Introducing BCI Animations - blood cancers and solid tumours

Zoe Leech Posted in General News, Engagement 13 March 2017

Haemato-Oncology and Tumour Biology

Introducing BCI Animations - blood cancers and solid tumours

BCI has been working with Phospho Biomedical Animations to bring some of our key cancer research topics to life.

Check out these short videos to learn about two of our research Centres' major experimental subjects.

We have a Playlist featuring all our animations to date, and to host any further edits.


Our second and newest videos take a tour around our Centre for Haemato-Oncology's research themes. This Centre works on different types of blood cancer, how they arise and evolve, the limitations of current treatments, and emerging technologies that could help patients.

Here is our video aimed at helping people with cancer, families, and carers get to grips with these concepts and share some of our research goals:

Head to BCI Youtube to see an animation aimed at other researchers and blood cancer specialists.

Video Description

We begin inside a blood vessel, as not all cancers form as lumps - there are also non-solid, haematological malignancies. To introduce how blood is made we see a femur that is cut away to show the cancellous bone where bone marrow is found. We then zoom in to a haematopoietic stem cell, with its 'daughters' shown in a tree, which specialise into the various blood cells.

BCI HAEMONC STILL 20One of these cells starts to proliferate uncontrollably, because of genetic abnormalities that destabilise the genome, which are required for cancer to start; DNA can get scrambled around, mutated and misread. This is shown by a healthy cell in metaphase, with brightly coloured chromosomes (as in a karyotype),and the damaged genome of a cancer cell with many translocations and aneuploidy.

Moving on to treatments; bone marrow transplants are still useful because we can destroy a corrupted immune system that fails to recognise and attack cancer and replace it with a donor transplant. Back in the blood vessel, the corrupted immune cells fade and are replaced by fresh donor immune cells.

New treatments our teams are working on include re-engaging the patient’s own immune system. We show this with two examples, one being anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitors that counteract the PD1-PDL1 interaction between cancer and immune cells that blocks immune attack, and the other being engineered CAR-T cells.

Tumour Biology

Our first video looked at the Centre for Tumour Biology, where our scientists focus on how cells attach to one another and our connective tissue - both inside and outside tumours - studying everything from DNA to proteins, to work out how cancer forms and spreads. Translational work then uses discoveries to find new treatment options.

Video Description

One central tumour within a tissue shows us several aspects of tumour biology. Starting with angiogenesis, showing existing blood vessels branching to form a blood supply for the tumour. This new blood supply allows part of the tumour to grow.

Different parts of the tumour have different genetic mutations, known as heterogeneity, which can make the tumour behave in different ways depending on which part we view; the central area of the tumour looks more like a rounded adenoma, but the growing region is more aggressive and transformed.heterogeneity

As we zoom into the leading edge of this aggressive part, we consider the microenvironment with integrins attaching to the extracellular matrix, and comparing normal cells to tumour cells, we find that integrin activity can contribute to cancer cell movement. Zooming out, we see the invasive part of the tumour reaches a vessel wall and a cell intravasates (enters a blood vessel).

We follow the cancer cells into the blood stream and eventually to a site of metastasis, where the cell extravasates (leaves the vessel) and begins a new tumour.

Head to BCI Youtube to see a shorter animation specifically about integrins, which was shared by

Please let us know what you think!

With thanks to all BCI colleagues who assisted with storyboarding and scripting. Animation by Jeroen Claus, Phospho Biomedical Animation. Voiceovers by Dr Marianne Baker, recorded by Luke Webster. 

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