Professor Greg Hannon, who is based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, willl lead an international team for his Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge project. Working with researchers in America, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and at the University of Cambridge, they will aim to build 3D versions of breast tumours, which can be studied using virtual reality, allowing scientists and doctors to study every cell and aspect of a tumour in unprecedented detail.
This new way of studying breast cancer could change how the disease is diagnosed, treated and managed. The virtual reality experience will include a ‘superman mode’ which will allow users to fly inside the tumour, point at every cell and find out exactly what kind of cell it is and what it’s doing.
Professor Hannon said: “This is an enormous challenge. I liken it to the idea of putting a man on Mars – there’s so much technology that you have to develop to do it. All sorts of things are happening in tumours that we can’t study using the technology we have. But with our project, we hope to change that.
“We want to create an interactive, faithful, 3D map of tumours that can be studied in virtual reality that scientists can ‘walk into’ and look at it in great detail. By doing this, we could learn more about tumours and begin to answer questions that have eluded cancer scientists for many years."