A group of scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) — a Research!America member — recently announced that it had successfully generated cloned embryonic stem cells from skin cells of an adult and an unfertilized human egg. Like other stem cell technologies, these cloned stem cells may one day be used for therapeutic purposes — replacing failed organs or damaged nerves.
Research into this area had been ongoing for several years; until now, scientists’ efforts were unsuccessful. Continue reading →
Large medical centers across the U.S. are investing in a burgeoning area of healthcare for their cancer patients: “precision medicine.” Substantial investments are being made to not only build new laboratory facilities and purchase research equipment, but also to staff these new facilities. Universities like Weill Cornell Medical College, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University are joining clinical centers like Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in building an infrastructure for personalized medicine with the hope of playing a bigger role in the development of new drugs. Continue reading →
The much-contested question of whether or not a gene can be patented is under judicial scrutiny once again. The U.S. Supreme Court listened to oral arguments today regarding Myriad Genetic’s patent of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which have been linked to increased cancer risk in both women and men. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging this patent on behalf of a group of researchers, medical groups and patients. The timing of the hearing is rather serendipitous, just one day after the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project, a jointly funded venture from the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, has opened the door to a wide array of genetic tests and targeted interventions. Continue reading →
Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a Research!America member, have successfully treated a handful of leukemia patients with cutting-edge immune cell therapy. This therapy, similar to previous trials at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Cancer Institute, modifies the patient’s immune cells so that they recognize and kill the cancer cells. This experimental therapy provides a new avenue of treatment for patients who have undergone all of the traditional treatments like chemotherapy without achieving remission of the cancer. Read more about this exciting breakthrough in this New York Times article.
The study’s senior author, Michael Sadelain, MD, PhD, expressed his excitement over the results.
“We’re creating living drugs,” Sadelain said in the article. “It’s an exciting story that’s just beginning.”
This study, like so many other major breakthroughs in medicine, was made possible by funding from NCI. This particular immunotherapy has been in development and testing for more than a decade. Articles describing the foundational research for this month’s breakthrough cite financial support from the National Institutes of Health (Brentjens et al, Nature Medicine, March 2003) and the basic scientific principles used to safely modify human immune cells had to be well established before the 2003 experiments could begin. Investments in basic research are necessary to drive medical progress. It is hard to argue with the value of those investments when you read the stories of the patients whose lives were saved by this treatment.
February 26, 2013
The Board of Directors of Research!America joins me in extending our deepest condolences to Dr. C. Everett Koop’s family, friends and colleagues as we mourn the passing of a visionary leader and champion of medical research. Dr. Koop was well-respected and revered by scientists, the public health community and the public at large, thanks to his unceasing commitment to strengthening government support for research to address health threats. As U.S. Surgeon General, he was known as “America’s Family Doctor.” Notably, by promoting fitness and raising awareness of disease prevention and immunization, he encouraged individuals to take an active role in their health. Koop’s innovative thinking saved lives and improved quality of life for many Americans as he sounded the alarm on the deadly health effects of smoking and the most challenging health issues of our time, making an extraordinary commitment to raising awareness about, and determination to combat, HIV/AIDS. After serving two terms as Surgeon General, Dr. Koop was named honorary director of Research!America. In 1994, he partnered with us to create a widely viewed national public service campaign in support of medical research. Nearly 20 years later, the campaign is still recognized for its impactful message that “insufficient medical research can be hazardous to your health.” His leadership served to elevate the importance of research and public health in our national conversation with unparalleled success. His legacy is second to none.
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23andMe — the company helping individuals interpret their own DNA — is hosting a Capitol Hill briefing September 13 that will focus on the role of crowd-sourcing as it relates to the future of research on Parkinson’s disease.
The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the House Visitors Center, Room 201.
Speakers include Maryum Ali, daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and a Parkinson’s activist; former astronaut Rich Clifford, a Parkinson’s activist and patient; and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe.
Crowd-sourcing has proven to be a successful method of researching Parkinson’s; 23andMe discovered two new genes associated with Parkinson’s using just this approach. It and other groups, like the Ali family and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, have also made significant gains in research using crowd-sourcing. And with the current burden of Parkinson’s — 500,000 people diagnosed, a total cost to the U.S. of more than $6 billion per year — only expected to increase as Baby Boomers age, any advances in research on Parkinson’s is welcome.
To learn more about the event or to RSVP, contact Darren Willcox at DW@WStrategies.com.
A recent editorial in The Washington Times by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and John C. Reed, MD, PhD, chief executive officer of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, makes a parallel between President John F. Kennedy’s call for a lunar mission in 1962 and the future of medical research’s battle against cancer.
In seven years, the authors note, America went from Kennedy’s proclamation to Neil Armstrong stepping out of the lunar module. (The op-ed ran two days before the legendary astronaut’s death.)
Because of our understanding of cancer and the treatments we now have for it, the authors write, we are in a better position to conquer cancer than the space program in 1962. Moreover, they write, we can get there because of four key components:
- Technology: Advances in DNA sequencing will allow treatments personalized to mutations in the cancer, instead of treating it based on the organ it’s affecting.
- Food and Drug Administration reform: The authors argue for better and more efficient methods of evaluating drugs. The recently passed FDA Reform Act is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, they write.
- Tax reform: In their words, “Few people realize the impact taxes have on investment. We must reform our tax code to encourage investment by the high-tech and life-science industry in research. Along with critically important National Institutes of Health funding, private-sector investment will drive research integral to finding a cure.”
“At a time when Washington finds it difficult to act on bipartisan legislation, the fight against cancer gives us something we can agree to collaborate on rather than fight over,” they write. “Now is the time for President [Barack] Obama to work with the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader and take bold action to combat the cancer challenge.”
Of course, we hope that such bold action happens sooner rather than later. And likely voters think that too: Our most recent polling shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans think the new president should announce initiatives promoting medical progress during his first 100 days in office.