The incidence of thyroid cancer has been rising steadily during the past few decades. Although debate continues about whether this is due to increased imaging or an actual surge in cases, there is definitely a need for new treatments. Researchers are now taking a novel approach to finding new therapies by exploring how the disease behaves in space. In particular, for the Cellbox-Thyroid study, they are utilizing the unique microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station to study the nature of cancer cells in hopes of discovering new biomarkers and target proteins that could help develop new cancer drugs. The Cellbox-Thyroid study builds on 2011 research performed in SIMBOX aboard the Sino-German Chinese Shenzhou-8 mission. Those results showed that tumors were less aggressive in a microgravity environment and that tumors grow three-dimensionally in space, according to the principal investigator. In Cellbox-Thyroid, the researchers utilized six experiment containers that fit into the NanoRacks platform and centrifuge for test runs. They then stored the samples to return to Earth where they will perform further analyses as well as compare the results to ground controls and those from the SIMBOX study. A follow-up study, dubbed Spheroids, that will operate in orbit for 2 weeks is planned for 2015.
This is especially the case when talking about human health concerns such as cancer. Researchers make use of the microgravity environment aboard the space station to seek answers to questions about the nature of cancer cells. With the Microgravity on Human Thyroid Carcinoma Cells (Cellbox-Thyroid) study, recently conducted in orbit, the hope is to reveal answers that will help in the fight against thyroid cancer.