Citizen Scientists Combine To Identify Effective Cancer Treatments

Citizen Scientists Combine To Identify Effective Cancer Treatments

Now interested people can help fight major diseases from the comfort of their own home, on their own time.

John Pugh, BI
  • 18 november 2012

When Zooniverse, a citizen science site that hosts collaborative research projects, first looked to the skies in 2007 it was attempting to streamline the way we categorize galaxies by asking ordinary people to lend a hand. Just 14 months after launch they had 60 million classifications by hundreds of thousands of participants. The academic world has never been the same. Now Zooniverse is turning the power of crowdsourced research inwards to help understand how cancer cells respond to various treatments through a collaboration with Cancer Research UK.

The Cell Slider project is similar to Zooniverse’s previous endeavors in that volunteers will analyze images in ways that computers cannot, and in greater numbers than if only professionals were tasked with the research. The smartly designed website asks users to identify what kind of cells they see in an image – white blood cells, connective tissue or irregular cells. If they identify the appearance of mutations, they are prompted to count how many there are, what proportion of them are stained yellow, and how intensely they are stained.

It might seem difficult at first to identify what’s what if you’re not a microbiologist, but the site provides a helpful tutorial that guides users through the process of what to look for. In addition to the intuitive interface, each participant can access their personal profiles, which enables them to track their progress over time. To date, the project’s users have analyzed over 160,000 slides. Each image is viewed at least five times to reduce the inaccuracies that inevitably result from using nonprofessional analysts, and a portion of the slides have been looked at by experts to calibrate the results.

The objective of the project is to match the users’ analyses with how patients responded to a particular treatment. This will allow researchers to identify which treatments work best on certain types of cells and prescribe personalized treatments shown to be effective against the specific tumor type the patient has. Currently the Cell Slider project focuses solely on breast cancers, and if it proves to be a success, they plan to expand the scope to include other cancer types.

A whole new level of scientific discovery opens up for researchers willing to use this kind of research. By breaking down tasks into well-designed and publicly approachable chunks, projects that could take years are condensed into months or even weeks, saving money and, in this case, lives. Similar problems that involve visual interpretation and lots of data, such as the strengths of tropical cyclones, could be turned into games that incentivize users with badges, levels, status and rewards. The time devoted to such projects by participants could be even counted as volunteering. If researchers take leads from this and other citizen scientist contribution models like SETI@home, where people donate computer processing time to search for the existence of alien lifeforms, and, a puzzle-style game that explores how cell proteins fold in order to source more effective medications, there is no limit to what we can collectively achieve.

Cell Slider

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.


IKEA Is Letting Kids Design Its New Line Of Toys

Travel Yesterday

30-Year-Old Photographs Used As Travel Guides

A new photo series revolves around tracing the origins of images from the past

Technology Yesterday

Album Turns Into Something New Each Time It’s Streamed

Bill Baird's new album explores the relationship between time and music through a website crafted by design team, One Pixel Wide


Get PSFK's Related Report: Sports Debrief

See All
Health Yesterday

VR App Prescribed For Pain Relief

A pharmacy chain in Sweden is stepping away from tradition to develop a happy place for the pain-afflicted

Retail Yesterday

Banks Are Coming Together To Create A New Payment Network That Rivals Venmo

A number of financial institutions are collaborating to make a new person-to-person monetary system called Zelle for their customers

Media & Publishing Yesterday

Pocket Camera Aims To Facilitate The Struggles Of Live Streams

The Mevo helps resolve the complexities of streaming video with an intuitive setup and smart editing controls

Food Yesterday

Startup Believes Traceability Will Help Disrupt The Multivitamin Industry

Ritual is a daily supplement for women that traces every ingredient back to its source

Food Yesterday

Photo Series Brutally Murders Some Of Your Favorite Fast Food

The portraits by artist duo Ilka & Franz do away with mealtime regulars in a way that is both beautiful and humorous


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 26, 2016

Creative Leadership Expert: Experiencing A Seismic Shift From Brand Loyalty To Interface Loyalty

Marc Shillum, founder of Chief Creative Office, explains why product designers must rethink the way they capture consumer attention

PSFK Labs october 25, 2016

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Mobile Yesterday

Coffeemaker Teaches You How To Make The Perfect Cup

The device comes with an accompanying app that guides novices and experts alike through the brewing process

Op-Ed Yesterday

General Electric: Lighting’s Impact On Sleep Is More Than The Off Switch

Jeff Patton, General Manager of Connected Home Products at GE Lighting, uncovers how lighting technologies can affect our sleep cycles

Brand Development Yesterday

The Story Behind How LYNK & CO Created A Car Brand From Scratch

Head of Design Andreas Nilsson describes which values were most influential in determining the identity and design direction of the new auto company

Travel Yesterday

Architect’s Design Presents A Radically New Approach For New York’s Penn Station

The firm of Vishaan Chakrabarti has envisioned a bright community and travel hub in the heart of the city

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: Building An All-Encompassing Performance Suite

WHOOP, ShotTracker, Rithmio, PlaySight, STYR Labs, EverybodyFights and Lift / Next Level Floats on the partnership opportunities available in health and fitness

Gaming & Play Yesterday

Fantasy Game Responds To Each Player’s Emotions

The card battling venture measures responses through a Bluetooth clip to adjust the experience accordingly

Luxury Yesterday

Carry A Map Of NYC On A Handbag

The bag from Bottega Veneta has been designed exclusively for Bergdorf Goodman to celebrate New York City

Technology Yesterday

Roaming Robots Crawl Around Your Body To Do Small Jobs As You Go About Your Day

A new concept wearable developed by researchers at MIT and Stanford are fully functional bots that live on your clothing

No search results found.