Graphics Cards Help Lead Fight Against Cancer


Mortician of Love
May 25, 2010
Graphics Cards Help Lead Fight Against Cancer

It turns out that graphics processing units are helping make some serious breakthroughs in the world of cancer research.

Once again, the fields of science and gaming are coming together to make the world a better place. It's recently been revealed that a researcher is using graphics processing units to study both how cancer cells work and how they can be treated.

Samuel Cho, who works as a biophysicist and computer scientist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, is using GPUs to render high-quality models in order to learn more about how cancer cells work. Recently, he documented his project in a paper that was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society's November issue:

With his team, Cho created a simulation of an RNA molecule, a component of the human telomerase enzyme. The enzyme is found only in cancer cells, and works by adding tiny molecules to the ends of dividing DNA strands, preventing them from dying.

"When you have a telomerase enzyme . . . the cell doesn't know that it is supposed to die . . . then it keeps reproducing over and over," said Cho. "This is the very definition of what cancer is."

Cho's GPU simulation revealed, for the first time, a more accurate view of how the enzyme works through folding and unfolding. "What I'd like to do is to understand how the telomerase enzyme works so we can find ways of making it not work."

According to Cho, his research wouldn't be possible without the indirect aid of gamers: The more gamers there are, the cheaper the graphics cards that do these simulations become. A few years ago, the GPUs used for the project were selling for around $2,000. Now, they're going for $500, and are even faster than before.

In order to keep his research ongoing (and feasible), Cho has a simple request: "I realize this is a very selfish thing to want, but I really want people to buy more video games. Basically, you're taking a hit for science."

Source: <a href=>Edmonton Journal



New member
Mar 5, 2011
I probably should have read the whole story before forcefeeding my old 8800 to the people in the cancer ward.


Tastes Like Chicken!
Apr 11, 2008
GPUs are also great for folding as they can have a lot of processing power and are frequently used in [email protected] to help find a cure for many diseases. People are even breaking out older cards just to contribute to the [email protected] Project.

I love PCs!
Feb 13, 2008
vansau said:
"I realize this is a very selfish thing to want, but I really want people to buy more video games. Basically, you're taking a hit for science."

Do I hear a Trope being dropped? []


New member
Jun 17, 2010
There's so much bullshit in this article, I'm not even sure where to begin or if to even bother. Buying games = taking a hit? Selfish to want people to play games? Taking not one, but two correlatives to even link this to gaming - first, video cards, then, games making video games cheaper?

If I was reading this somewhere else, I might even be surprised.

Elementary - Dear Watson

RIP Eleuthera, I will miss you
Nov 9, 2010
To be honest, that was more of a tenuous link than I thought! I thought they were going to say something about Graphics Cards being of a similar build to our cell structure or something... but oh well! All that is really saying is 'doctors and scientists buy modern computers... ones that arn't crap!'

Don't forget, your mobile phone has more processing power and memory than the average fighter jet... (not surprising when you realise most of them are of 80s/early 90s build, and it costs too much to upgrade them!)


LOL, Canada!
Mar 4, 2010
I disagree on the premise of buying games = fighting cancer. It should be more accurately phrased: Buy faster video cards and fight cancer. Buying more 360 games isn't going to do anything.

Anyway, stuff like this is ancient news. GPUs have been crunching numbers for medical research for well over 5 years now. [email protected], anyone?


Needs more Dakka
Apr 13, 2010
praetor_alpha said:
I disagree on the premise of buying games = fighting cancer. It should be more accurately phrased: Buy faster video cards and fight cancer. Buying more 360 games isn't going to do anything.
Buying more PC games fights cancer! More PC gamers = more devs making really high end games = GPU manufacturers making more powerful gpus!

I realize it doesn't actually work like that :p


New member
Jan 31, 2009
So what I'm getting from this is:

1. Gamers buy graphics cards.
2. The price of graphics cards is driven down.
3. People who study cancer can buy cheaper graphics cards.
4. ???
5. Profit!

Did I get that right?


New member
May 5, 2011
This is also true for X-Ray Crystallography (a whole field of scientists dedicated to finding the structure of interesting proteins). And with that note I go to play AC...


Elite Member
Aug 18, 2009
Any form of vector processing (I.E any form of 3D model simulation) benefits from massively parallel processing power (that found in a GPU).

This news isn't actually news, GPU's have been used for years in projects like [email protected] but it's still good to see some breakthroughs come of it.


New member
Feb 25, 2008
BrownGaijin said:
4. People studying Cancer can link together several Graphics cards to use as expansion port processors, effectively building homebrew super computers at a fraction of the cost
5. Profit!
You can do this at home, [email protected] uses spare processor and GPU capacity in your computer to run calculations for medical research. You even get a points counter and everything, but it can be quite addictive...


Sarcastic overlord
Jun 3, 2009
OK, so first of all whoever wrote the quoted part in the article is an idiot. Telomerase isn't exclusive to cancer cells, it does not tell the cell it's not going to die. Either this is very simplified or utter bullshit. Telmerase is present in cell division in order to complete the DNA strand as it reproduces. When a telomer is created that means that the strand lacks the corresponding nucleotides and what we call a cap will be removed. This is the process that causes aging and telmerase is present in male genitalia in order to protect our genetic material from deteriorating every time we create a new sperm cell (which is constantly). Telomerase is present in cancer cells and that's about the only thing that's correct.

I use World Community Grid so my computer is being used to research various subjects when I'm idle.


New member
Oct 23, 2010
So in this article, what exactly is helping them out? The reduced prices of GPU's as more people buy them, or distributed computing like [email protected]?. I may have missed it but I didn't see it pointed out in the article. Also other than using the gpu's [email protected] was also available on the PS3...