Cancer cells revealed


‘The face of cancer’ is revealed in extraordinary, vivid detail by a group of UK researchers in their battle to combat cancer. The resulting pictures are surprisingly beautiful and deeply disturbing.

Scientists funded by Cancer Research took the pictures using a range of instruments, including an ultra-high-powered scanning electron microscope. Some of the cells have come from biopsies conducted on cancer patients to assess the seriousness of their condition.

The resulting images include views of a single strand of DNA, protein molecules and individual tumour cells. ‘Imaging is really important in the fight against cancer,’ says Professor Herbie Newell, the charity’s director of translational research. ‘It allows us to look inside cancer cells and gives us new insight into what goes wrong in there and what makes it so dangerous, but also what we might do about it in terms of treatment. It also allows us to study cancer throughout the whole body, which is invaluable in discovering how serious a cancer is in each patient and how a cancer is responding to treatment,’ he adds.

The main aim of the work is to help researchers tackle two key problems; what underlies the uncontrolled multiplication of cancer cells into tumours, which are often the first signs that a cancer has developed and, second, how cancer cells spread from one organ to several others, a process which greatly reduces a person’s chances of survival.

The ultimate aim is to devise new ways to stop cells from growing in number and detect cancer earlier, so that it can be prevented from moving and be tackled with a local treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy.