Tag Archives: basic science

Canada’s Research Funding Also Facing Cut Backs

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

In a recent op-ed published in the Toronto Star Dr. Alan Leshner, Research!America board member, writes that federal deficits in the United States and Canada “pose a significant threat” to basic research.

He notes that “some policy-makers seem to value near-term, industry-focused science more highly.” But adds that basic science has larger potential payoffs than applied research. “The most well-known example of life-changing basic research is of course Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental 1928 discovery of a mould (penicillin) that seemed to repel bacteria. German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s 19th century efforts to pass cathode rays through glass now allows doctors to see inside the human body without surgery, using X-rays. More recently, a $250,000 study on “the sex life of the screwworm” — a title that prompted the late U.S. senator William Proxmire to mock efforts to better understand a lethal livestock pest — has so far saved the U.S. cattle industry more than $20 billion.” Continue reading →

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Researchers achieve groundbreaking results with cell therapy to treat acute leukemia

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.