UK charity: Help us analyze cancer tumors online

October 23, 2012 by Maria Cheng

(AP)—A British cancer group is turning to an unorthodox source of help in an effort to speed its research: web surfers.

On Wednesday, Cancer Research U.K. is launching a website driven by crowd-sourcing, asking people to help spot trends in tumors. Ordinary citizens have already helped make important discoveries in other fields such as astronomy and archaeology.

"There are cures for cancer buried in our data," the website says. "Help us find them."

"We've broken down the data so that someone who has two to three minutes on their lunch break could go on the site and do something genuinely useful for cancer," said Chris Lintott of Oxford University, who led the team that designed the website. "If millions of people are willing to help, we could get through things a lot quicker and make a real difference to research."

The group is asking volunteers to look through tens of thousands of pictures of left over from recent studies and help categorize them. If successful, experts will then include samples from patients with other types of cancer.

"This data would normally be reviewed by researchers, but they can't keep up with the volume generated, and research slows as a result," Lintott said. "We changed the language so it's less technical, but the task is exactly the same as what a pathologist would do."

People surfing the site will be given a short tutorial on what cells to analyze and what cells to ignore. Once users are able to identify abnormally shaped cancer cells, they will be asked to determine how many have been stained yellow and how bright that yellow is, according to a guide. The yellow stains represent certain that may help scientists predict things like patient survival or response to a drug.

That information goes back to researchers who will then look for broader trends between those cells and a patient's response to a particular treatment. Each image of a tumor will be analyzed by several people on the website to ensure that any accidental or incorrect clicks can be ignored.

Earlier this month, astronomers at Yale University announced they had discovered a planet orbiting twin suns in a four-star system with the help of volunteers.

Other scientists studying plants and animals routinely enlist the public's help to make observations and even to design proteins.

Some cancer experts welcomed the initiative.

"Engaging the public in this way could certainly prove useful," said Dr. Richard Francis, research manager at Breakthrough , a U.K. charity not involved in the project. "If successful, the site may help to accelerate the early stages of ," he said in an email.

Others were more skeptical. "This doesn't get down to the bottom line of what makes a cancer cell a cancer cell," said Kenneth Aldape, chairman of pathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, who had a look at the website and described it as "superficial."

"I don't think anything's going to be cured here, but it's worth a try," Aldape said. "We certainly haven't cured cancer with the methods we've used so far."

Explore further: New biomarker that predicts breast cancer relapse found

More information: www.clicktocure.net/

shares

Related Stories

New biomarker that predicts breast cancer relapse found

May 16, 2011
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center have discovered a new biomarker related to the body's immune system that can predict a breast cancer patients' risk of cancer recurrence. This breakthrough ...

Genetic predictor of breast cancer response to chemotherapy

May 10, 2012
Chemotherapy is a major first line defense against breast cancer. However a patient's response is often variable and unpredictable. A study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medical Genomics shows that ...

Avastin, Sutent increase breast cancer stem cells, study shows

January 25, 2012
Cancer treatments designed to block the growth of blood vessels were found to increase the number of cancer stem cells in breast tumors in mice, suggesting a possible explanation for why these drugs don't lead to longer survival, ...

Heterogeneous ER+ breast cancer models allow more accurate drug testing

August 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Cell cultures are homogeneous. Human tumors are not. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study recently published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment reports the development of human-derived ...

Recommended for you

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

Presurgical targeted therapy delays relapse of high-risk stage 3 melanoma

January 17, 2018
A pair of targeted therapies given before and after surgery for melanoma produced at least a six-fold increase in time to progression compared to standard-of-care surgery for patients with stage 3 disease, researchers at ...

Dulling cancer therapy's double-edged sword

January 17, 2018
Researchers have discovered that killing cancer cells can actually have the unintended effect of fueling the proliferation of residual, living cancer cells, ultimately leading to aggressive tumor progression.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.