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Different Areas of Cancer Research

The term ‘cancer research’ covers a wide range of research activities. But, in general, there are five main areas of research:

  • Basic research
  • Clinical research
  • Translational research
  • Socio-behavioural research
  • Population-oriented research

Basic Research:

Basic research (cancer biology) is the study of how cells work. Cancer researchers who carry out basic research don’t focus on finding a new treatment or developing a new drug. Instead, they seek to understand what makes cancer cells different from normal cells.

Scientists who do basic cancer research examine the molecules that cause this disease, such as proteins and DNA. They try to find out what goes wrong when cancer develops.

Clinical research:

The goal of clinical research is to develop more effective cancer treatments. Clinical researchers try new combinations and doses of existing treatments to see if they work better than standard treatments.

Clinical researchers also use the information collected from translational research to develop new cancer treatments. Sometimes they might use this information to improve standard treatments as well.

Clinical research is carried out in hospitals and usually involves cancer patients. They take part in what is known as a clinical trial. The clinical trial tests a drug or medical procedure to see if it is a safe and beneficial treatment in one group of people and compares it with the standard treatment given to another group of people.

Many medicines and drugs work in laboratory tests. But they must be shown to be safe and effective for people before they can be approved by the regulatory authorities and prescribed by doctors.

Translational research:

Translational research targets drug discovery and development. Researchers take discoveries made in the laboratory and shape them into potential new treatments or diagnostic tests that, in time, could help cancer patients. Translational research applies the knowledge gained from research to cancer biology.

This kind of research is usually carried out in a laboratory. The results from translational studies can tell researchers if a new treatment or test should be tried on people.

Socio-behavioural and population-oriented research:

Behavioural and population research aims to identify the things that influence our chances, or risk, of getting cancer. If we understand what increases our risk of developing cancer, we should be able to find ways to reduce the risk and prevent cancers from occurring.

Behavioural research looks at how our behaviour can affect our chances of getting cancer. It tries to find out why people behave the way they do, why they sometimes behave in unhealthy ways and what motivates them to adopt more healthy behaviours.

Population research looks at how cancer affects the general population and aims to identify its causes. This type of research uses large-scale studies that involve thousands of people, looking for patterns (trends) in the incidence of different cancers. The large number of people involved makes it easier to identify the factors that are associated with increased cancer incidence.

By combining behavioural and population research we can develop strategies for preventing cancer and promoting good health. Tobacco use, cancer screening, dietary behaviour, and sun protection are some areas that have been investigated by these researchers.

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