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May is National Cancer Research Month!

Research has played a powerful role in developing new understandings of how and why different cancers develop, which has led to breakthroughs in prevention, screening and diagnostic tools, and treatment. Although cancer research priorities often vary by the type of cancer being studied, there are some key things that are consistent across different types of cancer research. Here are 5 things to know about cancer research:

1. There are 3 major types of cancer research.

While many of us are most familiar with clinical research, cancer research is typically divided between three major research types: basic, translational, and clinical. Basic research is the study of cells, molecules, and genes, which is conducted in a lab. Like its name implies, translational research looks to translate basic research findings into clinically useful interventions. This is often referred to as “bench to bedside.” Clinical research evaluates the impact of novel treatments and procedures in patients, as well as evaluating tissues and other samples from groups of patients.1

Additionally, population-based cancer research analyzes the causes, patterns, and trends in cancer risk and occurrence in different populations. This type of research is usually conducted by scientists who are trained in epidemiology.1

2. Funding for cancer research comes from multiple sources.

Cancer research studies can be funded by multiple different sources. These sources include federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, pharmaceutical companies, academic medical centers, and non-profit organizations. The National Cancer Institue, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, is the largest funder of cancer research in the world.2

3. Institutional review boards protect the rights and wellbeing of human participants.

All biomedical research studies involving human subjects are required to be reviewed, approved, and periodically monitored by an institutional review board (IRB). The IRB typically includes physicians, researchers, and community members, including patient advocates.3

Key tasks of the IRB involve reviewing study protocols and study documents to ensure equitable selection and participation of research participants, evaluate consent documents to make sure participants are made aware of possible risks and benefits, and make certain that the privacy and confidentiality of participants and their data is maintained. Most importantly, the IRB is responsible for ensuring that studies are conducted in an ethical manner and that the rights, safety, and best interest of the participants are protected.3

4. Cancer research is ushering in a new generation of targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

Targeted therapies are cancer treatments that stop or slow the spread of cancer by interfering with specific areas of cancer cells that are involved in the cell’s growth and spread. Cancer research seeks to identify the most appropriate cellular targets for different types of cancer. Chemotherapy acts on rapidly dividing cancerous and non-cancerous cells, whereas targeted therapies specifically target cancer cells.4

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that attempts to boost the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Research has helped to further our understanding of the interaction between cancer and the body’s immune system and has led to the development of approved immunotherapies for certain kinds of cancers.5 Many other targeted therapies and immunotherapies are currently being developed and studied through clinical trials.

5. Patient advocates have an instrumental role in furthering cancer research.

Individuals with cancer and their loved ones are involved in cancer research on multiple levels. Patient advocates lobby Congress to increase cancer research funding and participate in fundraising efforts for research-funding non-profit organizations. Advocates also serve on IRBs and patient panels and advisory boards, helping to share the patient perspective and priorities with cancer researchers.6

Have you participated in cancer research? Share your experience with the community!

  1. What Is Cancer Research? American Association for Cancer Research. Available at Accessed 3/20/19.
  2. NCI's Role in Cancer Research. National Cancer Institute. Available at Accessed 3/20/19.
  3. Chapter 2 - Purpose of the Human Research Protection Office and Institutional Review Board. University of Pittsburgh Human Research Protection Office (HRPO). Available at Accessed 03/25/19.
  4. Targeted Cancer Therapies. National Cancer Institute. Available at Accessed 3/15/19.
  5. Immunotherapy. National Cancer Institute. Available at Accessed 3/25/19.
  6. How Patient Advocates Help Cancer Research: An Expert Q&A. Available at Accessed 3/25/19.


  • Len Smith moderator
    2 months ago

    Kenneth, having had a prostatectomy 6 years ago and then radiation 4 years ago, I’m very happy to be alive and well. Not sure what you mean by retro ejaculations, but when I was on finasteride for my BPH (it did miracles for my BPH), many of my ejaculations went backwards into my bladder. The sensation was just the same as a normal ejaculation, and having had a vasectomy 20 years before, I could care less where the semen went. And now, after my prostatectomy, it took me about 3 ejaculations to psychologically accept no semen coming out. But I guarantee you, sensation wise, there’s no difference except my orgasms last 30 to 40 seconds (the average male orgasm is 7 seconds). And I can guarantee you that having had Gleason 9 cancer, if left untreated, I would be having zero ejaculations today because I would have died 3 or so years ago just like my dad did with cancer throughout his bones. We all make life choices, and I hope beyond hope that you never get prostate cancer because with no treatment, it won’t be pretty.

  • kenneth1955
    2 months ago

    I give to research and I hope they come up with something better.
    Because I would not let any doctor do anything that they have now out there for prostate cancer.

    My concerns may be different then a lot out there but I am not the only one that have theses concerns.

    All of the procedures out there to get rid of prostate cancer are life changing They will effect your quality of life. All procedure will have some effect on erectile dysfunction but there is no mention of retro ejaculation.

    This is a function and I feel it is just as important to keep as getting rid of the cancer. We should not have to pick one or the other. If you have side effects after doctors give you a pill or a ring or even a shot for ED.

    This will make men very depressed. Sometimes talking with someone may help but then there are the other ones that feel they are not men any more and what to end it.

    I could go on but talking bout this is getting be depressed let just hope in the near future that thing’s will get better for us.

    God bless you all…….

  • Len Smith moderator
    2 months ago

    Very good article! But all the research is useless for people who don’t get checked REGULARLY for cancer, and we guys have a huge advantage for PCa as it is so easy to initiate checkups with the PSA. Is the PSA perfect? Not quite, but it is light years ahead of what was available before the 1990’s. (Yes, I know the PSA was approved by the FDA In 1987, but it didn’t start being widely used until the 1990’s). I hear of guys who either won’t get their PSA checked, or if they do, they won’t get a biopsy. (I know a guy with a PSA of 20 who refuses to get a biopsy. “I’m treating it holistically” he keeps telling me). I’ve done a lot holistically, such as curing macular degeneration which doesn’t have a medical alternative, but when it comes to cancer of any sort, I want the latest and best our healthcare system has to offer. As I approach my 4th anniversary of my last positive PSA next month, I’m so thankful for what modern medicine has done to not only save my life, but to allow me to continue to have a great quality of life. Len Smith Moderator PS to our lady readers—a few women have approached me to ask how difficult the PSA test is because their husbands have told them it’s a horrific test. Here’s how horrific it isn’t—a needle is inserted in one of our veins to draw blood for whatever (in my case it’s usually 2 or 3 things, one of which is often cholesterol). And the supposedly horrific thing that’s then done is to collect another vial of blood thru the same needle for our PSA. Bloodwork doesn’t get any easier than that.

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