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Science Museum Group opens world-first exhibition, Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope

Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope
22 October 2021 – March 2022 at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester
Opens summer 2022 at the Science Museum, London

Expert Partner: Cancer Research UK
Principal Sponsor: Pfizer
Major Sponsor: QIAGEN
Supported by Redx Pharma Plc 

The Science Museum Group, with support from expert partner Cancer Research UK, is opening a world-first free exhibition exploring the revolution in science that is transforming cancer care. This is a key moment in time when one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, yet more of us than ever before are living longer, and better with the disease and beyond. 

Opening on 22 October at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester before moving to the Science Museum in London in summer 2022, Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope is the first major object-rich exhibition to reveal the past, present and future of how cancer is prevented, detected and treated. 

Through seldom and never-before seen objects and stories, cutting edge treatment and research, reflection, new artist commissions and installations, film, photography, interactive exhibits and a breadth of personal stories, the exhibition will present the stories of people affected by cancer, together with those who study and treat it, revealing how researchers, clinicians, policy makers and patients are fuelling progress in a powerful expression of shared hope.

From busting myths about the causes of cancer, to exploring how the disease isn’t unique to humans and how the latest cancer research, early detection technologies and immunotherapies are advancing cancer care today, Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope will show how far we have come. The exhibition reveals how cancer has been treated over the centuries, from high-risk surgeries to the discovery of the first chemotherapy drugs, and the important challenges that remain to be solved.

Among the 125 objects and 30 personal stories included in the exhibition that reveal this monumental journey of scientific discovery is the Radium teletherapy apparatus used at the Westminster Hospital in London in the 1930s by Ernest and Frank Carling as part of the first alternative treatment to surgery that could visibly shrink and treat tumours on display for the first time in over 60 years. In addition, the exhibition tells the story of how Virtual Reality is being used to study cancer and shape treatments, and the first dinosaur bone tumour to be identified, will also be on display in the UK for the very first time.

Visitors will be introduced to the remarkable science and the researchers that are transforming our understanding of the disease and ways of treating it, particularly in its more advanced stages. It also focuses on new technologies being used to detect the disease in its earliest stages, allowing scientists to study how cancers grow and change in more detail than ever before. The exhibition will showcase the therapies that re-engineer immune cells to better recognise cancer, and novel technologies that are helping to detect cancer earlier.

Katie Dabin, Lead Curator of Cancer Revolution said:

"We are immensely proud to be able to bring to life for the very first time the awe-inspiring story of how far cancer treatment has come. Despite the advances in survival that have been made, there are still big questions to address. Why do treatments sometimes stop working? Why does cancer come back in some people but not others? How can we help more people with cancer live better and longer? 

"While we can’t cancer-proof our lives, more people than ever before can be treated or live with the disease for a long time and we can take agency in the face of it—from speaking more openly about it, being aware of its causes and symptoms, dispelling misconceptions and stigma, and being open to finding out more about it."

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, added:

"This major new exhibition will show how cancer care is being revolutionised, thanks to research that is making transformative steps in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer—a disease that has such a devastating impact on millions of people and families.

"This past year has highlighted the value of investing in science and medical research, and what can be achieved with collective focus and collaboration. Just like science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer. So much progress has been made in the global fight against the disease and this inspirational exhibition will show our optimism for the future."

Shaped through collaboration with people living with and impacted by cancer, the exhibition will take visitors on a journey of discovery with scientists, clinicians and patients in their own words. Explore everything known so far about what cancer is and what causes it, why scientists are focusing their research on understanding how and why cancer evolves, and what the future of cancer care looks like.

The exhibition brings together key collections loaned from: the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Canada; Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; Wellcome Trust; University of Manchester Museum of Medicine and Health; Natural History Museum; and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, displayed alongside objects from the Science Museum Group Collection.  

The exhibition shares stories of the scientists and clinicians advancing cancer science and care, from institutions as diverse as Cancer Research UK Manchester and Cambridge Institutes, the Institute of Cancer Research, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), The Francis Crick Institute, Moffitt Cancer Centre Florida, International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Royal Marsden Hospital, amongst many others.  

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Stories of diverse cancer patient experiences gathered through a special Science Museum Group collaborative collecting project show no two experiences are the same. From the beads marking every step on a child’s treatment journey to the wig stand decorated by a daughter, and a garden fork integral to an individual’s recovery, visitors will get to know the individuals behind highly personal items. 
  • On display for the very first time in the UK, the first malignant bone tumour to be identified in a dinosaur fossil, discovered in 2020, will reveal the surprising truth that rather than being a modern disease, cancer has long affected living things including dinosaurs from prehistoric times to the plants that are around us today.
  • Never-before-displayed objects, including a cast for holding in place radium seeds in the treatment of skin cancer of the hand from the 1950s, tell the story of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust’s transformative ‘Manchester Method for radiotherapy’ which originated in Manchester and revolutionised the practice of radiotherapy around the world. 
  • Many of the latest technologies and treatments transforming cancer care including the Cytosponge (swallowed like a pill this is reshaping the early detection of signs of oesophageal cancer) and the Galleri test (which is designed to detect over 50 types of cancer from one blood sample and is currently being trialled by the NHS).
  • 10 pioneering studies featured together for the first time, including the work of the CanBuild Project team who are building tumours from scratch, engineering mini tumours that realistically grow and change like human cancers, with the aim of improving how new treatments are tested and to look for new therapies that target the cells that support tumour growth. 
  • Artworks that provide poignant and contemplative moments, including the premiere of an atmospheric soundscape by renowned artist Katharine Dowson, featuring the voices ten years on of some of the patients included in her accompanying Silent Stories glass radiotherapy mask sculpture art installation,  photography from Nudrat Afza’s Shadow and Light collection which captures her sister’s breast cancer treatment journey on public display for the first time, and a glass sculpture by artist Luke Jerram depicting the Papillomavirus, part of his Glass Microbiology series.
  • Hear what life is like inside a chemotherapy treatment day unit through an immersive audio soundscape recorded at Tameside Macmillan Unit part of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Encounter up close the complex make-up of tumours through a three-metre large scale tumour 3D installation created especially for the exhibition.
  • A specially commissioned Hallmarks of Cancer light installation by CLAY Interactive Ltd shows how cancer cells behave.
  • Interactive digital exhibits test visitors' understanding of cancer and put what they are discovering into action, including exploring the differences between cancerous and normal cells, a quiz myth-busting the causes of cancer, and treating a tumour using different therapies.  
  • A live research and dialogue section gives visitors the opportunity to open-up conversations about cancer, sharing their own experiences and the chance to vote for which research area needs the most attention. 

At the Science and Industry Museum, the exhibition is funded by principal sponsor Pfizer and major sponsor QIAGEN, with support from Redx Pharma Plc.

At the Science Museum, the exhibition is funded by principal sponsor Pfizer, with support from Julian Howard.

For more information about the Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope exhibition and to book free tickets to see it at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, visit https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/cancer-revolution

Visit the Science Museum website and sign up to their newsletter to be the first to find out when tickets will be available for London. 

Notes to editors

For more information, interviews and images please contact Rachel Conway at rachel.conway@scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk or on 0161 696 7785.

For regional media

Must-see North West highlights:

  • Uncover the story behind the revolutionary ‘Manchester Method for radiotherapy’ through never displayed before objects related to the history of radiotherapy treatment at The Christie hospital, loaned from Manchester University’s Museum of Medicine and Health.
  • Hear what life is like inside a chemotherapy treatment day unit through an immersive audio soundscape recorded at Tameside Macmillan Unit part of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Witness the effect of cancer treatment through the poignant large-scale photographic work of Bradford photographer Nudrat Afza’s Shadow and Light, depicting her own sister’s ongoing journey.
  • Be amazed by the story behind pioneering CAR-T cell therapy. Learning about how patients’ immune cells are being collected, retrained in the lab to target cancer and returned to the patient to treat their disease, in a new form of immunotherapy treatment called CAR-T cell therapy. How since 2019, a team of clinicians at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), have been treating certain patients with forms of blood cancer with this personalised form of immunotherapy.
  • Learn how the ground-breaking Manchester Lung Health Checks from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) is using mobile screening trucks at supermarkets to detect lung cancer in deprived communities, and is now being trialled nationally.
  • Discover what the incredible TRACERx study is at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute. Learn all about how Professor Caroline Dive and her team are developing tests called ‘liquid biopsies’ to hunt cancer cells that have broken free from tumours and are circulating in the blood. Looking for these circulating tumour cells to understand how lung cancer changes as it grows and to predict who might experience cancer coming back, after their tumour has been removed by surgery. 
  • See a specially commissioned graphic and film about Proton Beam therapy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, the first NHS trust to deliver this cutting-edge high energy radiotherapy treatment, to understand how it works and how it is transforming the experience of radiotherapy for some patients.

LISTINGS

Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope 
22 October 2021 – March 2022 
Science and Industry Museum, Manchester 

https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/cancer-revolution 

Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope
May – October 2022
Science Museum, London 

https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/cancer-revolution-science-innovation-and-hope 

ABOUT THE SCIENCE MUSEUM GROUP

The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, welcoming over five million visitors each year to five sites: the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon.

We share the stories of innovations and people that shaped our world and are transforming the future, constantly reinterpreting our astonishingly diverse collection of 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the earliest surviving recording of British television.

Our mission is to inspire futures—igniting curiosity among people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, our museums attract more than 600,000 visits by education groups, while our touring exhibition programme brings our creativity and scholarship to audiences across the globe. More information can be found at sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk.    

ABOUT CANCER RESEARCH UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. 

Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. 

Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years. 

Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. 

Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. 

Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. 

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow on Twitter and Facebook

ABOUT PFIZER: BREAKTHROUGHS THAT CHANGE PATIENTS’ LIVES 

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable healthcare around the world. For more than 170 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. In the UK, Pfizer has its business headquarters in Surrey and is a major supplier of medicines to the NHS. To learn more about our commitments, please visit us at www.pfizer.co.uk or follow us on Twitter (@Pfizer_UK), Facebook (@PfizerUK) and Instagram (@pfizeruk). 

ABOUT QIAGEN 

QIAGEN N.V., a Netherlands-based holding company, is the leading global provider of Sample to Insight solutions that enable customers to gain valuable molecular insights from samples containing the building blocks of life. Our sample technologies isolate and process DNA, RNA and proteins from blood, tissue and other materials. Assay technologies make these biomolecules visible and ready for analysis. Bioinformatics software and knowledge bases interpret data to report relevant, actionable insights. Automation solutions tie these together in seamless and cost-effective workflows. QIAGEN provides solutions to more than 500,000 customers around the world in Molecular Diagnostics (human healthcare) and Life Sciences (academia, pharma R&D and industrial applications, primarily forensics). As of March 31, 2021, QIAGEN employed approximately 5,700 people in over 35 locations worldwide. Further information can be found at http://www.qiagen.com.

Part of the Science Museum Group