Cambridge Science Festival (2018)


Sunday 25th March from 11AM to 3PM.


Cambridge Academy of Science and Technology. Biomedical Campus, Cambridge.


The Science Festival is organised and managed by a large number of people across many institutions and laboratories. Our contribution, from the MRC Cancer Unit’s Venkitaraman group has been organised by the following team: Suzan Ber, Xavier Renaudin, Tom Schoufour, Khushali Patel, John Saganty, Callum Campbell and Alessandro Esposito. We have all dedicated many days of work to this event and are excited to meet you there!



We have prepared three activities to show you how oncogenes (mutant genes that cause cancer) cause cells to behave differently in different  parts of the body. There are many known oncogenes, but we are focusing on a particular group called RAS oncogenes.

KRAS-driven cancers: common cancers and affected organs

We adapted an anatomical torso with QR codes. The public can explore each organ and identify with handheld devices (QR code scanners on a mobile phone or tablet) how the KRAS oncogene affects different organs. We have included data for the eight most common KRAS-driven solid tumours, lung, thyroid, uterus, pancreas, colon, skin, bladder and stomach, and related infographics.


Not all oncogenic mutations are the same

We have prepared a little whack-a-mole, or whack-an-oncogene we should say, game programmed in Scratch. This little game aims to illustrate how different cancer-causing mutations, even in the same gene, might require different medical treatments. These strategies are called personalised medicine or theranostics.

Indeed, in our day-to-day research we are investigating how different mutations can cause different cancer-causing changes in cells and if we can use this knowledge to work out how to predict the best medical treatment for each tumour.

Scratch is a visual programming platform developed by MIT to get young girls and boys programming.

The game

To progress through the game, you will need to adapt the ‘therapy’ to match cells with different mutations. In the first level, move the hammer (a tumour suppressor) with the mouse and click on a cancerous cell. The tumour suppressor will kill the cell and prevent cancer. In the second level, you will need to ‘hit’ each cancerous cell that escaped tumour suppressive mechanisms with the right ‘drug’. Change the colour of the vial by pressing the left and right arrow keys on the keyboard. You can move the vials and pour them on each cell by moving the mouse and clicking.

Oncogenic signalling and cellular decisions: the danger of driving with coloured glasses

We have prepared a driving test, with toy-cars that have to follow routes signalled with coloured signs. What happen when you drive with tinted glasses of different colours?


Cambridge Science Festival 2018
Preparing activities for the Cambridge Science Festival 2018

Women in science

We are committed to the best quality of scientific research and to facilitate the translation of scientific knowledge into improvements in healthcare. To improve people lives, we need the brightest minds and the most skilled individuals to team up and work together. This is why we see no distinction of nationality, gender, ethnicity or faith, we simply look for skills.

Our SCRATCH whack-an-oncogene game is aimed to engage young girls and boys in programming, because we need biomedical researchers to be quantitatively-minded, computationally skilled and working with tools from diverse disciplines. However, too often we lose talented young girls somewhere along the way to becoming a scientist, engineer or mathematician. We think that, sometimes, this is caused by a perceived lack of female role models.

Do you know the many bright female physicists, mathematicians, chemists, biologists and clinicians that made wonderful discoveries? If not, play our women in science puzzle [see here copy for printing, or copy for display on screen]! Does this mean we wish to motivate only young girls to be the great scientists of the future? Not at all. We want the Albert Einsteins and Maria Goeppert Mayers of the future to work together as equals, because then we can be more efficient and improve people’s lives more profoundly and positively.


We did work as a team, but some people have been more involved in one or another activity. Suzan Ber coordinated the team activities, had a lead on the anatomical torso and the driving cars activities. Suzan also prepared the women in science leaflet and volunteered for the day at our stand. Tom Schoufour programmed the SCRATCH game and volunteered for the day at our stand. John Saganty and Khushali Patel prepared the material that is displayed on the webpage for the anatomical torso. They also volunteered for the day at our stand. Xavier Renaudin worked on the driving car activities and volunteered for the day at our stand. Callum Campbell worked on the driving car activities and edited the published material. Alessandro Esposito worked on the anatomical torso, the driving cars activities, prepared the infographics and the website.