Cancerous tumours are more than just blobs of faulty cells. In fact, they're more like rogue organs, corrupting healthy cells and blood vessels as they grow and spread. It's also become clear that there are significant differences between tumours from patients with the same type of cancer, and even within tumours that have spread to various parts of the body in an individual patient. To find out more, researchers are developing a new technology called mass spectrometry imaging, or MSI. Unlike most other imaging techniques, which just show the shape and structure of a tumour and the tissue around it, MSI reveals its molecular makeup – like this image of a bowel tumour showing muscle (blue), blood vessels (green) and cancer cells (red). Mapping tumours in this way might one day help doctors decide on the best way to treat each individual patient and monitor how they're responding to therapy.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.