Research Funded by the National Cancer Institute to Increase By One-Third

After several years of stagnating research funds, President Obama’s stimulus package has resulted in an influx of cancer research resources. Of the $10.4 billion approved for the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will receive $1.3 billion dollars from now through 2010.

As a result of this critical funding, Dr. John Niederhuber (director for NCI) told participants at an American Association for Cancer meeting in Denver that the number of research projects funded by NCI will increase by a third.

Presently, the NCI funds the top 12 percent of all research grant applications that the organization receives. With both a larger budget and the money provided through the stimulus package, the top 25 percent of future grant applications are expected to receive funding.

Dr. Niederhuber and the rest of the National Cancer Institute are intent on maximizing the results gleaned from funded programs. In accordance with this goal, priority funding will likely be given to programs that seek to prevent cancer or diagnose it earlier. Additionally, programs that seek to reduce side effects of cancer treatment will also be emphasized.

Specifically, Dr. Niederhumber outlined three initiatives that he believes will lead to crucial new cancer discoveries. The first is The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a program that seeks to identify all genes correlated to malignant cancer tumors.

The second signature initiative will build on findings culled from the TCGA program to create new, more effective cancer-fighting drugs. The program will focus on personalized cancer care that is based on the unique characteristics and genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor.

Finally, NCI is intent on using new funds to promote the expansion and applicability of cancer research beyond the realm of fighting and treating cancer. Potential areas of science where cancer research may be helpful include thermodynamics and energy flows.

Resources:

http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE53J61O20090421

http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AACR/13811

Making Patients Sicker May Help Them Fight Cancer

It’s clear that the human immune system is really no match for cancer. At least, this has been the conventional wisdom for quite some time. Yet, scientists know the immune system fights cancer, and therefore have hypothesized that if we can optimize our body’s defense system it could potentially be able to fight tumors. In order to do this, some researchers have suggested using infection to fight cancer.

It certainly sounds risky – infecting a cancer patient with an unrelated illness. However, studies have shown that when our bodies attack pathogens, the immune system goes into overdrive. In fact, infectious diseases, especially those that cause high fever, have been shown to successfully reduce tumor size or result in full-on remission since as early as the 1890s. During that time, a physician by the name of William B. Coley used a high-fever inducing infection called erysipelas to varying degrees of success on sarcoma patients.

Unfortunately, due to the high death risk and unstable results, Dr. Coley could never adapt the practice for wide spread use. This very problem is what stands in the way of applying infection treatment to cancer patients in the modern world.

Resource:

Healing Heat: Harnessing Infection to Fight Cancer

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2009/1/healing-heat/1