© 2019 by Jung Hee Lee

Mechanism of Action of Anthracycline

Three-dimensional Scientific Illustration

Project Details:

Professor Michael Corrin & Dr. Marsela Berstein
Tool(s) used: 
Adobe Illustrator
Presentation use
Date completed: 
February 2016

Anthracycline is a drug used in cancer chemotherapy. This conceptual illustration depicts one of four hypotheses known regarding the mechanism of anthracycline action. It demonstrates anthracycline triggering translocation of calreticulin from the endoplasmic reticulum to the cell surface of tumour cells. The calreticulin then activates dendritic cells to engulf tumour cells. This project provided experience in: performing a thorough research into an immunological topic using various resources, visualizing cellular environments, visual storytelling and cell-shading technique. To tell a story with clarity, many iterations were done based on feedback received throughout the process. The assignment was completed in two different formats: schematic two dimensional (the previous illustration) and cell-shaded three-dimensional illustrations.

Figure 4: hypothesis 4 - anthracycline triggers translocation of ER-resided calreticulin (CRT) to the cell surface of dying tumour cells.

1) Tumour cells are treated with anthracycline. 2) 1 hour after treatment, ER-resided calreticulin (CRT) translocates from ER to the cell surface of the dying tumour cell. The cell-surface CRTs release an “eat me” signal. 3) Cell-surface CRT’s “eat me” signal is recognized by (3a) MBP and (3b) C1q opsonins, which help the interaction between CRTs and LRP receptors on dendritic cells. Cell-surface CRTs are also recognized by (3c) antibodies. These trigger dendritic cells to phagocytose tumour cells. 4) (4a) The engulfed tumour cells release antigens in dendritic cells. (4b) The antigens are also released from free dying tumour cells, and dendritic cells engulf antigens. 5) Dendritic cells carry antigens and enter the regional lymph node through the afferent lymph vessel. 6) In the lymph node, antigens are presented to CD8+ T cells, CD4+ T cells and NK cells, and these cells are now activated. 7) Activated CD8+ T cells, CD4+ T cells and NK cells exit the lymph node through the efferent lymph vessel. 8) Tumour cells are destroyed by the activated CD8+, CD4+ T cells and NK cells.


Preliminary sketch 1

First, I started with a rough sketch to lay out what to visualize, what to emphasize and minimize. This step helped me arranging immunological, cellular and morphological topics that I needed to focus on researching for my story. I chose a circular narrative format to illustrate all eight steps by using the space efficiently. Visual elements were emphasized or minimized by placing them in the foreground and background.

Preliminary sketches 2-5

Throughout subsequent sketches, I continuously researched thoroughly to achieve a scientific accuracy of molecular and cellular structures. Also, one of the challenges included using callouts efficiently to draw attention to a detail of the process. For example, in the third step, the molecular interactions were depicted in the callout at a different angle than the original image, but the connection was well told by using the graphic devices and applying distinctive colours and shapes to each structure so that the audience could correspond the callout to the original image.

Preliminary sketch 5

This was the final sketch before rendering by using a cell-shading technique. This project taught me the value of an iterative design; continuously receiving feedback and incorporating them into the design to achieve a continual improvement throughout the work process. Sometimes, making iterations over and over again may be frustrating because it requires patience and time. However, I believe all these hard works put in many iterations maximize the communication effectiveness, which should be the primary goal of a biomedical communicator.

Rendering process