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clinical study

Liquid Biopsy Schematic

Caption: Liquid biopsy. Tumor cells shed protein and DNA into bloodstream for laboratory analysis and early cancer detection.

Early detection usually offers the best chance to beat cancer. Unfortunately, many tumors aren’t caught until they’ve grown relatively large and spread to other parts of the body. That’s why researchers have worked so tirelessly to develop new and more effective ways of screening for cancer as early as possible. One innovative approach, called “liquid biopsy,” screens for specific molecules that tumors release into the bloodstream.

Recently, an NIH-funded research team reported some encouraging results using a “universal” liquid biopsy called CancerSEEK [1]. By analyzing samples of a person’s blood for eight proteins and segments of 16 genes, CancerSEEK was able to detect most cases of eight different kinds of cancer, including some highly lethal forms—such as pancreatic, ovarian, and liver—that currently lack screening tests.

In a study of 1,005 people known to have one of eight early-stage tumor types, CancerSEEK detected the cancer in blood about 70 percent of the time, which is among the best performances to date for a blood test. Importantly, when CancerSEEK was performed on 812 healthy people without cancer, the test rarely delivered a false-positive result. The test can also be run relatively cheaply, at an estimated cost of less than $500.

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Malaria has confounded biomedical researchers for decades because it’s been impossible so far to develop a vaccine that offers a high level of protection. But, thanks to a different approach to vaccine design and delivery, there’s hope that we may have finally turned the corner in the fight against this mosquito-borne health threat. (more…)

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Map of the U.S. indicating number of active clinical trials by state

Map of clinical trials in the U.S. as of Feb. 7, 2013
Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

NIH conducts clinical research studies for many diseases and conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergy and infectious diseases, and neurological disorders. What’s more, this work is being carried out in every state of the nation, as you can see from this interactive map showing clinical studies supported by NIH and others.

Before you start exploring this map, let’s take a moment to review the basics. A clinical study involves research using human volunteers that is intended to add to medical knowledge. One common type of clinical study, called a clinical research trial, looks at the safety and effectiveness of new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments.

If you’re interested in taking part in a clinical study, a terrific place to start is ClinicalTrials.gov, which is a service of NIH. This searchable database lists more than 139,000 federally and privately funded clinical studies in the United States, as well as around the world. For each study, the database provides information on the purpose of the research, who may participate, where the study is being conducted, and who to call or e-mail for more details. To help you in your quest, we’ve pulled together some handy search tips, along with some real-life stories from both volunteers and researchers.

Finally, please keep in mind that ClinicalTrials.gov is just a starting point. Any information that you find there should be used conjunction with advice from your doctor or another health care professional.

Posted In: Health

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