When cancer meets fashion

A Manchester-based scientist has teamed up with a Pennsylvanian fashion designer to create a dress showing how prostate cancer spreads in the body, in a bid to spread mass awareness about it.

The catwalk creation is based on the work of Dr Esther Baena, a junior group leader conducting scientific studies at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at The University of Manchester.

The dress was part of a project to take scientific research to a new audience. It depicts the tumour transformation process from normal to malignant and invasive cancerous cells and has been featured on live models at the Descience Runway show 2014 held at the MIT Media Lab in Boston, a garment exhibition at The Koch Institute in Cambridge and more recently at a runway show held at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

Other dresses in the Descience project include a garment inspired by marine life and another representing research done in fruit flies. They form part of the Descience project getting people to think about science in a more accessible way.

Dr Baena, who lives in Manchester city centre, shared photos and explanations of her research with fashion designer Arielle Gogh via Skype and email in her spare time.

Dr Baena, who is also part of Manchester Cancer Research Centre, said: "My studies focus on prostate cancer, the second most diagnosed cancer among men. I hope it has got people who wouldn't normally think about science or cancer research talking about this important subject. The biggest incentive for me as a scientist to take part in this project was so I could help transform my research into something tangible and visually appealing.

"We made the cell shapes look increasingly rough to show tumour progression and used stronger staining to differentiate between normal and cancerous cells."

The garment will now go on a tour around the world to promote science globally.