This post has nothing to do with cancer, and yet everything to do with why we’re committed to finding ways to beat it through scientific research.
Last night, it was announced that significant progress had been made towards a vaccine against malaria – an infectious disease that kills 800,000 worldwide every year.
This great step forward has taken billions of dollars, several decades, international coordination between many different countries, and, above all, hundreds of thousands of hours of hard graft by campaigners, scientists, doctors, nurses and ordinary people, all united in working towards a common goal.
Although final results, safety tests and regulatory approval are still not guaranteed, and are a few years away even if everything goes smoothly, the scale of the potential achievement is something to be hugely cheered by.
Obviously, beating cancer – a group of over 200 different complex diseases caused when our own cells go wrong – is a different challenge from preventing malaria, a single parasitic disease caused by an infectious microbe. But survival rates for some of the most common cancers have doubled since the 70s. We’ve made huge progress yet – as the survival rates for other cancers continually remind us – we have so much more to do.
Today’s news shows that when we pull together, when we go where the evidence leads us, and when we properly fund, resource and coordinate research into the diseases that affect us, we can, together, achieve great things.
So we say three cheers for what the malaria research community have achieved so far, fingers crossed for the final stages of the trials, and – in these anxious and uncertain economic times – let’s all take a moment to reflect on the power of well-funded, well-directed, intelligent medical research to shape our societies for the better.
HenryImage via Wikimedia Commons
- The RTS,S Clinical Trials Partnership (2011). First Results of Phase 3 Trial of RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine in African Children New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1102287