A SCIENTIST has won a national award for helping to cure cancer with a mobile phone game.

Dr Anne Kiltie, who works at the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology, helped develop Cancer Research UK’s innovative app Reverse The Odds.

In the game, players score points by spotting brightly-coloured proteins in 800 images of tumorous cells taken from 300 real bladder cancer patients.

Dr Kiltie’s team compares levels of the proteins spotted by players with those patients’ survival rates to work out which treatments work best for different sorts of people.

The “citizen science” project saves scientists hundreds of hours doing menial work that requires little or no specialist knowledge.

The app has now been downloaded more than 100,000 times – providing doctors with 3.5m individual classifications.

For her help developing and promoting the app, Dr Kiltie was awarded the top prize for research engagement at Cancer Research UK’s Flame of Hope awards in June.

Dr Kiltie, who lives in Chilswell Road, South Oxford, said: “It was a complete surprise – I didn’t even know there was such an award.”

Speaking about the app, she said: “It is still early days, but it has a good chance of being very useful to science.”

She was nominated by one of her team, Dr Rupesh Vyas, who said the project would have been impossible without her dedication.

He said: “Dr Kiltie’s enthusiasm and boundless energy have driven the project’s success.

“As well as devoting a large amount of time to developing the app, she provided information and comments for countless articles, blogs and newsletters internationally.

“She is endlessly motivated to get thousands of people playing the game to help find answers that will help provide better treatments for cancer patients sooner.”

Dr Vyas said the sheer number of people analysing the sample pictures demonstrated the power of “citizen science”.

He added: “The human eye is very good at recognising patterns and you don’t need to be a scientist to take part.

“With so many eyes on the samples, the public will help us by processing many more images than we could do alone – opening up opportunities to test more interesting molecules than ever before.”

The awards audience at London’s Hotel Russell heard that Dr Kiltie and her team in Oxford are looking at better ways of treating bladder cancer.

The 300 patients from Leeds whose tissues samples are pictured in the game were either treated with surgery or radiotherapy.

By comparing the survival rates for surgery and radiotherapy patients with the amount of certain proteins in their cells beforehand, the doctors hope to be able to predict future patients’ chances of survival.

Reverse the Odds is the latest example of “citizen science” projects pioneered in Oxford.

Last year, Oxford University’s Penguin Watch project asked volunteers to study 200,000 pictures taken by remote cameras in Antarctica to help monitor populations.

The Reverse the Odds app is available from the Apple App store, Amazon and Google Play.