There is a month left to go in the SENS crowdfunding campaign that aims to accelerate development of an important component of a universal cancer therapy, a way to block the mechanisms of telomere lengthening that every type of cancer depends upon. The SENS Research Foundation and Lifespan.io volunteers are looking for donors to put up matching funds of a few thousand dollars or more, in order to take that news and that inducement to a number of conferences and other events over the next few weeks. More than 150 people have donated to the campaign to date, and we'd like to triple that number in the next 30 days.
To start things off, I'll offer up $2,000 of my own funds: the next $2,000 in donations to this SENS cancer research initiative will be matched dollar for dollar. That is a start, and if you can join in to help out, please contact me to let me know. Can you help to make a difference here?
With last week's $10 million pledge in support of other portions of the SENS rejuvenation research portfolio, we can clearly see that grassroots fundraising works. It lights the way, and as we grow the community and show our determination, that success draws in larger donors. When this is amply demonstrated by the arrival of large amounts of new funding ... well, that is precisely the time to pile on and keep up the good work. All major medical research non-profits have several tiers of fundraising, from grassroots to high net work philanthropy, and all of these tiers are essential: they can't exist without one another. The SENS Research Foundation is transitioning to become a solid organization with a high end tier of fundraising to complement our efforts, and that couldn't exist without the support of the grassroots. It is a sign that we are winning.
We have been very focused on senescent cells, mitochondrial DNA damage, and glucosepane clearance these past few years, but don't forget that there are other parts of the SENS program that are just as important in the bigger picture of human rejuvenation. Building a universal, cost-effective therapy that works for all forms of cancer is one of those parts. The random mutations to nuclear DNA, different in every cell, that accumulate with age will be one of the hardest types of damage to fix, and mutation is the root cause of cancer. There will be a transitional era ahead in which people will live for decades longer in far better health than do today's elderly, thanks to first generation rejuvenation therapies, but they will still have high levels of nuclear DNA damage and thus high cancer risk. The rejuvenation toolkit needs to include a far better approach to cancer. You can see the SENS approach to speeding progress towards this goal in the recent interviews linked below, and at the /r/futurology AMA with Aubrey de Grey and Haroldo Silva that will be held tomorrow:Siebel Scholar Haroldo Silva is Working Toward a Universal Cancer Therapy
Haroldo Silva is a research scientist at the SENS Research Foundation (SRF), a non-profit organization focused on transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease. Since 2013, Haroldo has led a project at SRF that aims to treat and prevent cancers that rely on a process known as Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT). The ALT mechanism is present in 10-15% of all cancers, including some of the most clinically challenging cancers to treat, such as pediatric and adult brain cancers, soft tissue sarcoma, osteosarcoma, and lung cancers.
Every time a healthy cell divides, the DNA at the ends of its chromosomes, called telomeres, gets shorter. When the telomeres shorten too much, the cell permanently stops dividing and either remains dormant or dies. Telomere shortening acts as a natural biological mechanism for limiting cellular life span, but virtually all types of cancer cells bypass this process, allowing them to replicate indefinitely until they impair healthy tissue and organ function. A "universal" cancer treatment absolutely needs to address the two ways by which cancer cells lengthen and maintain their telomeres: i.e., they either express an enzyme called telomerase or they switch on ALT. The ALT process enables cancer cells to continue to elongate their telomeres, but without telomerase. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is not well understood by scientists, but a reliable biomarker that clearly indicates when ALT is happening was discovered by Silva's collaborator, Dr. Jeremy Henson, back in 2009.
In the war against cancer, there are several anti-telomerase therapies in advanced stages of clinical development, but nothing currently exists that is capable of specifically targeting ALT. Silva's current research project "Control ALT Delete Cancer" aims to find drugs that specifically shut down the ALT pathway, therefore preventing cancer growth and paving the way toward the first ever ALT-specific anticancer therapeutics.
Hello and welcome to Episode 7! On this episode, we'll talk with Dr. Haroldo Silva and David Halvorsen of the SENS Research Foundation. They've launched a new crowdfunding campaign designed to attack and stop cancer using a new approach. You'll hear what that approach is, why they think it has a good chance of success, and you can help in the fight.