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Unravelling cancer’s complexity

We will comprehend the full complexity of cancer by harnessing the power of new technologies and Big Data.

Video: Professor Andrea Sottoriva, a scientist in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the ICR, highlights one of the ways that our research is helping to unravel cancer’s complexity.

Cancer is more complicated than we ever imagined. Just as every patient is different, so is their cancer — even the cells within an individual tumour can vary enormously from one another, and cancer does not stand still, but changes over time. This makes cancer incredibly difficult to treat.

But we’re starting to unravel some of this complexity. We now understand how cancers change and evolve, adapting to the environment within our bodies and sidestepping the drugs designed to halt their progress. We know that cancer cells use complex webs of signals to interact with each other and sustain their growth.

To find better treatments and cures, we need to build on this knowledge and make discoveries that will open up cancer to new lines of attack.

Our research will untangle cancer’s complexity and reveal the fundamental processes that drive its development, growth and spread. We are now collecting more data on cancer than ever before and can use it to provide new insights into the disease. We will apply the latest ideas and cutting-edge technologies, computing power and innovative imaging techniques to provide a detailed picture of what makes cancer tick.

scientist inspecting slide credit John Angerson embed

Photo: John Angerson

We aim to take an overarching view across cancer’s complexity and evolution

Our researchers will work increasingly to reveal:

  • The critical mechanisms used by cells to grow, divide and spread
  • An overarching view of how cancer cells communicate with each other and with healthy cells
  • How cancer adapts to the environment within our bodies and evades treatment
  • Genetic clues that predict how cancer will develop and how it will respond to treatment
  • New imaging technologies to help us assess a tumour’s behaviour and metabolism, and monitor response to treatment.

Download the research strategy

Click below to download a copy of Making the discoveries: our strategy to defeat cancer

Centre for Evolution and Cancer

Learn about how we use Darwin's theory of evolution to better understand cancer.