Cell portrait: research doctor’s cancer-inspired paintings

Asta's paintings are based on cancer cells

A TOP cancer researcher is creating dramatic artworks inspired by tumours to raise money for charity.

By day Dr Asta Valanciute works to improve treatment for bowel cancer for Cancer Research UK at their Edinburgh laboratory.

By night, the 40-year-old creates stunning acrylic paintings based on images developed in the darkroom of her lab.

The images are also inspired by the experienced of both her aunt and grandmother after they were diagnosed with cancer.

Asta, who is originally from Lithuania, said: “I love that these paintings are a combination of science imaging techniques and art in that I have created something new from images of cancer cells from the laboratory.

“I wanted to show science in a different light so that people who have never been in a laboratory might be inspired to think about what goes on here.

“I also wanted to create something which featured dark and light to represent the range of emotions that people go through when they are diagnosed with cancer.”

Currently Asta is involved in researching how bowel cancer reacts to certain drugs.


 As part of this research she runs “blot tests” to work out what is happening inside bowel cancer cells. Sometimes these experiments create unusual patterns rather than the more normal linear designs she usually sees and Asta uses these to influence her work.

She has now gifted two of her abstract paintings to a charity art show in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK.

Asta was inspired by her own family's experiences with cancer

Over the last 43 years that exhibition, jewellery and art sale has raised £500,000 through picture sales.

Asta, who also volunteers in one of the charity’s shops, added: “I was motivated to become a cancer scientist because so many members of my family in Lithuania have been affected by cancer. The darkness featured reflects the stress of receiving the news of a cancer diagnosis and feeling isolated from the rest of the world.”

A spokeswoman for Cancer Research said: “We’re really grateful to Dr Valanciute for submitting these colourful paintings.

All the money raised at the week-long public exhibition will go to fund Cancer Research UK’s vital work in Edinburgh into the causes and prevention of cancer.

Jane Brunton, chairwoman of the Edinburgh Fundraising Committee, which has organised the event, said: “Every year, almost 29,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland which is why Cancer Research UK’s groundbreaking work into this disease is so important.

“This year’s exhibitors have made a fantastic effort and we have in excess of 1,250 paintings an attractive mix of hand-made products and unique beautifully crafted jewellery for sale at affordable prices.

“We are inviting the people of Edinburgh and the Lothians to come along, enjoy the show and support the work of Cancer Research UK scientists in the city.”


The exhibition will take place at Adam House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, from 15 to 18 November from 10.30am to 6pm, and on the 19 November from 10.30am to 4pm.