A Cancer Revolution: What the experts think of the new Science Museum exhibition

Cancer
A sculpture of a tumour made as part of the Science Museum exhibition

Have you ever wondered if plants could get cancer? Or even dinosaurs?

What about how we treated cancers way back when we didn’t have access to modern medicine? Or what the next steps are in bringing us one step closer to a world free from cancer?

All those questions, and many more, are answered in Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope, a new exhibition at the Science Museum in London for which we were an expert partner.

From interactive elements that help you spot common myths about cancer, to a huge 3D recreation of a tumour and its surrounding environment, to personal stories shared by people with cancer and their families, the exhibition provides an in depth look at every aspect of cancer, from the earliest cases known to man to the future of treatment.

To hear from the experts, we spoke to Vivian Li, group leader of the stem cell and cancer biology lab at the Francis Crick Institute, and Rupal Mistry, Research Information Manager here at Cancer Research UK, about their thoughts on the exhibition.

A section of the exhibition

The opening section of the exhibition, featuring the stories of people with cancer and their families

What do you think of the exhibition?

Vivian: “I think the exhibition is fantastic. It’s very well organised and structured to communicate high-level, state of the art science to the general public.”

Rupal: “The exhibition is a great opportunity to share with the public, in a really creative way, how much progress has been made in cancer.

“For people from all walks of life, it really explains the science in a simple but engaging way, so they understand why it’s important that we continue research.”

Dr Vivian Li, group leader of the stem cell and cancer biology lab at the Francis Crick Institute.

Dr Vivian Li, group leader of the stem cell and cancer biology lab at the Francis Crick Institute.

What do you think is the value of sharing and displaying research in an exhibition like this?

Vivian: “This type of cancer exhibition is a great idea. Cancer is not a taboo anymore in modern days, so it’s very important for us as cancer research scientists to engage with the public and to share what our research is about.

“I think this will raise the public awareness of cancer certainly, and it’s fun to see what’s behind the scenes in a laboratory as well.”

Rupal: “Displaying research like this is really powerful. It’s a great way of engaging all of the senses, from visuals to things you can hold and touch, to really get to grips with cancer.

“People learn in all sorts of different ways, and an exhibition like this engages with all types of people, however they learn, in a very simple way.”

Rupal Mistry, Research Information Manager at Cancer Research UK.

Rupal Mistry, Research Information Manager at Cancer Research UK.

What’s your favourite part of the exhibition?

Rupal: “I would say my favourite section of the exhibition is the part on early detection of cancer.

“Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have developed some really innovative ways to detect cancer earlier, from blood tests to advanced imaging techniques and even a sponge on a string.

“This section really highlights how creative our scientists have been, and the ‘out of the box’ ideas they’re coming up with in order to tackle cancer from all angles.”

Silent Stories, a series of glass sculptures by artist Katherine Dowson

Silent Stories, a series of glass sculptures by artist Katherine Dowson cast from the moulds of masks made for people receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer in 2010. The piece is accompanied by a soundscape of the voices of those people.

Do you think having exhibitions like this helps young people to take an interest in cancer research and in science?

Vivian: “Absolutely. The exhibition is open to all ages, from the very young to the elderly. Many school-age kids will come here, I’ll bring my kids here for sure!

“I think it’s important for them to see what exactly cancer research is, hear the stories of cancer patients, and see the equipment and technology used in cancer research. I think it can inspire them to pursue science in the future as well.”

Rupal: “This is all important information to share and use to educate the next generation. By engaging in an exhibition like this they are able to really see the value of what researchers are doing, and maybe even inspire them to something like this in the future.”

Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope is open at the Science Museum in London until January 2023.

You can book free tickets to the exhibition, or discover other Cancer Revolution events at the museum here

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