According to the World Health Organization, cancer is a leading cause of death in countries all over the world. In 2012, over 14 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer. In addition, these rates are only expected to rise, as current projections estimate an increase of 68 per cent by 2030. Here in Canada, an average of 221 people die every day from cancer.
Although there are efficient means of treatment which restrict and limit new growth, there is no current cure or completely preventative therapy. New research, however, indicates a possible breakthrough involving a universal vaccine.
What to Know About Cancer and Its Treatment
Cancer, at its most basic description, is the abnormal and unchecked growth of cells caused by mutations in DNA. These cells can form tumors, which can spread, or metastasize, to many different areas of the body. This will eventually interrupt the body’s necessary functions, culminating in death.
Currently, there is no one universal treatment for cancer because every cell has a different way of mutating and spreading. In other words, it is as if a thousand people were sick with a thousand different illnesses, and each one required different medicine to be cured. Additionally, there are over 100 varieties of cancer which can affect the human body, and the exact causes of some of these cancers are unknown and widely debated among many in pharmaceutical clinical research.
Currently, the most prevalent medication for cancer is chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemicals to attack and diminish rogue cancer cells, but this often comes at the cost of damaging the human immune system.
Emerging Pharmaceutical Clinical Research Indicates a Possible Solution
Recently, a clinical research trial at Arizona State University, headed by Stephen Johnston, has aimed to create a vaccine which would help the immune system isolate and destroy mutated cells before they have a chance to cause wider problems. Johnston believes that by focusing on RNA instead of DNA, the results will be more effective at reducing the development of cancerous cells. Johnston’s proposal is not to attack cancer by targeting each diseased cell, but rather to address the information that causes a damaged cell to be replicated.
What Students in a Clinical Research Program Need to Know about the Vaccine Trial
The development and implementation of a working vaccine naturally requires time and funding, as well as the expertise of graduates from a clinical research program. Due to the unpredictable nature of cancer and its growth, there are many possibilities and solutions.
One of the unique aspects of Johnston’s trial is that the research team seeks to develop a vaccine which will universally affect all cancer types—this differs from various preventative cancer vaccines which already exist, but target only specific types of cancer. The research into the possible vaccine has also instigated the largest interventional canine trial ever in scientific research, as 800 dogs are evaluated over the course of five years, with half being randomly administered the vaccine, and half a placebo.
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More information is available at the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS).