Cancer often develops from healthy cells when a genetic mutation gives them altered traits. These 'hallmarks of cancer' include the ability to invade tissues, become self-sufficient and avoid self-destruction or apoptosis. Each cancerous cell in a tumour can have a different makeup of these hallmarks. Taking an abstract approach to this chaotic puzzle, this expressionist painting represents the mathematical values of these properties as looping lines – the further from the 'healthy' centre of the picture, the more prominent the cancerous trait. The overall pattern of coloured swirls, known as a strange attractor in chaos theory, highlights the individual and unpredictable nature of cancer. Scientists are exploring the underlying maths of cancer for clues to personalised medicines – combination chemotherapies that might tackle hallmarks unique to each patient’s disease.
Written by John Ankers
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.