According to worldwide statistics, cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide with over 14 million new cases diagnosed each year. In 2012 there were over 8 million deaths as a result of cancer. This number is set to rise and rise each year with a projected 24 million new cases set to be diagnosed by the year 2035 (World Cancer Research Fund International).
Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled division and growth of abnormal cells in the body. This uncontrolled production creates a growth or lump of unhealthy cells which is called a tumour. Tumours can be either malignant or benign. Malignant tumours grow and invade into nearby cells and can spread throughout the body. It is these malignant tumours that we call cancer.
How does cancer grow?
Our body is made up of billions of cells, all serving different functions. Each cell is regulated and run by a nucleic structure called DNA. When the DNA of a cell becomes damaged or broken, the affected cell loses functionality. Normally, our body can repair these damages through natural processes. Over time, repeated damage to a cell might not be repairable and this cell grows and infects neighbouring cells creating a tumour.
What makes cancer so dangerous?
Normal, healthy cells in the body perform very specific functions. They work together to carry out a huge variety of different tasks such as creating organs, transporting oxygen and even making new cells. Tumour cells are unregulated. They are rebellious in nature and serve no functional property. They invade nearby healthy cells, in turn making them cancerous and spreading across the cellular landscape. If left unchecked tumours invade into healthy structures damaging organs and impeding function.
The importance of clinical research
Clinical research helps scientists understand cancer at a fundamental level. It helps us understand how cancer develops, how it spreads, how we can treat it and more importantly; how we can prevent it. Thanks to clinical research we now know many of the leading causes of cancer, including smoking, alcohol abuse and exposure to harmful chemicals or radiation. Clinical research has helped us develop treatments to combat cancer. Chemotherapy, biological therapies and radiation therapy have all been researched and developed in the fight against cancer. But more work is still needed. There is a lot of information still to be understood about cancer.
How can I help?
Research groups like the French cancer institute, work diligently in the fight against cancer. Their work helps us to understand the mechanism of how a cancer cell works so that we can develop diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to better diagnose and treat cancers quicker and easier. These research groups rely heavily on the generous support of the public so please donate online if you would like to support the French cancer foundation.
Clinical research is hugely important in the fight against cancer. Public funding supports clinical trials to help us understand cancer and develop ways to better diagnose the disease, treat it and someday hopefully eliminate it.