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Play To Cure: Genes in Space

Evolution Of Cures: A Cancer Research UK Study Of Social Awareness

Mobile apps are being used more and more in healthcare for diagnostics, to raise awareness of symptoms and to help patients manage conditions. Now you can play a game on your smart phone to help cure cancer – it might sound too good to be true, but Cancer Research UK has launched an app that does just that. Not only is the app raising awareness through social interaction, it is helping scientists to research faulty genes.

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Designers And Developers Come Together

So how exactly did this social app develop? Cancer Research UK brought together representatives from Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services and many more for a weekend Game Jam. They created “Play to Cure: Genes in Space”, a fantastic and fun social game that will no doubt attract the competitive side of commuters on their way to work as much as kids. The beauty of the game is its simplicity and potential appeal to all sorts of mobile users, and the more people that download and play the game, the higher its value to scientists.

Gaming Style

The style of Genes in Space is a throwback to the video games 1980s heyday of Space Invaders and game arcades. A perennial favourite with gamers, the new Cancer Research game involves flying a spaceship through the cosmos to collect ‘Element Alpha’, destroying asteroids, mapping your route and trading and upgrading your ship. It is a gripping game to play, a real credit to its creators and incredible to think it was created over 48 hours.

Analysis of Data

So how does this work in the search for a cure for cancer? Well, scientists have over two million pieces of data related to genetic patterns. These have been taken from over 2,000 cancer patients in the UK and Canada. By playing Genes in Space, players are in fact taking different routes and collecting different bits of the ‘Element Alpha’, each of which is actually analysing great amounts of data. If this had been done manually by scientists, this would have taken hundreds of hours, and pounds, to complete. This game means that everyone can play their part for free, giving their time to help analyse huge amounts of data.

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This type of data analysis is both innovative, productive and helps raise awareness. Moreover, it gives the general public the feeling of ‘helping out’. Cancer (as well as other serious conditions) can make family and friends of patients feel powerless. But this gives them a practical way to help towards the cure. Genes in Space is free to download for android smartphones from Google Play and the App Store for iPhones and iPads. And for those worried about uploading the data, it can be played offline, with the data being uploaded as soon as you are back within a 3G or wireless connection.

There is so much scope for this way of harnessing public help to search for a cure for other diseases. Cancer Research UK has proven the game’s popularity and efficacy – it has had over 100,000 downloads and has a rating of 4.5 stars on iTunes. When a preview of the game was uploaded onto YouTube, it received over 100,000 views in a short space of time. This paves the way for similar games for other conditions. The future of medicine and research could be a lot more fun and interactive with games like this.


To find out more about other ways to help CRUK do visit the Cancer Research Donate page and see the different ways that you can help beat cancer sooner.

Donate to Cancer Research UK

Written by TeamSMF

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Play To Cure: Genes in Space Reviewed by Nicolas At SMF on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Rating: 5
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