Researchers at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR) have played a central role in the development of PARP Inhibitors – a targeted treatment that kills cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells relatively unscathed. The first cancer patient in the world to be given this new type of drug was treated in Newcastle in 2003.

In response to this incredible research, Ed Carter has worked closely with the NICR team over a number of months to create “Inhibitor”.

Visually, a series of fluorescent microscopy images were created with researchers at the NICR, depicting the nuclei of cells undergoing PARP inhibition treatment over an 8-day period. As the piece progresses, we see the cells suffering single strand DNA breaks, which are then repaired by PARP (yellow). When PARP is inhibited, it causes double-strand DNA breaks to occur (red), which normal cells repair through error-free mechanisms (green). Conversely, certain cancerous cells respond to the double strand breaks with error-prone processes. Targeting this inability to accurately repair double strand DNA breaks results in the cancerous cells gradually dying, whilst healthy cells can repair the damage and survive.

The sonic aspect of the work is a composition created from the structure of the PARP protein itself, which is constructed from a sequence of 1014 amino acids linked together, made up of twenty different amino acids. For the central melody, each amino acid is represented by a single note within a twenty-note scale, spread across the range of a brass quintet. The different sections of the protein then have their own musical motifs, with different attributes given to a helix, turn, or beta strand.

The piece was premiered on 17 May 2014 in the North Tower of the Tyne Bridge, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Marissa Buckingham | Nicola Curtin | Miranda Patterson | Rachel Smith (NICR)
Prince Bishops Brass Ensemble | Mark Edwards | NOVAK

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Cancer Research UK
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Northern Institute for Cancer Research