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Tumour grown in lab could help mission to stop cancer

AN ATTEMPT to create cancer is to be made by experts who hope to find a way to stop the disease.

An alliance of UK and US researchers aim to ‘birth’ a tumour in lab-grown human tissue, to improve understanding of how they occur naturally.

The goal is to help doctors shift away from ‘expensive firefighting of late-stage disease’ to making ‘rapid, cost-effective’ interventions at the first opportunity.

Dr David Crosby, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘One of the fundamental problems in early detection science is, in a human being, we never get to see a cancer being born.

‘By the time you find a person who has cancer, that cancer is already kind of established, and cancer is a disease that evolves over its lifetime — it starts off as one thing but it changes and fragments and breaks and mutates.

‘If you can essentially give birth to a cancer in a piece of synthetic human tissue in the lab, you can see what it’s like on day one and hopefully be able to detect and intercept it.’

Experts from Cancer Research UK, Stanford University in California, Cambridge university, Manchester university and University College London are part of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection.

As well as creating a tumour they hope to harness artificial intelligence to sift through data and spot cancer signs humans cannot pick up on. The experimental techniques they are exploring include photo acoustics — where a laser light is pointed at a tumour and sound is returned.

Hyper-polarised MRI scans are being developed as a non-invasive way to see how cancer cells generate their metabolic energy.

‘There could eventually be drugs that we can give you that nip things in the bud because we can predict what is likely to go wrong in you,’ Dr Crosby said.