An animation created by Melbourne students is being used as part of a Peter Mac trial that’s educating women about a new DNA test for breast and ovarian cancer risk.  

Developed in collaboration with final year students from the Victorian College of the Arts, the animation aims to help women enrolled in a trial to better understand what factors are involved in breast cancer risk and if the new DNA test is right for them.  

The trial assesses if animation is better at communicating information over standard text-based information sheets. 

“The development of new complex, clinical tests requires the development of new, engaging methods of communicating,” study lead A/Prof Alison Trainer says. 

“It’s all about ensuring women have the best information to make informed choices about whether to test for their cancer risk – and animation is a novel way to do that.”

“It was a pleasure to work with these highly-talented VCA students (now graduates) and they should be very proud that their work could potentially help inform thousands of women in the future.”

The two animators, Amy Manson and Lilly McPake spent more than 140 hours bringing the film to life.

“It’s quite the challenge to take a scientific concept like genetic testing and make it seem appealing and approachable to an audience that’s not necessarily scientifically informed,” Amy explains. 

“But I think animation has proven an excellent way to do that”

“Nothing makes me happier than knowing the animation I helped create could have a positive impact on someone else’s life.”

The pair worked closely with A/Prof Trainer to strike the perfect balance between providing the pertinent information while also ensuring women could connect emotionally with the content. 

In a scene from the animation, the characters discuss the test while riding on a Melbourne tram.
In a scene from the animation, the characters discuss the test while riding on a Melbourne tram.

“Hopefully this film combined with expert advice from Peter Mac will make this information more accessible – we look forward to seeing the study results,” Lilly says. 

“I know now I definitely want to lean into the area where animation and science meet.”

The trial is currently underway and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The genetic test mentioned in this story is currently only available in a research setting. The full animation is currently part of a trial and is yet to be released to the public.