Harnessing citizen science through mobile phone technology to screen for immunohistochemical biomarkers in bladder cancer

Peter Smittenaar, Alexandra K. Walker, Shaun McGill, Christiana Kartsonaki, Rupesh J. Robinson-Vyas, Janette P. McQuillan, Sarah Christie, Leslie Harris, Jonathan Lawson, Elizabeth Henderson, Will Howat, Andrew Hanby, Gareth J. Thomas, Selina Bhattarai, Lisa Browning, Anne E. Kiltie* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is often used in personalisation of cancer treatments. Analysis of large data sets to uncover predictive biomarkers by specialists can be enormously time-consuming. Here we investigated crowdsourcing as a means of reliably analysing immunostained cancer samples to discover biomarkers predictive of cancer survival. Methods: We crowdsourced the analysis of bladder cancer TMA core samples through the smartphone app 'Reverse the Odds'. Scores from members of the public were pooled and compared to a gold standard set scored by appropriate specialists. We also used crowdsourced scores to assess associations with disease-specific survival. Results: Data were collected over 721 days, with 4,744,339 classifications performed. The average time per classification was approximately 15 s, with approximately 20,000 h total non-gaming time contributed. The correlation between crowdsourced and expert H-scores (staining intensity × proportion) varied from 0.65 to 0.92 across the markers tested, with six of 10 correlation coefficients at least 0.80. At least two markers (MRE11 and CK20) were significantly associated with survival in patients with bladder cancer, and a further three markers showed results warranting expert follow-up. Conclusions: Crowdsourcing through a smartphone app has the potential to accurately screen IHC data and greatly increase the speed of biomarker discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-229
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: We acknowledge funding from Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research UK programme grant C5255/A15935 (AEK) and the research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) (Molecular Diagnostics Theme/Multimodal Pathology Subtheme) (L.B.). A.W. was funded by an MRC studentship (MR/K501256/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).

Data Availability Statement

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Supplementary information is available for this paper at 10.1038/s41416-018-0156-0.


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