A breast cancer cell. The GeneGame to be developed by Guerilla Tea will speed up research into the deadly disease

Software firm hired to create cancer-curing game

A software development agency has been hired to create a mobile game aimed at helping to identify new genetic causes of cancer.

Guerilla Tea, based in Dundee, Tayside, has been appointed by charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to develop the GeneGame, which people will be able to play on their smartphones.

The agency will work with the charity's scientists to create a game which will combine complicated cancer research data and gaming technology to feed highly accurate analysis of variations in gene data to CRUK.

Mark Hastings, chief executive officer of Guerilla Tea, said: "We're absolutely delighted to have been selected by CRUK for this project.

"We've always believed games technology has the potential to provide huge benefits to other sectors and this project will be a wonderful example of that.

"We're very excited to get started and, through our work, look forward to helping speed up discoveries that one day might lead to new cancer treatments."

The charity held a GameJam event in March which brought together the charity’s leading scientists alongside more than 50 computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists from Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and games technology academics from City University London and Omnisoft.

Guerilla Tea will now consolidate the expertise and formats generated at the event to create a game that is both fun to play but simultaneously feeds highly accurate analysis of variations in gene data to CRUK’s scientists.

Scientists are investigating new ways to treat patients in a more targeted way based on their genetic fingerprint, but this research produces a great deal of data requiring analysis, which often must be done by the human eye rather than machines.

Amy Carton, citizen science lead for Cancer Research UK, said: "We were very impressed by the initial format produced by Guerilla Tea and we're excited about seeing the final result.

"We're right at the start of a world-first initiative that will result in a game that we hope hundreds of thousands of people across the globe will want to play over and over again and, at the same time, generate robust scientific data analysis.

"Combining complicated cancer research data and gaming technology in this way has never been done before and it's certainly no mean feat, but we're working with the best scientific and technology brains in the business.We're ready for the challenge and believe the results will have global impact and speed up research."

GeneGame is the charity's second project set up to harness the power of the public to help analyse these colossal amounts of data, with the aim to drastically speed up research.

The first initiative, Cell Slider, launched in October 2012 and allows the public to classify archived breast cancer samples, helping scientists to better understand breast cancer risk and response to treatment.

Dr Joanna Reynolds, director of science information, Cancer Research UK, said: “Over 200,000 people have already visited our CellSlider site, from over 100 countries, making more than 1.6 million classifications.

“In just three months, citizen scientists had analysed data that would typically take our scientists 18 months to do and early indications of the accuracy are promising.

“With GeneGame we are being bolder, braver and bigger and we hope that by the end of the year we’ll have a game that not only is fun to play but will play a crucial role in developing new cancer cures sooner, ultimately saving lives.”

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