Phoenix, AZ

Bringing 'the C word' out of the closet and into the light

Dianne Price

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly one in four Americans "will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2015–2017 data)."* With such a pervasive scourge, why is it that we still stumble over our words when it comes to talking about how cancer might affect us or our loved ones? Perhaps it is in the arts where we can find new ways to see and talk about cancer.

The C Word: Artists, Scientists and Patients Respond to Cancer is a multimedia art exhibit currently showing at the 850 Biomedical Campus at 850 N. 5th Street in Phoenix, Arizona. Entry is free and the exhibit will close on July 16, 2022. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The impetus for the exhibit came from a group of scientists at the Arizona Cancer Evolutionn Center (ACE) at Arizona State University. Supported by an $8 million grant from the National Cancer Institutes, the center's team seeks to turn ideas about cancer upside-down. According to ACE director, Carlo Maley, the team is not content with therapies that radiate or "poison" cancer cells (while killing healthy cells). Instead, they look to plants and animals for ideas about how we as humans might use our own immune systems to suppress the disease.

The images, videos and sculptures illuminate humanity's complicated relationship with cancer. Artists include people for whom cancer has had a personal impact, including Susan Beiner, boredomresearch, Alex Cagan, Max Dean, Erin McGee Ferrell, and Kathryn Knight.
Chemotherapy Roller Coaster - By Erin McGee Ferrell Mixed Media on Canvas with embedded NFCs (2022)Pamela Winfrey for the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center

The topic of cancer is usually shuttered, muffled, and kept in the dark as much as possible. This exhibition strives to change that.

"Cancer is such a fascinating problem, and I am so excited by the doors that are opening on new ways to deal with it. I want to share that excitement with everyone. The process of doing science is science fiction: it is imagining what might be and how it might work… and how we might get there,” said Maley.

For more information, contact Arizona Evolution Center Science Research Curator Pamela Winfrey at or 415-948-6436.


Comments / 1

Published by

Dianne Price has a professional passion for bringing stories about health, medicine, science, and mental health to life. Her personal passion focuses on how the arts can elicit creativity, curiosity and joy.

Fountain Hills, AZ

Comments / 0