Creative collaborations curing disease

As threats to health become more complex and interconnected, so too will the solutions we develop to combat them.

Creative collaborations curing disease

Our researchers are collaborating across disciplines to find solutions for the health challenges facing humanity today – such as dementia, infectious disease and cancer.

Some of these collaborative partnerships are, on the face of it, pretty unlikely. Like that between Dr Nic Walton, an astronomer, and Professor Carlos Caldas, a leading breast cancer researcher.

  • A doctor giving a patient a CT scan
    A doctor giving a patient a CT scan
The link between astronomy and cancer research is unexpected

The unexpected link between astronomy and cancer research

Dr Walton explains: “Both astronomy and cell biology deal with huge numbers. Our Milky Way contains several hundred billion stars, our bodies tens of trillions of cells.”

Both also have to analyse incredibly complex images, though at opposite ends of the scale. Working together the pair found that algorithms used to study pictures taken by the Gaia satellite, a billion pixel camera located in space, have direct application in the analysis of tumour samples.

This new technology will greatly increase the pace of progress in cancer research. Professor Caldas also believes that in the future it could be used as ‘digital pathology’, aiding diagnosis and prognosis even in regions with no specialist oncologists.

He explains: "You could imagine a scenario where a clinician takes a biopsy and a pathologist processes and stains the slide, takes a picture and digitally relays it. This is then analysed by one of the algorithms to say if it is a tumour, identify the tumour type and say how aggressive it will be."

This ‘multidisciplinary’ approach to medical research is one reason why Cambridge has become home to a concentration of over 7,000 health experts - the largest in Europe. At any one time we have over 1,000 clinical trials taking place.

Alzheimer's disease: neurons with amyloid plaques

Discovering key causes of Alzheimer’s disease

There are more than 46 million Alzheimer's sufferers in the world. New and collaborative ways of thinking are crucial in the effort to decrease this number.

Collaborations between chemistry and Alzheimer’s researchers have discovered the key causes of the disease. By studying the molecular processes of Alzheimer's, the research team assembled a wealth of data that enabled them to better understand the progression of the disease.

The search for these molecules is the starting point for the development of highly targeted future therapies.

Growing our creative health partnerships

With your help we can create exciting new partnerships that transform lives across the world—from cancer, to dementia, to infectious disease. As one of Cambridge’s highest priorities for investment, we have funding opportunities across the University that will enable creative partnerships:

  • £10 million will fund creative health research
  • £2 million will create a PhD programme in multi-disciplinary health

Next steps

Hugh O’Donnell

Senior Associate Director - Clinical Medicine

+44 (0)1223 332577

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