When the space shuttle Discovery blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) later today (launch scheduled Friday August 10, 2001 - 5.39 pm EDT), it will be taking with it a frozen clump of ovarian cancer cells. On the station, mission specialists will thaw them and grow them into a three-dimensional cluster that resembles the type of tumour one sees in the body, rather than into the abnormal shape on the flat bottom of a laboratory culture dish.

The researchers from the University of South Florida College of Medicine and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hope their culture will provide a biologically more accurate model for studies of ovarian cancer development and its responsiveness to chemotherapy and antihormonal agents.

Such a three dimensional cluster can only be grown when the cells are in free fall and so subjected to a lower apparent gravitational pull (microgravity) than when...

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