Announcing ‘Cancer Revolution’ – a world-first exhibition to engage people with progress against cancer

Visualisation of the Cancer Revolution exhibit

A sneak peak of the Cancer Revolution exhibition.

“Look, we can make bacteria interesting – just imagine what we can do with cancer biology!”

Those were the words of Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group back in 2017 when we first spoke about the idea of creating a cutting-edge, world-first exhibition about cancer.

Our research engagement team were looking for ways to talk about cancer science in stimulating and engaging ways, but knew that the science can sometimes come over as a bit impenetrable. In discussion with Ian and his team at the Science Museum, we got excited by the idea of an experience that would showcase the incredible scientific and medical progress we’ve seen in recent decades and our optimism for the future, while also bringing out the enormous impact cancer has on those it affects, and the importance of continuing to make progress against the disease.

Underpinning the idea was a belief shared by both organisations, that a public that is engaged with scientific progress is a public that is more supportive of science itself – something we have seen to be of huge importance lately

National museums’ thorough approach means developing an exhibition takes a while – and the pandemic hasn’t helped – but today I’m delighted to share the news that ‘Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope’ will open its doors in October 2021 at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum, before relocating to the Science Museum in London in May 2022.

As the exhibition’s Expert Partner, we’ve been working closely with the Science Museum Group’s curators to help shape the exhibition, giving them access to our researchers and clinical experts, and the insights of our Involvement Network of people affected by cancer.

I’m incredibly excited to see the resulting exhibition, which will present the stories and experiences of those affected by cancer alongside the people who study and treat it, while taking visitors on a journey into some of the latest most cutting-edge research going on around the world.

It will also put current cancer care into historical context, featuring a range of objects, new artist commissions and installations, film, and photography.

Visualisation of the science museum exhibit.

The exhibit will feature stories from those affected by cancer alongside the latest most cutting-edge research going on around the world.

Cancer Revolution comes at an important time for those who work to keep cancer on the public agenda. Quite understandably, as well as having a huge impact on health services around the world, and hindering scientific progress, the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines and public imagination. Yet cancer hasn’t gone away and if anything, our work to beat it has become all the more urgent. Getting the spotlight back on cancer is a top priority for our community.

If there’s any silver lining to be found from the last year it’s that, more than ever, the public truly recognise the power of science to shape society for the better. The development of vaccines against the coronavirus is a chapter in history of which the research community can be immensely proud.

So I hope that, with an exhibition like Cancer Revolution, we can connect people with an equally important, if unfinished, chapter in the story of humanity: our mission to overcome a disease that affects so many of us, and still claims too many lives too early.

Iain Foulkes is Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation

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