Tumors in Real Time

A researcher works to destroy cancers before they take shape.


In his 40-plus years as a developmental biologist at the University of Iowa, David Soll studied HIV, yeast infections and white blood cells. But after his wife died from a brain tumor eight years ago, Soll set his sights on cancer.

Using a 3-D software system his lab previously designed to follow cell movement, Soll began tracking human tumor cells — including from breast, skin and brain cancers — photographing them from multiple angles every 10 minutes for up to three months. By studying the 3-D images chronologically, Soll became the first person to witness tumors forming in real time. It turns out that several cancers form tumors in a similar way, and he believes that one drug, yet to be discovered, could inhibit tumor formation in all cancers.


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