From Flickr via https://flic.kr/p/eagXd5 under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0
If you’ve recently been on an intergalactic space adventure, or restored a magical world to its former glory, while carrying out vital research into cancer, it’s likely you’ve been one of our Citizen Scientists. And you’ve had a big year in 2014.
Our programme, which calls on the public to help our researchers analyse data, had already launched its first online project – Cell Slider in 2012. And this year, we’ve introduced two new mobile games to our cancer-fighting arsenal: Genes In Space and Reverse The Odds.
But these new games wouldn’t mean much without the over 300,000 citizen scientists using them. By uniting to beat cancer sooner, this has helped support research into head and neck, lung, breast and bladder cancers.
And by working together, citizen scientists have helped our researchers analyse their data quicker. For Cell Slider we found the analysis could be up to six times faster than the research team working alone.
But before we steam ahead into 2015, we wanted to share six of our biggest achievements from the past year.
15 years volunteered by citizen scientists
Every second spent playing our games this year has contributed to our fight against cancer. And if you’re one of our Citizen Scientists, even if you don’t feel like you’ve personally volunteered a lot of time to Citizen Science, as a collective force you’ve donated 15 years of your time in just 12 months!
9,000 tumour samples analysed
Every sample analysed through our Citizen Science games has a human story behind it. Without patients donating these samples, our programme wouldn’t be possible. So we want to thank the thousands of cancer patients who are now helping us uncover clues that could lead to future treatments.
58,000 Citizen Scientists united against breast cancer through Cell Slider
Professor Paul Pharoah from the University of Cambridge has used Cell Slider this year to investigate how we can better predict a patient’s chances of surviving breast cancer – and the best treatments to offer them – based on different tumour characteristics. Tens of thousands of you have helped Paul this year, and contributed accurate analysis that could help people with breast cancer in the future.
Over 4 kilometres of DNA analysed in Genes In Space
The sheer volume of genetic material that’s been mapped is something to be truly proud of. In fact, if you unravelled the DNA that’s collectively been analysed, it would stretch more than three times the height of Ben Nevis. And, most importantly, this analysis will help Dr Oscar Rueda from our Cambridge Research Institute locate genetic faults that lead to breast cancer.
But that DNA could actually stretch even further. To maximise accuracy, each sample was analysed by at least 50 different players. If we factor that in, it’s fair to say that the amount of genetic data analysed would reach over 200km. That’s the same altitude that the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, reached in 1957!
3 bladder cancer characteristics investigated thanks to Reverse The Odds
Dr Anne Kiltie from the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology is using the data you’ve analysed through Reverse The Odds to better understand bladder cancer. The analysis could help patients make decisions about their treatment in the future. Thanks to our Citizen Scientists, Anne has already begun investigating three different tumour characteristics. What’s more, she’ll be able to study 19 characteristics over all – nine more than she would have been able to without Reverse The Odds.
33,876 lung cancer cell images analysed in Reverse The Odds
Professor Gareth Thomas from the University of Southampton is exploring how the immune system responds to lung cancer. He’s interested in finding out if we can predict whether patients will benefit from treatments that encourage the body’s natural defences to fight the disease. And the incredible number of lung cancer images classified by playing Reverse The Odds this year will help him do exactly that. All in all, that’s an amazing contribution towards research tackling the world’s biggest cancer killer.
That’s just a snapshot of 2014, and there’s so much to be proud of. But our mission is far from over. There’s still a vast amount of data to be analysed through Citizen Science.
We hope 2015 is going to be just as big as 2014. But to make that happen, we need you to keep playing. And if you haven’t joined us yet, you can find out about our free, easy-to-use games and support our scientists here.
And if you want to be among the first to hear about new games and our progress, sign up to hear more.
Josh Lee is a marketing executive in the Cancer Research UK Citizen Science team