‘Google Earth’ of Tumours May Lead to More Cancer Treatments

Scientists have been awarded £16m to create a detailed map of a tumour, which will allow researchers to explore new treatment options.

cancer treatments

The project is one of the first to receive funding from Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award.

The scheme aims to help overcome the biggest challenges facing cancer research in a global effort to beat cancer sooner.

The hope is this will identify vulnerabilities we can target with treatments.

– Professor Zoltan Takats

Professor Zoltan Takats, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, is part of a winning team that will develop a way to combine new and existing technologies to create virtual representations of tumours.

The team intend to map the whole tumour – not only revealing the size and shape of the tumour but also the individual fats and proteins in the tumour cells.

This will lead to the equivalent of a ‘Google Earth’ that will allow you not only to identify a house and where it is in a country, but also who’s inside, what they’re eating and watching on TV.

They hope that by creating such detailed representations of these tumours, it will improve our understanding of cancer and allow us to identify new and better ways to diagnose and treat the disease.

Professor Takats explained: “The project is aimed at the full molecular mapping of cancer – both in time and space. We want to understand the structural and functional changes in molecular architecture associated with cancer.

“The hope is this will identify vulnerabilities we can target with treatments. Imperial has a multi-faceted contribution to the project including technology, data interpretation and clinical background.”

Tumour database

The team will also create a global database of tumours that catalogues their genetic make-up and metabolism, which could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat the disease.

The project will be led by Dr Josephine Bunch at the National Physical Laboratory, London, with collaborators from multiple UK research centres.

This new Cancer Research UK initiative has been overseen by a panel of world-leading researchers and chaired by Dr Rick Klausner, former director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Cancer Research UK set up the Grand Challenge awards to bring a renewed focus and energy to the fight against cancer. We want to shine a light on the toughest questions that stand in the way of progress. We’re incredibly excited to be able to support these exceptional teams as they help us achieve our ambition.

“Cancer is a global problem, and these projects are part of the global solution. Together, we will redefine cancer – turning it from a disease that so many people die from, to one that many people can live with. We will reduce the number of people worldwide affected by cancer and achieve our goal of beating cancer sooner.”