasked with completing various puzzles that help the creatures to improve and rebuild their world.

All of which is nice enough, but how does this help with cancer research?  Well, the designers have integrated analysis of cancer into the game play itself, so players will be shown images of real tumour tissue donated to the game by former cancer patients.  As players answer questions based upon the images, it’s hoped that the researchers will gain a greater understanding of the disease.  The questions include some of the following:

  • How many cancer cells do you see?
  • How many cells are blue?
  • How strongly are these cells glowing?

The game is specifically hoping to gain an understanding of biomarkers for bladder cancer.  The researchers want to learn more about what biomarkers could be a reliable indicator of how the patient will respond to specific treatments, such as radiotherapy and surgery.

Suffice to say, removing a bladder is a pretty big deal, so getting the decision right will have a big impact upon the quality of life of the patient.

As with most of the games highlighted at the start of the post, there is some training provided to each gamer, with each set of data analysed by multiple players to hopefully ensure the reliability of the project.

Overall, it’s a nice project that will hopefully enroll a large number of people in the battle against cancer.  You can learn more about the game via the video below, or download the game for iOS and Android.

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