The overall success of cancer treatment in the past few decades is mainly due to the combined efforts of cancer research teams from all around the world. While the specific objectives of different organizations and cancer research institutions will naturally vary, it can be said that the ultimate goals for all scientists, researchers, and physicians involved is to further studies pertaining to the causes of cancer, to control and treat cancer better through various new therapies, and eventually, to find a cure for the disease. In addition to specialized studies in cell biology, genetics, immunotherapy, and epidemiology, cancer research teams also partake in various forms of advocacy for both funding and prevention, and encourage the improvement of research facilities and the equipment used, as well as proper training for its research teams. In general, cancer research is typically divided into three main fields of study: causes of cancer, cancer treatment, and prevention of cancer.
Research pertaining to the causes of cancer mainly encompasses gene studies, and diet, nutrition, and environmental studies, which are often grouped together with epidemiology; epidemiology is the study of disease and the various factors which cause and control disease in different populations. In terms of oncogenomics, which is basically a more cancer-specific field of gene study within organisms, cancer research mainly looks for new oncogenes, or genes that mutate into cancer cells, and tumor suppressor genes, or genes that help prevent a cancerous mutation. While a long list of such genes has already been found within the body, by identifying any new types of such genes which exist, and then further finding out what factors initially cause them to become abnormal, cancer treatment can be better targeted and diagnosis can occur faster.
Cancer treatment, on the other hand, mainly focuses on improving upon and adding to the already successful therapies available for cancer patients, as well researching alternative forms of medicine, like herbalism, to help in cancer healing. Since no conventional cancer treatment is considered completely safe, and radiation and chemotherapy especially come attached with several potential long-term effects, one of the main goals with cancer research is to target forms of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery so the damage which occurs to healthy cells is as minimal as possible. Some of the main focuses of current cancer treatment research include anti-cancer vaccines (which can also be used for prevention), gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, new methods of radiation therapy, new chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations, and resolysin drug therapy.
Since the reality of cancer is that the majority of cases are not preventable, the last primary area of cancer research, cancer prevention, is not necessarily as comprehensive as cancer treatment and its causes.There are, however, several risk factors which come attached to many of the different forms of cancer known, and so, prevention research often focuses on these very risk factors. Although certain preventative measures rely solely on a person's lifestyle, such as smoking, UV exposure, and obesity, others are somewhat more conspicuous. Vaccines, then, which boost the body's ability to ward off both infection and disease, are an important part of this field of study. In 1981, the first cancer prevention vaccine was formulated and approved; it protected against, HBV, an infection that had a high risk of liver cancer development. Others have similarly been created, such as vaccines for HPV and oncophage, which helps protect against certain kidney cancers and melanomas.