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Cancer Research UK launches ‘spaceship’ smartphone game to seek cancer cures

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by Cancer Research UK | News

4 February 2014

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Cancer Research UK today unveils Play to Cure: Genes in Space – a world-first mobile phone game in which people across the globe will be able to help scientists unravel gene data to find the answers to some of cancer’s toughest questions.

“Play to Cure: Genes in Space will help us find ways to diagnose and treat cancer more precisely – sooner.” – Professor Carlos Caldas

It is available to download now for free here for anyone with an Android or Apple Smartphone. When playing this fun and interactive spaceship game, people will simultaneously analyse Cancer Research UK’s gene data, highlighting genetic faults which can cause cancer – and ultimately help scientists develop new treatments.

Players must guide a fast-paced spaceship safely along a hazard-strewn intergalactic assault course to collect precious material called ‘Element Alpha’. Each time the player steers the spaceship to follow the Element Alpha path, this information is fed back to Cancer Research UK scientists – cleverly providing analysis of variations in gene data. 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 personalised medicine. Each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players to ensure accuracy.

Hannah Keartland, citizen science lead for Cancer Research UK, said: “Our world-first Smartphone game is simply out of this world. Not only is it great fun to play – but every single second gamers spend directly helps our work to bring forward the day all cancers are cured. Our scientists’ research produces colossal amounts of data, some of which can only be analysed by the human eye – a process which can take years.

“We hope thousands of people worldwide will play Play to Cure: Genes in Space as often as possible, to help our researchers get through this data. We urge people to give five minutes of their time wherever and whenever they can – whether they’re waiting for their bus to arrive or they’re in the hairdressers having a blow dry. Together, our free moments will help us beat cancer sooner.”

Tony Selman age 72 from Middlesex was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2010 after a series of CT and MRI scans. Tony, who lost his wife to cancer of the oesophagus, was initially treated with Zoladex and Casodex hormone treatments, and later with radiotherapy and brachytherapy and is now having regular checks. He is Cancer Research UK’s citizen science ambassador.

“I’ve watched this game develop from the start and I’m delighted that it is now launching.

“I know that this project won’t be able to help me but it will be a fantastic boost to help scientists discover new clues to the development of cancer more quickly – to provide effective new treatments for cancer to protect my grandchildren and future generations.

“I’ve played this game and think it’s marvellous. And I’d urge everyone out there – if you’ve got five minutes to spare, play it now and help beat cancer sooner.”

Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, said: “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. 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.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re enormously proud to launch our first mobile phone game which we believe will build on the great progress we’re making to discover and develop the most effective new treatments for all cancers.

“This is ambitious – it’s no mean feat combining the most advanced genetic data with cutting-edge gaming technology. But Cancer Research UK will go to whatever lengths possible to pursue the most innovative approaches to increase survival from cancer.

“And now we’re calling on our supporters to join in by asking everyone to give up five minutes to play this fantastic game and help us discover cures for cancer sooner.”

To find out further information or download Play to Cure: Genes in Space visit:

For media enquiries please contact the press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.