Help improve cancer treatments using your wasted computer po

Help improve cancer treatments using your wasted computer po

Help improve cancer treatments using your wasted computer po Hi everybody,

Since January 2005, I have been donating my unused computer time to help medical research through the World Community Grid. I was delighted today to see that they are taking on cancer. Specifically, they are going to be using donated computer time to improve the targeting of treatment for breast, head and neck cancers, so that newly diagnosed patients getting chemo will get what works best for them. As someone who had a minimal response to FEC and a really rough time on it, I think that this research is very important.

The idea behind the World Community Grid is that people generally only use a small amount of the computing power of their computers, since many of us just use our computers almost entirely for e-mails and internet searches. Through the World Community Grid, which has the backing of IBM, people donate their unused computing time to help solve the problems facing the world. The program runs in the background, somewhat like a screensaver and has never caused me any trouble. There are windows, macintosh and linux versions. The scientists who receive help with their research promise to keep the information in the public domain. There are over 200,000 members of the World Community Grid internationally and it is estimated that on a previous project modelling the shape of proteins of importance to human health, we sliced years off the time the project took.

For more information, see

Arrgh! Temporary memory requirement high Well, perhaps I wrote too quickly. These are the minimum system requirements:

"For the Help Defeat Cancer project, the minimum requirements are:

* At least a 200MHz Intel Pentium┞¢ processor or equivalent
* At least 750 MB RAM (virtual memory should also be enabled)
* 2000 MB Hard Disk Drive with at least 500 MB available for use
* The ability to display 8-bit graphics at 800x600 resolution
* An Internet connection with minimum 40 kbps speed
* Operating System: Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP"

I have an o.k. computer and meet all of the requirements except for the RAM (this is the computer’s temporary memory). As I understand it, the RAM requirement for this project is unusually large. To find out how much RAM you have in Windows, click on the start button, then right click on ‘my computer’ and then click on properties.

So, it’s a great project, but many computers would need to have their RAM upgraded to meet the requirement. I forgot to mention earlier that the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Irish Cancer Society are all endorsing it.

Of course, some people might actually like the excuse to go out and buy some more RAM. I have to see whether my husband is in the mood for buying some, since he is a bit of a techie at heart.

Firewall? Is it safe? I would hate to find my computer invaded but would like to be a part of this. Having had major problems in the past I need the reassurance that there is a safety system built in.

Thanks Christine Yes, this is a great project to be involved in. It’s just using idle computing power to help with research into diseases.

As well as the Help Defeat Cancer Project, which, as Christine says, requires 750 mb RAM, there are two other Projects which only require 250 mb RAM - Fight Aids and Human Proteome Folding. The Human Proteome Folding is relevant to cancer because it supports research into proteins and may help scientists to learn more about biomarkers which will lead to better targetted treatments.

You don’t have to be connected to the internet for your computer to carry out tasks, but when it’s finished, it needs to connect to get new tasks.

It is safe to use - so safe that IBM encourages all its employees around the world to download the software onto their work and home computers so they can support World Community Grid. There’s a bit of Techie info here about firewalls:

There’s more general info on IBM’s website - gives a bit of background about World Community Grid and the Supercomputing and Grid Computing Technology behind it.

I think that it is pretty safe Of course, anyone cruising the internet should have a firewall and up to date antivirus software.

I think that this project is pretty safe because IBM has really put its reputation on the line to keep it safe (it is trying to develop a reputation in commercial grids and it can’t afford to let anything bad happen). I researched the possible downside before joining and I couldn’t find an example of anybody running into trouble because of their involvement in a grid. Just don’t put it on your employer’s computer without permission: somebody did get in trouble for that.

Macmillan Cancer Support are a partner in this and they have a very nice press release on their website explaining the project. I think the sentence below helps sum up its importance:

‘As a result of the Help Defeat Cancer project, World Community Grid makes it possible to analyse in one day the number of specimens that would take approximately 130 years to complete using a traditional computer,’ said Dr. David J. Foran, lead researcher and professor of pathology and director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and co-director of the Immunohistochemistry shared resources program of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 'Without World Community Grid, TMAs are processed in individual or small batches that are analysed on standard computers.’ TMAs are cancer samples.

Yes - good point about not downloading the software onto your work computer without employer’s permission, though a good opportunity to speak to employers and get them to support this. And of course, as Christine says, anyone using a computer should make sure they have proper firewall/anti virus software, irrespective of whether they plan to use World Community Grid, or not.

Also, I wonder how many NHS (and private hospital) computers are hooked up to the World Community Grid to help with this. Would be a good question for people to ask at their next appointments. The amount of idle computing power in the health sector must be phenomenal.

Question for BCC Do Breast Cancer Care and other Cancer Charities allow their computers to support the World Community Grid?

I’ll try to find out Hi Daphne

The honest answer to this is I don’t know. But I’ll try to find out over the next couple of weeks and post an answer for you.

Best wishes
Breast Cancer Care

To the Moderator Thanks for checking this out.

best wishes


Thanks from me, too Dear Moderator

You are really on top of things.

Another option would be what is called partnering.

I looked at the partnering requirements and basically all this involves is putting a story about the project on the website and a link to the World Community Grid. In exchange, Breast Cancer Care would get its name and logo on the World Community Grid’s Partner Web page.

I have been pushing this because they seem to be having problems getting this story out, perhaps because they have launched it at a bad time of the year, when everyone’s mind is on their summer hols or how hot it is. I think the project could really help improve care in particular for the triple negatives.

best wishes


Thanks for that Christine Have registered as I have permanent connection with firewall and am at work during day.

Depending on the activity , it might trash my HD a bit quicker but what the heck, they are cheap enough these days :slight_smile: