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Promise and Progress - Director's Letter

The Time is Now: 2010-2011

Director's Letter

By: William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.
Date: November 11, 2010

From the Bench to the Bedside


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

Translational research is a term we use to describe research that will rapidly have a clinical application.  In cancer medicine, it is deemed so important, that the National Cancer Institute devotes one-third of its budget to translational science.

A translational scientist myself, I cannot think of another time in my career when we’ve had so many opportunities to use science to improve the clinical care of patients. 

As director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, I am particularly proud, because we are the indisputable leader in this area known as translational research.  We own this piece.  The genetic blueprints for cancer originated in our Center.  Of the 100 cancers studied, 90 were done at the Kimmel Cancer Center, with basic scientists working side by side with clinical scientists to uncover the cellular causes of breast, brain, colon, pancreas, and other cancers. These are the discoveries that are bringing us new ways to manage—to control—cancer.  We are truly on the precipice of something great.

This success has been fueled by the generosity of individuals, like Sidney Kimmel, groups like the Commonwealth Foundation, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, the Hodson Trust, the Flight Attendant Medical  Research Institute, the Avon Foundation, the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund, Giant/Stop and Shop,  Safeway, and so many other people, corporations, and foundations. High impact philanthropy has led us to high impact science.  Taking new ideas to the clinic is a costly proposition, and it is insufficiently funded by public grants. Private donors have made us the leaders in translational research because they have provided the funding  that has moved our discoveries to patient care.

This is our decade.  As you will read in this issue, we now understand the genetic landscape of cancer and the pathways these gene alterations use and corrupt to advance the disease.  We are gathering the technology to begin applying what we’ve learned to each patient’s unique cancer. The convergence of this technology with brilliant scientific minds, and dedicated donors has brought us to a point now where we can begin to alter the course of cancer in ways we could only imagine just a few decades ago.  This is the time of translational and personalized cancer medicine—of discoveries that transcend the boundaries of the laboratory bench to make a difference at the bedside.

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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