Computers fight pancreatic cancer

The researchers behind the Screensaver-Lifesaver project – which uses the ‘idle time’ of millions of computers worldwide to screen for anti-cancer drugs -are now turning their attention to fighting pancreatic cancer.

The researchers behind the Screensaver-Lifesaver project – which uses the ‘idle time’ of millions of computers worldwide to screen for anti-cancer drugs – are now turning their attention to fighting pancreatic cancer.

The Screensaver-Lifesaver project is run out of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) Centre for Computational Drug Discovery under the direction of Professor Graham Richards, Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford.

In a recent joint statement with the NFCR and Dr. Daniel Von Hoff of the Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies at the University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Professor Richards described how the new collaborative research project will target developing cancer drugs to fight one of the world’s most deadly cancer types, pancreatic cancer.

Using the screensaver technology, several newly identified protein targets related to the development of pancreatic cancer will now be screened against more than 3.5 million drug-like molecules as potential drug candidates.

‘The success of our cancer research programme based on the computational drug design programme has been very encouraging to this point. Over 10% of our hits in a pilot study are genuine drug target candidates, much better than the pharmaceutical industry expected,’ said Professor Richards.

Over 3 million computer users in over 200 countries now donate more than 10,000 hours of volunteer computer time to cancer research each month. The project is powered by Peer-to-Peer technology provided by United Devices and in silico simulation software from Accelrys, a similar technology platform for the Screensaver-Lifesaver project launched in 2001.

Individuals interested in participating can download the free screen saver at www.NFCR.org and click on the download screensaver button. The screen saver will run in the background on a user’s computer while the computer is idle and when connected to an internet connection, the user’s computer will download a target molecule and run the Ligandfit programme against a database of molecules.

When finished, the computer will then upload the results back to the central servers and download a new assignment.