The DreamLab app uses smartphones processing power to help identify ‘cancer-fighting’ molecules in a range of different foods.
Created as part of a collaboration between Imperial College London and the Vodafone Foundation, the app has been downloaded more than 80,000 times since its launch and operates while users sleep. The app has, to date, carried out over 10 million calculations.
Using an algorithm, the mobile app measures the properties of around 8,000 foods against an extensive database. Molecules that have effectively tackled cancer in lab tests of cell cultures or animals are evaluated as part of the process. While the app could play a crucial role in establishing cancer treatments long-term, experts have cautioned that it will take quite some time to develop treatments.
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Grapes, dill and cabbage were also found to have high numbers of these anti-cancer molecules. The research also highlights that anti-diabetic and anti-microbial drugs could also play a role in treating cancer.
Dr Kirill Veselkov, lead researcher from Imperial College London’s department of surgery and cancer, described the new app as “groundbreaking”.
“The next step is to use AI technologies to explore the impact that different combinations of drugs and food-based molecules could have on individuals,” he said.
Weilin Wu, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, stated: “This intriguing study suggests we might be able to find leads for new cancer therapies among the naturally occurring chemicals that make up our food and drink.
“But even if this approach bears fruit, there’s a long road ahead to develop them into cancer treatments and test whether they’re effective in treating the disease.
“Your overall diet is much more important for reducing cancer risk than eating a particular type of food.
“There’s good evidence that you can reduce your cancer risk by eating more foods high in fibre, like fruit and veg, and cutting down on processed and red meat, and high-calorie foods and drink.”