Thursday, September 13, 2007

Be Bold

One of my favorite inspirational quotes is Basil King’s “Be bold and might forces will come to your aid,” though I have to admit I first heard it uttered by the strong and sympathetic mother Frances McDormand in Cameron Crowe’s movie Almost Famous.

It is a great sentiment, inspiring, and hopeful. It is the belief that a dramatic act will not be in vain, that some how, somewhere the universe will not abandon you.

So when I read in the recent Boston Globe article by Liz Kowalczyk, “NIH Funds Local Teams for Daring Research,” I was heartened to learn that somebody at NIH concurred with my thinking.

NIH has recently launched a $483 million initiative “to support daring, difficult research that has the potential to solve intractable medical problems and transform patient care.” The first round of funding has gone to nine teams nationwide, with teams receiving between $21 and $25 million.

As Kowalczyk correctly points out “NIH traditionally awards most research grants - typically about $250,000 each - to individual doctors and scientists whose work has a high likelihood of success. But hoping to turn a new page on how research is done, the agency has set aside 1.7 percent of its budget in a sort of venture capital fund for large, multidisciplinary projects that are riskier but have a huge potential payoff.”

One Boston based research group intends to explore daring and difficult research as it attempts to grow heart valves, parts of a pancreas, and a tooth. Another research group hopes to improve the drug discovery process utilizing the data from genes being linked to human diseases in an effort to identify potential treatments. These projects will bring together scientists from different fields to tackle issues that have been resistant to traditional approaches. In the case of the organ project, the team includes a cardiac surgeon, two mathematicians, computer specialists, and tissue engineers.

As Dr. Alan Krensky, Director, Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives NIH, which is funding the project says, “This is knock-your-socks off science.”

Who knows if the grant awardees are going to be successful? Who knows what new knowledge will be derived from their research? What is known is that we have to continue to think this way when it comes to medical research. We have to be willing to try approaches that haven’t been tried before. We need to be able to think differently about what will and won’t work. We need to be open to fail in our pursuit for cures, for with each failure more is learned

We need to be bold, and who knows what mighty forces will come to our aide.

Patrick Morris, Vice President of External Relations and Communications, FasterCures

Patrick joined the FasterCures in October of 2006. Patrick has over eighteen years of government and communication experience, at both the federal and local level. He has worked in both chambers on Capitol Hill, serving as Press Secretary to Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and as Communications Director to Oregon Congressman David Wu.

To read the Boston Globe please visit:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Information is Power

In Tara Parker-Pope’s Health Journal column, “Lessons Learned From Doctors, Patients, and My Mother,” in last Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal she talks about her mother’s experience with esophageal cancer. In this excellent piece, she writes, “Taking charge didn’t save my mother’s life, but it made the end of her life better, and gave all of us confidence in her care and the choices she made.” She goes on to write, “She believed, just as I do, in the power of information to save a life, even if it wasn’t her own.” We couldn’t agree more.

On the day her mother received her diagnosis, an estimated 1.3 million other Americans were diagnosed with cancer. Some are highly treatable. However, for others treatment eludes us. The road to treatment is paved by clinical trials. At FasterCures we focus on how we can educate more people about the central role clinical trials play in scientific advances. Clinical trials fuel the drug discovery process and ultimately lead to better treatments and cures. Nevertheless, the process remains a mystery to most. As a nation, we need to put more emphasis on helping the public understand the process of clinical research and innovation – experiment, evaluate, redesign, and experiment.

When patients enroll in trials, survey data shows that clinical trial participants feel overwhelmingly positive about their experience, believe they are treated with dignity and respect, and receive good to excellent care. And yet we know that fewer than 5 percent of adult cancer patients enroll in trials each year.

Clinical trials won’t be the right fit for everyone. My father found his way into a clinical trial after his leukemia diagnosis two years ago, and Ms. Parker-Pope’s quote about how the information didn’t save her mother’s life but it made the end of her life better resonated with my dad’s experience. His clinical trial participation gave meaning to his diagnosis. His access to a top-notch cancer center and experts in the field gave him hope that there was an infrastructure churning towards treatments. He was highly motivated at the prospect of participating in a clinical trial that might help him, but more importantly would help provide valuable information to finding treatments for others.

Information is power and can be empowering. My family will soon remember the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death, and we will honor his contribution to leukemia research. At FasterCures, we are working to ensure that others are offered the information about clinical trials, for everyone’s benefit. Thanks Dad.

Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures