CANBUILD - Deconstructing Cancer is a £2 million project funded by the European Research Council and lead by Prof Francis Balkwill, which aims to revolutionise the field of cancer cell research using bioengineering techniques to grow the first complex 3D human tumour in the laboratory.

The CANBUILD team will exhibit at the Royal Society's Summer Science Fair from Monday 4th July to Sunday 10th July in London. For more information on the fair CLICK HERE.

The project is a collaboration of scientists from across Queen Mary University of London, from the Blizard Institute, Barts Cancer Institute and the School of Engineering and Materials Science.

Human cancers are more than just malignant cells, even at their very beginning. Other cells and chemicals that normally support and protect the body are hijacked by the cancer cells, instead helping the cancer to grow and spread.

Recent research has shown us the importance of targeting not only the malignant cancer cells but also this wider tumour microenvironment for long-term cancer treatment.

In the CANBUILD project, the multi-disciplinary team of scientists will be using the latest advances in tissue engineering, biomechanics, imaging and stem cell biology. They believe this combination will make it possible to engineer, for the first time, a complex 3D human tumour in which the different cell types making up the tumour microenvironment could communicate, evolve and grow in vitro (outside the body, in the laboratory).

The CANBUILD goal is to recreate the tumour microenvironment found in high-grade human ovarian cancer; the subtype that leads to 70 per cent of all ovarian cancer deaths. However, the research may have implications for several other cancer types as well.

The vision is that this project will replace traditional techniques in which human cancer cells are grown in isolation on plastic surfaces. Success in the CANBUILD project may also provide better ways of testing new drugs that target the human tumour microenvironment.