About cancer research

The human body consists of trillions of cells, all of which are growing, dividing and dying every day. Our bodies keep normal cells under very strict control. They are told when to grow, when to divide and when to die.

Cells become cancer cells when they get out of control. Cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal cells. They also don’t die like normal cells.

With more than 200 different cell types in our bodies and so many ways in which they can change, there are thousands of different cancers.

Researchers around the world are in a race to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer and ensure that survivors live longer, better lives. But they know that this race is a marathon, not a sprint. Cancer research won’t stop until cancer does.

Cancer Research Areas

Basic laboratory research

So much of what we know about cancer comes from the lab. Basic research is the foundation on which our understanding of cancer is set. It involves unravelling how normal cells in the body work, and finding out how cancer cells differ from normal cells.

Basic research can involve the study of organisms that are less complex than humans as well as models of cancer such as cells that once came from a tumour that can be grown in the laboratory.

Translational research

After extensive research in the lab to improve our understanding of cancer we can then begin to translate these findings into potential patient-focussed treatments.

For example, if a researcher discovers a characteristic which they believe changes a normal cell into a cancer cell, they can use translational research to try and develop a drug to stop this characteristic from happening.

In modern cancer research this is often the point where new treatments targeted at specific cancers are developed and refined through testing on cells, tissue, or other patient samples.

Clinical trials

Once researchers are happy that they have developed a treatment that could potentially have an effect on cancer cells they need to carry out a clinical trial.

Clinical trials are medical research studies with individuals to test whether different treatments are safe and how well they work.

This is the stage where the general public gets an opportunity to become part of the research process. 

Learn more about clinical trials.