World’s first major cancer exhibition opens at Science Museum

The free exhibition includes the first malignant bone tumour to be found in a dinosaur.

Visitors looking at sculpture by Skellon Studio in Cancer Revolution at the Science Museum

The free exhibition, open from 25th May, includes the first malignant bone tumour to be found in a dinosaur, on display in the UK for the very first time.

Above: Gas mask, 1917. The first cancer chemotherapy drugs came from studying the effects of mustard gas – a deadly chemical weapon used in the First World War. 

One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, and yet with improved care and revolutions in research, more of us than ever before are living longer and better with the disease. Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope is the world’s first major exhibition to reveal the past, present, and future of how the Big C is prevented, detected, and then treated.

Among the 125 objects is the first dinosaur bone tumour to be identified, on display to the British public for the first time. We also get to see the history of treatment, with the display of the Radium therapy apparatus, used to shrink tumours, used at London’s Westminster Hospital in the 1930s by Ernest and Frank Carling.

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

Pillowcase used by a patient, Jo, during her cancer treatment in 2016, decorated by a friend’s child

A visitor in the Cancer Revolution exhibition at the Science Museum in London looking at a wigstand donated as part of the Living with Cancer Project

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

Cancer patient Sarah’s wig stand, as above, decorated by her daughter

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

A 1917 X-ray tube for radiotherapy, used to treat tumours close to the surface of the skin

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

A Paxman scalp cooling cap used to reduce hair loss during cancer treatment

From busting myths about the causes of cancer, to exploring the history of the disease and how the latest detection technology and immunotherapy are advancing cancer care today, Cancer Revolution will show how far we have come in tackling the disease. The exhibition reveals how cancer has been treated over the centuries, from high risk-surgeries to the discovery of the first chemotherapy drugs.

Also on display will be the brand new treatments transforming diagnosis, such as the Cytosponge (reshaping the early detection of signs of oesophegeal cancer) and the Galleri test (designed to detect over 50 types of cancer from one blood sample, currently being trialled by the NHS). The iKnife is a surgical precision tool that signals whether any human tissue cut during surgery is cancerous or not.

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

Cast of the shinbone of a centrosaurus diagnosed (millions of years after it died, of course) with an osteosarcoma, the first malignant dinosaur tumour to be identified

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

Glass sculpture case from a patient’s radiotherapy mask by Katharine Dowson

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

Swallowed as a pill, the Cytopsponge opens up into a cell sampling sponge, used to detect abnormal cells that increase the risk of oesophegal cancer

Cancer Revolution Science Museum

‘Seeds’ to contain radium salts, for internal radiotherapy treatment, used as part of the ‘Manchester Method’ of radiotherapy developed at The Christie Hospital

Visitors will also encounter a series of artworks that provide an insight into the emotional and psychological impact of cancer treatment. An atmospheric soundscape by Katharine Dowson features the voices of patients reflecting on the impacts of radiotherapy and cancer treatment ten years on alongside glass casts of the radiotherapy masks used by real patients.

Katie Dabin, Lead Curator of the exhibition and Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum said: “I’m thrilled visitors to the Science Museum will get to see this groundbreaking exhibition. We hope visitors will feel uplifted by the incredible work being done to improve early diagnosis.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Exec said: “The pandemic has shown us all the power of science first-hand, and this exhibition showcases how science is allowing us to make constant progress in our understanding of cancer, and unlock more ways to beat it. So much progress has been made in the global fight against the disease, and this inspirational exhibition reflects our optimism for the future: a feeling which we hope visitors will take away.”

  • Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope is open NOW to the public until January 2023. It’s free, but tickets are required and can be secured HERE.

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