Cambridge University Researchers Develop VR Tool for Cancer Treatment

Virtual reality software has become an unlikely tool in the fight against cancer. 

In a bid to help doctors better understand how to treat cancer, video game designers and cancer researchers have teamed up at the University of Cambridge, England, to turn spreadsheet data into highly detailed VR imagery of cancer cells, ITV reports(Opens in a new window)

The university’s IMAXT Laboratory has transformed brain-crunching numbers and data into an interactive 3D picture of a tumor that makes it easy for researchers to differentiate between cancer cells, as each type of cell is colored or shaped differently. 

With the help of a VR headset, doctors and researchers can essentially step inside patients’ tumors, making it easier to assess the severity and origin of the cancer cells. The aim of the tool, its makers say, is to give a better insight into how tumors can be treated. 

The VR tool was created with funding from Cancer Grand Challenges, a global funding platform co-founded by Cancer Research UK, and the US National Cancer Institute. Scientists who worked on the platform are from Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. 

Speaking to ITV News, Own Harris, IMAXT Laboratory’s lead video game designer said: “It’s so much easier to notice differences, to notice features, to notice peculiarities when you’re actually in a thing than when you’re looking at a spreadsheet or a photograph.

“You can see how a certain type of cell might be beside a blood vessel, or a milk duct and that might be important for the future prognosis of a patient.”

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Professor Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute told ITV that the VR tool “had prognostic power to predict outcome for patients” in a way that was “better than other techniques.” 

IMAXT Laboratory did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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