Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs in 2011

2011 was an exciting time for the medical industry, with thousands of scientific breakthroughs bringing hope to patients and health experts across the world. Here, we give you our top 10 weird and wonderful medical developments of 2011:

10. Squalamine

Virus killer found in sharks

In September it was reported that a new compound found in dogfish sharks’ tissue could soon be trialled as a treatment for viruses in humans. Diseases like dengue, yellow fever and hepatitis B, C and D could be stopped in their tracks by the revolutionary treatment ( On a side note: hugging sharks has dangerous side effects

9. Curcumin

Spice with cancer reducing properties

November saw curcumin, a spice commonly found in Middle Eastern recipes, being hailed for its cancer-reducing effects. UNM researchers found that a synthetic version of curcumin, the substance which gives turmeric its hallmark yellow coloring, inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells.

8. Bionic Lens

Projecting medical information in front of your eyes

A new generation of contact lenses is being developed by researchers at Washington University, which could one day project up-to-date medical information in front of the wearer’s eyes. The scientists envisage hundreds more pixels could be embedded in the flexible lens to produce complex holographic images.

7. Cancer Drug Cures CFS

Chronic Fatique Syndrome (CFS) cured by cancer drug

October saw hope for over 1 million people in the U.S., 250,000 people in the UK, and other people all over the world who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. A small Norwegian clinical trial discovered that cancer drug Rituximab relieves the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and can even eradicate the condition completely.

6. IBS Smart Pill

Smart pill for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Also in October, doctors at the Princess Grace Hospital in London became the first to use a new ‘smart pill’ to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The new SmartPill GI Monitoring System is a small capsule, which delivers accurate and detailed information about the gut. After swallowing the capsule it travels through the system, and analyses pressure, temperature, acidity, and the rate at which food moves along the colon.

5. Cancer Gene Test

Scientists in the US have found a way to screen cancer patients for a wide range of cancer-causing genetic mutations. This method could soon be used in routine clinical practise, leading to the development of targeted cancer treatments. The clinical test called SNaPshot can test for over 50 well-known mutation sites in 14 key cancer genes.

4. Alzheimer’s Brain Scan

Brain scanning for Alzheimer’s disease

In November a revolutionary brain-scanning technique for Alzheimer’s disease entered the final stages of a clinical trial, leading to hopes that patients could have access to it by the end of 2012. The test makes an earlier diagnosis possible for the first time, increasing the quality and even the length of a patient’s life.

3. Yervoy

Revolutionary skin cancer drug

A drug which increases the chance of surviving the deadliest type of skin cancer was licensed for use in Britain last summer. The new drug is the first advance in treating the disease since the 1970’s.

2. Glowing Brain Tumors

Last year, an experimental technique to make brain tumors glow began testing in UK trials, and could soon be used to aid surgeons across the country.

Participants will receive a treatment called 5-amino-levulinic acid, which makes the tumor glow under UV light during surgery. The glowing edges will enable surgeons to remove it more accurately. A drug soaked wafer will then be placed in the remaining cavity, slowly releasing chemotherapy drugs over 4 to 6 weeks and killing any remaining cancer cells

1. Cancer Vaccine

Cancer vaccine on the market by 2020

A vaccine that could prevent 70 per cent of lethal cancers was developed by scientists in 2011, with hope that it could be on the market by 2020. In tests on mice the vaccine shrunk breast tumors by 80 per cent, and researchers now hope to pilot it on people within 2 years