Distributed computing powers a breakthrough in childhood cancer research

I wrote recently about the work my computer is doing on the World Community Grid for projects like Mapping Cancer Markers The Clean Energy Project FightAIDS@Home Computing for Clean Water and Help Fight Childhood Cance . Yesterday I received news that one of these projects, Help Fight Childhood Cancer, has made a major breakthrough in their research, thanks to the members of WCG.

The research team at the Chiba Cancer Centre in Japan has identified seven candidate compounds that destroy neuroblastoma tumors in mice, without causing any apparent side effects. According to the researchers, the World Community Grid was the key to being able to make this discovery:

With the help of over 200,000 volunteers around the world contributing their spare computing power, we screened three million molecules in just two years – a process that would have taken more than 55,000 years on a single computer – and identified seven promising drug candidates for further study.

With likely hundreds of millions of computers around the world sitting idle for much of the day, there is huge potential in harnessing them to solve the world’s difficult problems, from curing diseases to finding new sources of renewable energy.

Since I joined World Community Grid in 2007, the various computers I have worked on over that time have contributed to 23 projects and, as of today, contributed three years of “run time” to various tasks. The image below gives an overview of my computing activities at WCG.

World Community Grid statistics

I think World Community Grid demonstrates the power of distributed computing, both in terms of the raw computing power that can be marshalled, but also in terms of its ability to empower individual computer users to come together voluntarily and make a substantial contribution to scientific research.

If every Canadian with a computer (let alone the rest of the world) joined World Community Grid, and lent their spare computing cycles to projects like these, just imagine what we could accomplish.