The Crick announces first UK exhibition exploring cancer research

Vivian Li in conversation with George Alagiah

The Crick will be home to the UK’s first exhibition on research that's working to turn the tide on cancer.

Outwitting Cancer will be an immersive exhibition that explores the science at the heart of cancer research taking place at the Crick. Outwitting Cancer will also be the first exhibition on cancer to take place in a working science lab in Europe.

(Outwitting Cancer was scheduled for 10 September 2020, but opening has been postponed until September 2021.)

Outwitting Cancer is about the power and potential of cancer research.
Yasmin Khan

Eight specially commissioned films capture conversations between Crick cancer researchers, patients and people with unique personal perspectives on cancer, meeting for the first time to explore some of the big questions driving cancer research. 

The series of short films will form the backbone of the exhibition, and include:

  • BBC journalist and news presenter George Alagiah, who is living with bowel cancer, meets Vivian Li, stem cell and cancer researcher, who is creating ‘mini-organs’ (organoids) in order to develop personalised cancer treatments.
  • Renowned cell biologist Mariann Bienz, who had a lung removed as part of her own cancer treatment, meets Charlie Swanton, Cancer Research UK's (CRUK) Chief Clinician and Crick group leader to talk about the evolution of tumours.
  • Lawyer Adam Blain, who had a brain tumour removed, meets scientist Simon Boulton to talk the role of DNA in cancer and his experience of having a tumour that was diagnosed by his wife.

The exhibition will feature a multisensory digital installation in a custom-built cinema. ‘eXistential’ – produced in collaboration with a world class artist collective – weaves together microscopy imagery from Crick researchers, as well as a newly commissioned soundscape from artist Mira Calix

Cancer remains one of the world’s most widespread and deadly diseases, with 1 in 2 people developing cancer in their lifetime. Through the immersive films and accompanying microscopy imagery, Outwitting Cancer addresses questions including “what is cancer?” and “why are so many people still dying from cancer?”.

This exhibition will bring to life the journey our researchers are on to understand how cancer starts, spreads and responds to therapy.
Paul Nurse

Visitors will discover the importance of animal models, clinical trials and upcoming pharmaceuticals, as well as learn about the research taking place at biopharmaceutical companies leveraging patients’ own immune systems to tackle cancer, including GammaDelta Therapeutics and Achilles Therapeutics which both began life at the Crick.

“Unravelling the mysteries of human biology and using this to develop new ways to tackle diseases like cancer is at the heart of what we do at the Crick,” said our director Paul Nurse. “Over recent years we have seen discoveries about how cancers evolve and new approaches to treating cancer. This exhibition will bring to life the journey our researchers are on to understand how cancer starts, spreads and responds to therapy.” 

Outwitting Cancer is about the power and potential of cancer research,” says curator Yasmin Khan. “The exhibition will get in the minds of the brilliant scientists working at the forefront of biological research. It will seek to dispel confusion through an immersive digital exploration of the complexity of cancer, opening up new conversations around the disease and its future.”

Outwitting Cancer: Deciphering Humanity’s Enigmatic Disease is a free exhibition running from 25 September 2021 until July 2022.

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