Published:  12:00 AM, 11 March 2017

Smartphones conscripted in cancer fight

Smartphones conscripted in cancer fight

Scientists are calling on Android phone owners to donate some of their processing power to help in the fight against childhood cancers. The spare computing power of Android devices and computers can be utilised to work out which compounds can best fight cancer cells.

The work is part of a wider citizen science project, set up by IBM. The World Community Grid was set up by IBM in 2004, and since then more than 700,000 volunteers have helped researchers process complex computations, including ones to better understand Ebola, Zika, tuberculosis and HIV Aids. Initially it utilised the processing power of computers but a few years ago added an Android app to its arsenal. Now it is working with the Smash Childhood Cancer project to help find cures for six types of childhood cancer, including brain tumours, cancer of the liver and bone cancer.

"The app only runs when you have 90% charge and it waits until you are connected to wi-fi so it does not use up data. It has been designed to stay out of the way and be non-intrusive," said Juan Hindo, program manager of IBM Corporate Citizenship. She expla-ined that resear-chers looking for the best cures for a range of childhood cancers needed to run simulation tools to predict how a compound would perform to prevent disease. "You need a lot of computer power to do this and researchers may only be able to access a supercomputer at certain times and, to test each one, they need to run millions of simulations," said Ms Hindo. Conducting research on this scale in a laboratory is nearly impossible because of the amount of time and expense involved.

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