Mapping Cancer Markers project launch

A new World Community Grid project will help identify characteristic chemical "markers" for different types of cancer, thus leading to better detection, more personalized treatments and faster future research.

Join Mapping Cancer Markers to help researchers find the chemical signatures of several deadly cancers.

Despite amazing advances in care, cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, partly because procedures for detecting cancer are still imperfect. Cancer is a disease of abnormal cell growth, caused by a wide range of genetic or environmental changes that can affect the mechanisms that control cell growth. Although cell conditions change constantly, only certain combinations of changes lead to cancer. Currently, there is limited understanding of what those cancer-causing changes are, so cancer often goes undetected until abnormal cell growth has already happened.

Scientists are often able to detect cellular changes through the presence of chemical indicators (called "markers"), but they currently lack the understanding of which specific combinations of markers occur in which cancers. Therefore, a screening system that identifies these groupings of markers could help researchers detect early-stage cancer and would go a long way toward making cancer more curable.

Mapping Cancer Markers will apply the massive power of volunteer computing to the challenge of identifying cancer markers. The project will screen data extracted from tissue and blood samples from thousands of patients and identify the characteristic chemical markers that are associated with certain types of cancer. This research will eventually help determine an individual's risk of developing certain cancers, as well as better predict which treatments will be effective for that individual.

The importance of markers is already clear, even from the limited number currently known to scientists. For example, as reported in a recent story about the actress Angelina Jolie, mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes indicate a high risk of developing breast cancer. Ms. Jolie was able to use this knowledge to choose a preemptive and effective early treatment for a cancer that she had not even developed yet. Researchers believe that there are many more markers waiting to be discovered. Mapping Cancer Markers will search for additional markers for lung, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and breast cancers, and can be expanded to analyze additional cancers in the future.

Armed with marker information, researchers and physicians will have several new approaches to improving cancer care:


  • Identifying more markers could mean better early screening, so that cancers can be found and treated earlier, a key factor in improving survival rates.
  • An individual'™s markers could reveal if he or she is at risk for a particular cancer, and could even help predict which treatments are likely to be helpful for that particular patient.
  • With the process of identifying markers better understood, future research into their role in cancer and other diseases could be accelerated.

Mapping Cancer Markers is the latest computational research project from Dr. Igor Jurisica of the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, Canada -“ formerly the lead researcher for Help Conquer Cancer, which ran on World Community Grid from 2007 to 2013. With this project launch, World Community Grid volunteers have a new opportunity to contribute to life-saving research by donating their computers' spare processing capacity.

To contribute to Mapping Cancer Markers, go to your My Projects page and make sure the box for this new project is checked.

Please visit the following pages to learn more: