NASA touts space research in anti-cancer fight

News Excerpt:

NASA officials announced that space experiments have made significant progress in the fight against cancer, highlighting a personal initiative of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Cancer Moonshot Project:

  • The current President of the United States initiated the "Cancer Moonshot" project back in 2016, during his tenure as the Vice President.
  • The aim of this project is to reduce the cancer death rate by 50% over the next 25 years, which would result in saving four million lives.
    • Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, after heart disease.
  • Cancer research in space began more than 40 years ago but has become revolutionary in recent years.
  • Astronauts conducted cancer research during a recent mission to the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting some 400 kilometres (250 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

Prior researches:

  • Merck, a leading pharmaceutical company, has researched the International Space Station (ISS) with Keytruda, an anti-cancer drug usually administered intravenously.
    • However, the drug's key ingredient is difficult to transform into a liquid form. To solve this issue, Merck explored the crystallisation process, which is commonly used in drug manufacturing.
  • In 2017, Merck conducted experiments in space to see if the crystals would form more rapidly than on Earth. The results showed that smaller, more uniform crystals formed in space, which could lead to a drug that can be administered by injection instead of through long and painful chemotherapy treatments.
  • Merck has identified techniques that can help it replicate these crystals' effects on Earth, enabling the company to develop a drug that can be stored at room temperature.
  • This is a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment and could potentially revolutionise how cancer patients receive treatment.

Significance of cancer research in space:

  • Space is a unique place for research. Cells age more rapidly in space, which speeds up research and enables better analysis of their molecular structures.
  • Unlike on Earth, cells in space do not clump together due to a lack of gravity, resulting in purer structures.
  • Conducting research in space can lead to the development of more effective cancer drugs.


  • In 2024, allocation is slightly more than $25 billion to NASA, which is 2% less than the previous year and significantly less than the amount requested by the White House.
  • It may take a considerable amount of time between conducting research in space and the wide availability of any drugs that may be developed as a result.
  • It is possible that political obstacles may prevent the ambitious goal of space research.


Progress in cancer research through space experiments is significant, but funding and political barriers must be overcome to make treatments available to those in need.

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