Imperial College London

Hit snooze to support World Cancer Day


This World Cancer Day, follow in the steps of Star Wars actor John Boyega and download the DreamLab App to conduct cancer research whilst your sleep.

Imperial College London and the Vodafone Foundation are calling on the public to extend World Cancer Day into World Cancer Night by downloading the DreamLab app and helping to speed up cancer research.

Imperial’s “DRUGS” (Drug Repositioning Using Grids of Smartphones) project aims to make better use of existing drugs and quickly find more effective combinations of drugs to improve cancer treatments. To achieve this, they partnered with the Vodafone Foundation to develop the DreamLab app, which uses a smartphone’s processing power while it lies idle overnight to analyse existing cancer research data – speeding up research by decades.

Thousands of smartphones working overnight form a virtual super computer, allowing calculations to be crunched much faster than by regular desktop computers. The more people who use the app, the quicker the research is conducted.

Since launching in May 2018, DreamLab app has been downloaded by 73,799 people, and the 5.9 million data calculations it has crunched is helping to identify new combinations or alternative uses of existing drugs in the fight against cancer.

Imperial scientists estimate that if 10,000 people download the DreamLab app on World Cancer Day, the nation could collectively crunch 100,000 additional calculations, helping to make crucial progress in their cancer research and ultimately help save lives.

By using the crowd-based approach to work on publicly available data on cancer genes and drug interactions, the Imperial researchers hope to significantly speed up cancer research by identifying new combinations of drugs that may be more effective in fighting cancers in individual patients.

Dr Kirill Veselkov, Lecturer in Computational Medicine in the Department of Surgery & Cancer said: “Thanks to our people-powered supercomputing through DreamLab, we have completed our first project phase which has found individual drug combinations that are tailored to patient genetics. We have also identified promising drug candidates for further study.

“Now, we are ready to take the leap into the next phases where we will research effective drug or food combinations in the treatment of cancer. This is a much more complex process and requires even more computing power to crunch tens of millions of calculations - that is why we need smartphone owners to help our research by downloading and using the app each night while they sleep. What better time to start than World Cancer Day?”.

In just eight months, DreamLab users have delivered the same results that a desktop computer running 24 hours a day would take 50 years to do.

Each problem crunched on DreamLab is an AI-simulated “trial” of how effective a particular combination of existing drugs or food-based molecules is against specific network of cancer genes. Hundreds of millions of such calculations are required to come up with treatments that have a good chance of working.

Long term, the continued use of the app could prove instrumental in finding tailored treatments for patients. The hope is that rather than a trial and error approach of testing cancer drug combinations to see which work best for a patient, data-led approaches such as this could help to identify combinations of drugs to use based on the genotype of the cancer itself.

The DreamLab app is free to download and free to use for Vodafone customers, meaning it doesn’t eat into data allowances. The app can also be used for free via WiFi. Users on other networks can also download the app, choosing how much data they wish to donate or connecting to WiFi to use it for free.

To download the app please search for DreamLab in the App store for iOS or Play Store for Android.


Benjie Coleman

Benjie Coleman
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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Research, Drug-discovery, Cancer, Drugs
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