UK’s first cancer research exhibition opens at the Crick

The Francis Crick Institute is proud to open the UK’s first exhibition exploring the trail-blazing research that is turning the tide on cancer.

Outwitting cancer exhibition cinema
- Fiona Hanson © Copyright 2021

Outwitting Cancer - Making Sense of Nature’s Enigma is an immersive exhibition exploring the latest cancer research taking place at the Crick.

The aim is to empower visitors to have positive discussions about cancer, to spark curiosity in those who know little about the subject and galvanize them to dig deeper and find out more.
Yasmin Khan

Opening on Saturday 25 September 2021 until 15 July 2022, it is also the first exhibition on cancer to take place within a working science laboratory, home to leading cancer scientists from across the world.

Speaking at the opening event today, Paul Nurse, director of the Crick, said: “We feel that scientists have to be open and available to the community. Over half our research group leaders are involved in some way in cancer research. 

“Cancer is clearly something that we have to think carefully about because 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime. So it’s a critically important problem for health and one that is notoriously difficult scientifically both to understand and to manage.”

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

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

  • BBC journalist George Alagiah, who is living with bowel cancer, meets Vivian Li, Stem Cell and Cancer scientist, as she creates ‘mini-organs’ (organoids) in the quest to personalise 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 Chief Clinician and Crick group leader to talk about the evolution of tumours.
  • Lawyer and brain cancer patient Adam Blain, meets scientist Simon Boulton to talk about the role of DNA in cancer as well as his experience of having a tumour which was first diagnosed by his wife.
  • Cancer Research UK’s Chief Scientist Karen Vousden talks to Alix Fox (broadcaster and sex educator) to bust some cancer myths including: do elephants get cancer and is cancer ‘contagious’? 
  • Crick scientist Erik Sahai meets Dr Georgette Oni, a trailblazing plastic reconstructive surgeon, as they discuss how cancer spreads
  • Dominique Bonnet, an expert in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia at the Crick, gives journalist Tim Jonze, who is living with a rare blood disease, a behind-the-scenes tour of her labs.

The final two films reveal the work taking place at two pioneering biopharmaceutical companies, built on research at the Crick, as they develop revolutionary therapies tackling cancer.

The exhibition also features a vast hand-sculpted, organically contoured cinema installation produced in collaboration with an artist collective and soundscape by award-winning artist Mira Calix, and projecting beautiful imagery from the Crick.

Yasmin Khan, exhibition curator said: “This is the only exhibition of its kind where the trailblazing research being showcased is taking place right under this roof, which gives it an authentic edge that no other museum can claim. 

“The aim is to empower visitors to have positive discussions about cancer, to spark curiosity in those who know little about the subject and galvanize them to dig deeper and find out more.”

The unique exhibition was developed in collaboration with a Patient Advisory Panel who all have some lived experience of cancer, whether it is personal or through a family member. They also co-created a zine - ‘Onco’Zine - A Rough Guide to Cancer for visitors to take away.

Charles Swanton, group leader at the Crick and Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “It’s been said that there as many different types of cancer as there are stars in the sky. 

“Every person’s cancer is unique and exhibitions like this are important to highlight the complexity of this vast group of diseases and increase understanding of something that will differently affect 1 in 2 of us.”

Outwitting Cancer: Making Sense of Nature’s Enigma - is a free exhibition running from 25 September 2021 until 15 July 2022 at The Francis Crick Institute, 1 Midland Road, London, NW1 1AT.

The gallery will be open Wednesdays 10am – 8pm  and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am – 4pm.  The exhibition will follow all government guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19.

Alongside the exhibition there will be a lively programme of events and talks, as well as an in-depth digital experience with additional exhibition content. Visit or @TheCrick for further details. 

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