By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - July 11, 2022
In the past, science of cancer has only rarely been the subject of open public discussions. But a new exhibition, “Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope,” in the Science Museum of London explores changes in our understanding of cancer biology and treatment throughout the years. The exhibit displays more than 100 objects, artwork that documents both scientific advances and personal accounts from patients, physicians and scientists. Moffitt Cancer Center is one of the only U.S. institutions to be included in the exhibit.
Created by the Science Museum Group in collaboration with Cancer Research UK, the exhibit provides visitors with an up close look at how the disease has been treated over the years, from the introduction of chemotherapy drugs and high-risk surgical procedures, to its diagnosis among humans, animals and plants, and scientific challenges that need to be overcome to develop new therapies and treatment approaches for patients.
One of the goals of the exhibit is to provide hope by highlighting science and innovation. Drs. Robert Gatenby and Sandy Anderson, co-directors of Moffitt’s Center of Excellence for Evolutionary Therapy, were highlighted for their novel treatment approach called adaptive therapy. Based on evolutionary principles, adaptive therapy aims to help patients live longer by delaying or, in some cases, stopping cancers from becoming resistant to therapy.
Moffitt has adaptive therapy clinical trials open for several cancers. In these trials, each treatment schedule is personalized to the patient, including when to give therapy and when to withhold it. Mathematical models predict how cancer is likely to respond to treatment each time it is given. Even though the cancer will not disappear, the goal is to reduce the chance of drug resistance. This is different from traditional therapy that seeks to kill all cancer cells, which can leave a small number of treatment resistant cells that can grow back.
More recently, the Moffitt investigators have designed new treatment protocols built upon eco-evolutionary dynamics observed during Anthropocene (human-caused) extinctions with the goal of strategically using currently available drugs to cure currently fatal metastatic cancers.
In addition to the text and photo display explaining adaptive therapy, there is also a two-minute video of members of the Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department (IMO) as they develop an evolution-based mathematical model to guide a therapeutic protocol. The Moffitt IMO, consisting of eight faculty mathematicians and two evolutionary biologists, works with experimentalists and oncologists to develop comprehensive models to better understand the complex biology of cancer and optimize therapy. It is the only mathematics department in the world located in a cancer center. The IMO also works closely with cancer patients and the exhibit features a firsthand account from one of Moffitt’s adaptive therapy clinical trial patients, Robert Butler.
The free exhibit is open through January 2023 at the Science Museum in London. It is a traveling exhibit that was previously at the Science Museum’s Manchester location.