A cancer researcher at Oklahoma University has had her laptop stolen, with several years worth of research lost.

According to Softpedia, Sook Shin left the laptop in her car and returned to find a smashed window and the 13-inch white Macbook and bag missing. Shin said that the research was for a prostate cancer cure and as it was never backed up, it cannot be replicated

She also confirmed that the nature of the data means that most of it can never be replaced, some parts can be reconstructed by redoing tests but this could take up to two years.

Speaking to Oklahoma's News 9, Shin said: “I cannot eat and sleep since last Sunday. I'm devastated and I feel so guilty.”

Ralf Jankecht, a professor of cell biology at the university, said: “Please return the computer with the data saved. This would tremendously help us and you would do something for society.”

Dave Everitt, general manager EMEA at Absolute Software, said: "The story of Sook Shin's laptop is proof, if it were needed that it is not necessarily the value of the hardware that is the issue when a laptop is stolen, it is the data on it that can be really heartbreaking to lose. It is impossible to put a value on the years of research into cancer that Shin kept on her device.

"It is easy to cite data back-up as a means of avoiding such a crisis, but individuals don't always have the equipment or the funds to make this happen. Similarly, encryption might stop a thief from using the data, but the reality is the person who stole the laptop would have had no idea what was on there and would simply wipe the hard drive as soon as possible after the theft.

"Beyond the reward and the hope that the thief has a conscience, there is little this scientist can do now to get her laptop and research back. However, the incident serves as a timely warning to all of us to think about the information we carry round on a laptop and to make sure we're covered should the worst happen.”