Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Strange Attraction
03 April 2018

Strange Attraction

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

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