Tailored Treatments for Cancer




Introduction from Prof. Sarah Cunningham-Burley
Cancer and Society in the 21st Century
Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tales of Research and Care (Graphic Novel)
.  Meet the Tailored Treatments Graphic Novel Illustrator
Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tell Your Story (Virtual Workshop)
.  Meet the Virtual Workshop Team
Co-production and Co-delivery



Introduction from Prof. Sarah Cunningham-Burley



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Cancer and Society in the 21st Century


In July 2019 we were approached by the Cancer and Society in the 21st Century project (CancerandSoc21C): a collaborative research project being carried out by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society, the University of Leeds and the University of Glasgow’s School of Social & Political Sciences; and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Conducted by the universities’ leading sociologists of health, illness and medicine, along with their wider team of researchers, the five-year-long CancerandSoc21C project looks at how rapid developments in personalised cancer medicine are changing what it’s like to be a cancer patient

With the project drawing to a close in 2020, the team decided to bid for additional funding for a dedicated public engagement project, to allow their findings to be shared more generally and more widely.

So they reached out to Ziggy’s Wish.

Through the summer and autumn of 2019 we worked closely with the CancerandSoc21C team, helping them to shape both their ideas and the funding bid. We were delighted when the team was awarded a ScotPEN Wellcome Engagement Award in early 2020 for the project Tailored Treatments, and began work straightaway on this wonderful, complex and challenging commission.



Tailored Treatments for Cancer:

Tales of Research and Care (Graphic Novel)


The first part of the commission was to create a graphic novel accompaniment to the CancerandSoc21C project’s main academic text: Personalising Cancer Medicine: Future crafting in the genomic era. The team interviewed hundreds of people over the five years of their study – cancer patients, their families, scientists, healthcare professionals, members of the wider public – and also observed work undertaken at cancer research centres and in clinics.

The amount of findings from this was vast, and the sheer scope of perspective and opinion was huge. We delved into the research and began the process of figuring out how to marry this rich complexity with the realities of the Tailored Treatments bid parameters. With just months to deliver the graphic novel, we drew on a host of storytelling disciplines as well as the innovative approach to narrative that is the signature of Ziggy’s Wish. Whilst it would have been impossible to represent the multitude of experiences had by every single one of the interviewees, we nevertheless wanted to capture as much as we possibly could, and give genuine voice to the discussion.

Engagement meetings (both physical and virtual) with Experts by Experience were crucial to how we developed our characters, so that each could be simultaneously believable and also a composite vehicle through which to explore the many varied issues. We then used thematic and ‘blind’ scripting processes to distil out the series of conversation areas that would become our chapters, and to build our characters’ dialogue.

It was important that we emphasis the ‘emotional’ side of personalised cancer medicine against the ‘clinical’ backdrop of its development. As the dialogue necessarily had to convey a lot of information, we designed the graphic novel visuals to expressly support this emotional/clinical contrast. Using a more theatrical approach, we modelled a cool, clean, fixed 3D set within which our vibrant and colourful characters could play out their conversations. This solution also helped us to maximize our delivery with the limited timeframe.

The Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tales of Research and Care graphic novel aims to support the CancerandSoc21C project in encouraging honest and timely debate around the pros and cons of personalised cancer medicine. The CancerandSoc21C project seeks to ensure this much vaunted field develops responsibly, and genuinely improves the care that cancer patients receive at all stages of their experience.

Check back here late 2020 to see the finished Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tales of Research and Care graphic novel, and to download your digital copy for free.



Meet the Tailored Treatments Graphic Novel Illustrator


Rhiana Jade. Rhiana is a qualified Art Therapist with a Masters degree in Creative Industries. She is a passionate advocate for creativity as a pathway to health and wellbeing; and brings a unique skillset to creative projects, drawing on her experience in the fields of acting, illustration, education and Art Therapy. Her interests include mythology, storytelling, meditation, social and emotional learning, parenting and connection to nature.

Our interview with Rhiana:

How has it been, working on the Tailored Treatments graphic novel?

It’s been very thought provoking, and also a huge challenge because of the scope of work in the timeframe. It felt vast to begin with, but I’ve worked closely with Ravi from the start and that’s helped because we’ve found our way forwards together, marrying emotion with practicality the whole way through.

Like the set. We talked about the design, then I modelled it, which meant Ravi could imagine where the characters’ conversations would take place, and feed that into the script. At the same time, Ravi’s detailed backstories for each character helped me to develop their look, which again helped Ravi to visualise the characters’ feelings and find their voices.

It’s a beautiful and distinct artistic style that you’ve brought to the project. Tell us a little bit more about where that comes from?

Well we didn’t want the graphic novel to be cartoon-like. Instead we wanted to emphasise that the CancerandSoc21C research is a reality. It’s one of the reasons Ravi brought me in – because of the way I like to bring storytelling together with a fullness of meaning; representing meaningful moments in meaningful ways.

I think that’s a culmination of all the different learning experiences I’ve had and the environments I’ve inhabited. My early work in the acting industry taught me to inhabit characters physically, their expressions and postures… my work as an artist and designer allows me to channel that through my hand into the characters on the page… and my role as an art therapist focuses me on empathy.

How important do you think that focus on empathy is?

I think it’s a really crucial aspect. We’ve taken a lot of care to encourage empathy in several ways, and in several places throughout the graphic novel. For example there’s a particular scene between Charlie and Niles where I added a subtle use of ‘mirroring’, which is an art-therapy-session technique, to highlight empathy in the characters.


It’s a demanding project. How do you keep up the momentum without losing energy?

Actually it’s really important to find a balance. With this narrative there’s a lot to think about. It’s very emotive. It makes you think about the people in your own life… and I admit that I choked up a bit whilst storyboarding one of the later scenes…

But I have ways to break up the process. I let myself play with my drawings when I need to. It’s nice sometimes to just hang out with the characters for fun.



Tailored Treatments for Cancer:

Tell Your Story (Virtual Workshop)


The second part of the commission was to deliver a workshop that would build on the graphic novel and allow participants to create graphic short stories of their own.

Originally we planned to deliver this as a physical workshop, however, as with so many other things in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic meant we had to reimagine our ideas into a virtual space.

Currently in development, the Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tell Your Story virtual workshop will be an intimate and enriching event for participants, guided by specialist narrative facilitators in highly supportive spaces.

Where the graphic novel captures a collective discussion, the workshop will allow individuals to express their own, unique experiences. Tailored Treatments for Cancer: Tell Your Story will be held in November 2020 and the CancerandSoc21C team will be inviting participants to join from August.

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Meet the Tailored Treatments Virtual Workshop Team

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Co-production and Co-delivery

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