For NASA, a cancer space odyssey

NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station are using microgravity, or weightlessness, to unlock cancer’s secrets.

Why a space lab? Scientists are using the atmosphere on board where cells age faster in the absence of gravity to conduct experiments that could speed treatment development.

“We’re right on the cusp of some major new developments,” says NASA Administrator and former Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). “They’ve got a full-time laboratory with all of the instruments and dedicated crew time.”

Today’s space station researchers include the biotech startup MicroQuin and Bristol Myers Squibb, as well as Merck, whose cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda has emerged as a blueprint of where space-based cancer research is heading.

Merck’s work on the space station suggests the potential to revolutionize the experience of getting a Keytruda treatment. Instead of being attached to an IV in the hospital, a patient could get a shot in a doctor’s office.