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Public urged to help cancer research site

Published on 24 October 2012

Millions of people are being invited to help cancer research via an interactive website.

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The "citizen science" project , led by Cancer Research UK and initially focusing on breast cancer, hopes to speed up the rate at which molecules that may predict how a patient responds to treatment can be identified in cancer cells.

The Cell Slider website presents real images of tumour samples and operates in a similar way to the card game snap.

Users are first given a tutorial explaining which cells to analyse and which ones to ignore. Once cancer cells have been identified by their irregular shape, they are asked to record how many have been stained yellow and how bright the colour is. Users do this by clicking on another image that most closely matches the sample they are viewing. The information is fed back to researchers who look for correlations between cell types and treatment responses.

Professor Paul Pharoah, of Cambridge University, who helped develop Cell Slider, said: "There is information that can transform cancer treatments buried in our data – we just need the manpower to unlock them. We've turned our data into something that can be accessed by anyone – you don't have to be a scientist to do this research. If we can get millions of people on Cell Slider, we hope to condense years of research into months."

Dr Harpal Kumar, of Cancer Research UK, said: "We're asking people to help us to save lives by helping our scientists unearth information that would usually take years to discover."