Although it looks cute and cuddly, this fluff-ball is deadly. It’s a pancreatic cancer cell, grown in the lab on a network of tiny fibres designed to recreate the three-dimensional environment within a tumour. For many years researchers have grown cancer cells in flat layers in plastic Petri dishes as a way of searching for potential tumour-killing therapies. But drugs that work well in the lab haven’t always translated into successful treatments in patients, particularly for pancreatic cancer. By growing cancer cells in more realistic 3D environments, scientists hope to understand more about how tumours grow and find new therapies that are more likely to work in real life situations. Pancreatic cancer is extremely hard to treat – less than one per cent of patients survive for ten years and UK survival rates haven’t changed in the past 40 years – so more effective approaches for tackling the disease are urgently needed.
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.