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Special Report: 10 Promising Treatments for World's Biggest Health Threats

Cutting-edge pharmaceuticals now being tested could revolutionize the fight against cancer, Alzheimer's, HIV, diabetes, nicotine addiction and other devastating diseases



¿ Matthias Kulka/zefa/Corbis

Treatments for diabetes, smoking, Alzheimer's disease and lung cancer are just a few of the potentially lifesaving cures Scientific American has chosen to highlight in this year's roundup of drugs you've never heard of, despite their potentially huge impact on global health.

These 10 treatments, all of which could significantly impact global health and wellness, are currently running the last gauntlet a pharmaceutical must run before it becomes available to the public--the clinical trial. During this trial researchers test the drug on humans, carefully observing its side effects as well as its overall effectiveness.

All of the following substances have already passed phase I safety trials and are proceeding into phase II or III efficacy and toxicity trials. (One caveat: any therapy in development runs a risk of failure, even after passing phase III.)

A number of these trials represent completely novel classes of therapy, such as employing fragments of RNA that interfere with problem genes or developing vaccines meant to quell drug addiction.

Some of this year's candidates target the usual rogues' gallery of killers, such as malaria, lung cancer and HIV.

Many of the disorders targeted by the following treatments are becoming increasingly widespread. These disorders include diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects will someday afflict one in three children born today; Alzheimer's, which has become more common as life expectancy has increased; and the dengue viruses, which are causing larger and more frequent epidemics, especially in the tropics.

One of this year's drugs even has the potential to serve as a safer replacement for the painkiller Vioxx.

Alzheimer's Disease--Alzhemed

A new drug targeting the root of this debilitating degenerative disease could be the vanguard of a novel class of treatments

Dengue--Live attenuated 17D yellow fever and dengue chimera

A disease afflicting half a million people annually requires a special kind of vaccine

Diabetes--Technosphere Insulin System

Inhalable insulin could help diabetics regulate blood sugar to an unprecedented degree

Hepatitis C--E1E2/MF59

The world's first preventative vaccine against Hepatitis C could curb the spread of the disease that killed Allen Ginsberg and thousands of others

Arthritis--Naproxcinod

Potential replacement for Vioxx combines the powers of nitroglycerin with those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Lung Cancer--Stimuvax

New vaccine against the deadliest of all cancers teaches the body to defend itself while avoiding the side effects of more traditional therapies

Malaria--RTS,S/AS02A

Killing more than two million people, mostly children, every year, this disease will finally face the first ever commercially available vaccine designed to fight it

Smoking--NicVAX

Immunizing the body against nicotine might be just what smokers need to quit for good

Vision Loss--Bevasiranib

First a Nobel Prize, and now a potentially viable treatment: the world's first interfering RNA drug could be the first of many

HIV--HPTN 046 and Nevirapine

Preventing the half-million cases of mother to child transmission of HIV every year would go a long way to turning the tide of an epidemic
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