What kinds of cancer research have been done in space? (Intermediate)

Can cancer be cured in orbit? I've heard that different minerals and substances have been created while in orbit?

Unfortunately, being in space is not a cure for cancer - if anything it may weaken the human body, because a person's immune system can't function as efficiently when in space. Also, no cure for cancer has been found in space.

However, many technologies developed in space or through the space program have resulted in major breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. The low-gravity environment in orbit allows for unique studies of human cells and the human body. Exposure to increased radiation in space also allows scientists to study how cancer risk is affected by radiation exposure and other factors such as diet and exercise. Also, materials and machines developed through the space program are often developed and used for biomedical purposes, for example, synthetic bone and ligament materials. NASA funds many research programs that, both in orbit, and on the ground, work steadily towards understanding the causes of cancer and using technologies to fight it. NASA has also teamed up with the National Cancer Institute to develop nanotechnology that can be used within the human body. Here are links to some examples of major cancer breakthroughs enabled by NASA and by research conducted in space:

Brain cancer surgery done using a LED developed through the space shuttle program

Breast cancer research

Cancer cells sent to space

Fighting cancer with microgravity research

Cancer targeted treatments from Space Station discoveries

Cancer treatment delivery

Running the race to cure cancer from space

NASA also keeps a specific website on its contributions to cancer research.

Page last updated on June 22, 2015.

About the Author

Cathy Jordan

Cathy got her Bachelors degree from Cornell in May 2003 and her Masters of Education in May 2005. She did research studying the wind patterns on Jupiter while at Cornell. She is now an 8th grade Earth Sciences teacher in Natick, MA.

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