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Monday, January 6, 2014

Cancer Funding Boost

One of the casualties of the budget battles being waged in Washington has been Federal funding for cancer research.  Funding has been slashed for a number of research programs, and there is little hope for year-to-year continuity from our disfunctional government to support important research initiatives.

I was heartened to read in today's Boston Globe that the Daniel P. Ludwig Trust has announced a gift of over half a billion dollars to six cancer research organizations in the country.  Two of them, Harvard Medical School and MIT, have received $90 million each to sustain cancer research over the next several years.  Here is a link to the article:  harvard-mit-cancer-research-centers-receive-grants.

As the article states, "The gifts are timely for scientific and political reasons. Advances in understanding cancer at a molecular level have given scientists and physicians powerful insights that are helping them develop better and more precise ways to diagnose, treat, and monitor cancers. The money, which will be added to the centers’ endowments and should provide each institution a steady stream of roughly $4 million to $5 million a year, also arrives at a moment when federal funding for biomedical research has been cut and become increasingly uncertain, diverting many scientists’ attention toward trying to raise money to keep their labs afloat."

Each of these centers will have a different research focus.  Harvard (which includes Dana Farber), will draw on its network of hospitals and emphasize translating basic research advances into the clinic.  The Harvard center will also focus on providing a deeper understanding of the causes of therapy resistance.

Quoting from the article, "At MIT, biologists and engineers will probe metastasis, the process by which cancers spread throughout the body, which accounts for the vast majority of deaths from the disease. Instead of studying one particular type of cancer, scientists at the center will focus on trying to figure out the series of molecular events that cause cancers of all kinds to become aggressive and invasive."

"The other centers will focus on cancer stem cells that may seed tumor growth, therapies that stimulate the body’s immune system to defeat cancer, how to interfere with the spread of cancer, and the use of genomics to detect and prevent cancer."

This is good news!  These are exactly the areas of current research that need to be actively pursued to eventually conquer this "Emperor of All Maladies".  While these funds aren't specifically allocated to Multiple Myeloma research, recent studies have shown that there are some common features to many cancers, and developments against one type may have crossover benefits to other types. 

I expect that Ken Anderson and Paul Richardson will snarf up some of this new funding to continue and expand their MM research at the Farber, both in the lab and in the clinic.  I'm optimistic that we will see some further advances in the fight against MM sooner rather than later.

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