Fighting cancer one computer at a time
April 3, 2001 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Fighting cancer one computer at a time - Following in the footsteps of the SETI@Home project, a new program is being launched enabling you to use your spare computer power helping to research new treatments in the fight against cancer.
posted by Noah (5 comments total)
see Folding@home discussion. Scroll down to thinlash's comment.

What a clever idea: why not, instead of improving the methods of parsing giant chemical libraries, just hijack the CPU time of the easily misled? By flashing the statistics of how many Americans get cancer, it'll look like this is actually worthwhile. No thanks.
posted by methylsalicylate at 7:24 AM on April 3, 2001

There is a slightly longer (but not really much better) article at the BBC

I like this quote:
"Essentially, the technology enables the first steps towards Star Trek medicine."

So we'll get those little handheld gizmos that instantly diagnose us?
posted by Cuppatea at 7:30 AM on April 3, 2001

The way I read the Folding@home discussion above is a diatribe against the protein folding folks. Is there a similar problem w/ the Intel effort?
posted by daver at 9:45 AM on April 3, 2001

The objection is that it's an inefficient solution to the problem. As thinlash mentioned in the Folding@home thread, drug discovery efforts should be focused on - as he put it - basic research, better understanding of physical forces, smarter algorithms, patience.

The greatest lack in this field is not computing power, it's understanding. Of how to organise chemical libraries, for one. Of how to conduct efficient searches. These are questions for microbiologists and medicinal chemists, even mathematicians and physicists. What rankles is the fact that this joint effort is put in terms of "curing cancer." Well, we all want to do that, don't we? Otherwise you're just a woman- or grandmother-hating maniac, aren't you? *sniff* Don't you know what it's like to lose a loved one to cancer, you monster?

But focusing attention on a single disease using methods which fail to improve the overall drug discovery process is not worthwhile. Okay, what if this produces a set of leads, one of which becomes effective in treating, say, breast cancer (unlikely, but hey, it could happen)? Now are we going to appeal to home users to donate their computers to fight herpes simplex, yaws, Massons tumor, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, calcifying epithemioma of malherbe (ad infinitum)?
posted by methylsalicylate at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2001

There's a great argument against using the Cancer@Home client (or whatever it's called) on Slashdot today.
posted by waxpancake at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2001

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