Tomorrow's pills will cure everything from cancer to aging. iStockphoto

Cancer Vaccine

Rather than designing a drug to cure cancer, current research focuses on developing drugs to help the body fight cancer itself. Cancer vaccines would boost the body’s own natural immune response so that naturally produced antibodies would attack the cancer cells and cure the disease. Currently, researchers have only tested the vaccine with melanoma [left], and the treatment still requires that the cancer fighting immune cells are altered in the lab and then returned to the body. However, once researchers figure out how to change the immune cells in vivo, it would only take a pill or a shot to get the body killing cancer for itself.

Male Birth Control Pill

With Viagra topping the charts as the highest selling drug of all time, it’s obvious that in the pharmaceutical world, as in the rest of the world, sex sells. With that established, a male birth control pill could be the brass ring of the pharmaceutical world. Yet, despite recent advances in both hormone related pills that affect sperm production and medication that prevents ejaculation, the pill remains elusive. Furthermore, the endeavor has been plagued both by technical problems, like a high non-response rate, and social problems: some believe men will just tell women they are on the pill without actually taking it.

Anti-Addiction Pill

Now that advances in understanding the neuroscience of addiction have shown alcoholism and drug abuse to be more of a disease than a personal weakness, drug companies are looking for a way to treat addiction as pathology like any other. While some progress has been made treating alcoholism and opiate addiction specifically, researchers hope to develop a pill that treats all addictive impulses, whether for a particular substance of an activity like gambling or sex. Research has focused on dealing with the neurotransmitter dopamine [left] and its natural inhibitor, GABA. Dopamine is one of the chemicals that conveys pleasure, and doctors hope that by inhibiting dopamine, they can take the pleasure out of the addicted behavior, thus ending it.

Exercise Pill

Why spend the time and money on a gym membership when you can just pop a pill? An obvious future bestseller (and possibly the final fulfillment of the American dream), the pill that mimics exercise has been under development for some time. Developed at the Salk Institute in California, the pill caused sedentary mice to burn fat no matter how lazy they were. This pill would be for more than vanity, though, as obesity has grown into one of America’s biggest public health problems. A pill like this could both help the healthcare system and get you the six pack abs you want without having to step foot in a gym.

Anti-Aging Pill

It used to be that if you wanted to stay young forever you’d either have to hide a painting of yourself in attic or putz around Florida looking for a fountain. Now, clinical trials are underway on a pill that halts or even reverses the signs of aging. Based on a chemical in wine called resveratrol, the pills activate the gene believe to be responsible for the anti-aging affects associated with calorie restriction diets. Stimulation of the gene has been shown to increase the life of fruit flies and lab rats, and there is hope that the pill can have the same affect in humans.

Smart Pill

Can’t remember where you left your keys? Well, medicine is trying to make sure you never forget again. Researchers are working on a new class of medicine that boosts the neurotransmitters responsible for forming long-term memory. Originally designed to help Alzheimer’s patients and the mentally disabled, some fear that these pills will turn into the academic equivalent of steroids. With Ritalin and other anti-ADHD medications already widely abused as study aids, it would be a natural step for students to take these pills by the handful every finals week. _At left: Senile plaques in the brain of an Alzeheimer’s patient.