The cancer puzzle: patterns, paradoxes and personalities

Perspex mask

One of the great lessons of medical history is that the big breakthroughs in understanding of disease often come unexpectedly. Professor Nick Nicola

The story of cancer is complex and extremely personal. 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. It is a disease shrouded in fear and dread. There are many types of cancer: lung, prostate, breast, stomach, bowel to name some of the most prolific. For generations doctors and researchers have been frantically searching for remedies. At the moment the so-called 'blunt instruments' of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are still the main medical treatments, however new approaches and technologies are emerging.

Pivotal to the story of cancer in Victoria has been the contribution of the University of Melbourne in the development of treatment, research, public education and advocacy. Various Deans of Melbourne Medical School such as Peter MacCallum have been leaders in advocating for the infrastructure that has underpinned the cancer services for the Victorian community.

This exhibition explores the roles of key individuals, public education campaigns and cutting edge research. It also explores the personal responses of cancer sufferers through the work of contemporary artists who have cancer. The Cancer Puzzle draws on the collections of the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, the Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne Archives, Cancer Council Victoria and other major collections.