The virtual reality technology that could revolutionise cancer treatment

Scientists say it is early days but they hope we will soon use virtual reality to guide better treatment for patients, as Deborah Cohen reports

Virtual reality might soon help scientists and doctors better understand how to treat patients' cancerous tumours.

An unlikely alliance of video game designers and cancer researchers has given visual form to spreadsheet data which could revolutionise the way cancer is treated.

Using the same virtual reality technology which allows gamers to turn their bedrooms into battlefields, the team at Cambridge University's IMAXT Laboratory are offering scientists the chance to step inside tumours.

Numbers are transformed into an interactive picture - giving completely new perspectives on cancers which could turn out to be a diagnosis game-changer.

When tumours are studied they are usually displayed in 2D, but the new technology will allow researchers to see them in a more visual way.

Cancer cells can often take different forms, which is something that the VR is able to differentiate between by flagging cells in individual colours and shapes.

A 3D model of an early breast cancer from a patient. Credit: ITV News

Displayed as a colourful matrix of dots, medical professionals will now have the chance to step inside their patients' cancer tumours.

Scientists have said that understanding where these cells form could give them a better insight into how tumours could be treated.

To help create a virtual reality tumour, scientists teamed up with video gamers using money from Cancer Grand Challenges, a global funding platform co-founded by Cancer Research UK, and the National Cancer Institute in the US.

Own Harris, IMAXT Laboratory's lead video game designer, told ITV News: "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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