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The Sound of Cancer


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In some way or other, cancer will touch most Australians’ lives. In 2017, an estimated 131 people will die from cancer every day in this country. A new case is diagnosed every four minutes. Causes and treatments of the disease are the focus of intensive research, but public understanding of cancer is often clouded by fear and misinformation.

In an attempt to demystify cancer, and to reframe what we know about it, Barking Spider Visual Theatre and La Trobe University have formed a new and unique collaboration that bridges the arts and sciences. They’ve created innovative scientific approaches to cancer, experimenting with live audio recording of cancer cells, and sonifying the interactions between cells – as well as interviewing a range of people affected by it, from clinicians to patients and families.

In this discussion, we’ll look at our growing understanding of cancer and its treatment. We’ll explore advances in immunotherapy as well as the social impact of the disease – delving into scientific research, lived experience and the sound work generated by the artists, followed by an interactive installation.

Presented in partnership with Barking Spider Visual Theatre and La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, La Trobe University, and supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.

Photo: Immune cells (green) communicating with tumour cells (red) in pre-chemotherapy triple negative breast cancer patient. Credit: Natasha Brockwell/Belinda Parker, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, La Trobe University.


Ranjana Srivastava

Dr Ranjana Srivastava is an oncologist, Fulbright scholar and award-winning author. She is a Walkley Award finalist for her columns on medicine and humanity in the Guardian. Her honours include the Human Rights Literature Prize and a medal of the Order of Australia for her contribution the field of ... Read more

Jonathan Cebon

Jonathan Cebon is the Medical Director of the Cancer Services Unit at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre at Austin Health in Heidelberg, and Medical Director of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute. His clinical area of interest is the immune therapy of cancer. He... Read more

Patrick Humbert

Patrick Humbert is Professor of Cancer Biology and Co-Head of Cancer Research at La Trobe University. In 2001, Patrick was awarded a Special Fellowship from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America. He has since been a multiple recipient of Career Development Fellowships, has had continuous fede... Read more

Mark Shackleton

Mark Shackleton is the Director of Oncology at Alfred Health, a Professor of Oncology at Monash University, a Victorian Cancer Agency Clinical Research Fellow and Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Melanoma Trials Group. He was awarded the 2006 Victorian Premier’s Award for Medical Research, ... Read more


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