Doctors now have a new weapon in the fight against cancer: detailed maps of the cells in a tumour that can be explored and analyzed in a virtual reality simulation that its creators say provides researchers with an intuitive new way to examine complex medical data that could lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
Built by doctors at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK), the new virtual lab takes detailed scans of breast cancer tissues and turns them into detailed simulations that doctors around the world can explore.
The simulation lets doctors analyze every single cell of a tumour, something they have never been able to do before. And because that data is stored in a simulation rather than microscope slides, doctors around the world can explore and study cancer without having to prepare their own samples.
“Understanding how cancer cells interact with each other and with healthy tissue is critical if we are going to develop new therapies,” CRUK Chief Scientist Karen said. “Looking at tumors using this new system is so much more dynamic than the static 2D versions we are used to”, he further said.
With that information, the resulting Virtual Reality map highlights which cells are cancerous, which have certain genetic variations, and how developed the tumor was at the time of the biopsy. Moving the analysis to VR makes tumor research much more user friendly and lets doctors analyze cells in greater detail than ever before.