How Cancer Overruns the Body Like a City Invasion

The ever-philosophical design house Kurzgesagt shows via vivid animation how cells can be corrupted by cancer, like the invasion of a city, starting with a single cell.

It  is no longer able to repair its genetic code, it can’t kill itself anymore and it is beginning  to multiply rapidly…. Over a few weeks the corrupted cell keeps making  copies of itself. One cell turns into dozens, hundreds, thousands. Because the  original was broken, its copies are breaking and mutating even more. They turn into different genetic lineages, clans that are working together and competing.  Some mutate in a way that makes them weaker, others’ mutations don’t change anything,  while a few become fitter and better at survival. 

This formation is not yet cancer; it needs to find new resources as it fights off the body’s defense systems.

If the cells don’t get food and oxygen, they will die and the problem just solves itself. Unfortunately a few corrupted cells unlock a new mutation that saves them: The ability to order the growth of new blood vessels. And so your body provides the supply they need to survive. …While each cancer is unique, there are genetic corruptions that they can’t hide. And your T-Cells know what to look for. They are the deadliest cancer killers you have. …T-Cells block the growth of new blood vessels, which starves thousands of tumor cells and puts an end to their growth.

This back-and-forth between cancer and the body’s defense goes on until one wins out.

This tumor cell is much stronger than any of  the thousands that were killed. Maybe it is  better at hiding, or fighting back. …And so it all begins again. …the immune system gets all of the tumor cells, the story ends. But in this case, it doesn’t. Finally, a tumor cell changes in a way that makes it properly dangerous, cancer.  … When the body dies, the cancer dies too. It truly is a game without winners.

They liken the disease to that of a city.

The new city wants to grow, so it orders tons of steel beams, cement and drywall. New buildings follow no logic, are badly planned, ugly and dangerously crooked. …As Tumor Town slowly envelops …and more and more civilians die, T-Cell SWAT teams arrive to end this travesty.  But things get worse – new lineages of Tumor Town officials have started to forge court documents  that order police to shoot at the SWAT teams.

Despite all this, there is still hope.

For now cancer is a battleground – but if human ingenuity is to be trusted, then one day maybe in the not too distant future, we will eradicate it once and for all.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.