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Promise and Progress - Science, Philanthropy and Industry

Reprogramming Cancer Cells - The Story of Epigenetics
Issue No. 1

Science, Philanthropy and Industry

By: William Nelson
Date: July 16, 2014

The Model for 21st Century Cancer Medicine


bill nelson
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Director William Nelson.

From the Director

Science, Philanthropy and Industry:  The Model for 21st Century Cancer Medicine

It has been fascinating to see how cancer genetics, epigenetics, and immunology conspire to support cancer development. This new understanding has been revealed because of the depth of expertise Kimmel Cancer Center investigators have as longstanding leaders in each of these fields.

I can remember a time when these now-heralded disciplines were scrutinized, particularly epigenetics.  Although many researchers discounted its value, our team of talented scientists and clinicians—supported by a university system that reveres ingenuity and inventiveness—proved its validity. Our scientists overcame significant obstacles to make the connections and reveal a complex interplay that no one anticipated but that is vitally important to how cancer cells behave.

This collaborative research, unmatched at any other institution, has now resulted in some of the most promising clinical advances in recent years. 

This success is an example of a unique partnership of science, industry, and philanthropy.  At a time when so many did not see the wisdom in the this path of study, private philanthropy made it possible for our investigators to pursue leads. The Kimmel Scholars program, the Clayton Fund, the Hodson Trust, the Commonwealth Foundation, Ludwig Cancer Research, Stand Up To Cancer, and so many more provided the critical support that allowed this research to happen

Great ideas inspire others, and now everyone working on cancer is thinking about genetics, epigenetics, and immunology, but I would argue that no place has the concentration of talent and ardor as the Kimmel Cancer Center. Cancer science becoming cancer medicine is the core value that influences everything we do here.    To bridge the laboratory and the bedside, our investigators and clinicians have cleverly developed innovative ways to analyze and quantify these molecular contributors to cancer development and growth and developed precise platforms to transfer their discoveries to patient care. This is where we excel and what sets us apart.

The opportunity to expand our collaborations and partnerships has never been greater. Discoveries in cancer genetics, epigenetics, and immunology have truly launched an industry. Our scientists have identified the molecular targets and ways to interfere with these targets to impede cancer. Pharmaceutical companies have worked with our experts to develop drugs that hit these targets, and funders like Stand Up To Cancer are helping move these new therapies to patients. All three components were necessary to get us where we are today, creating the model for how 21st century cancer science and medicine is done.

William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D
Marion I. Knott Professor and Director
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

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