Earlier today at the Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2016 conference, the SENS Research Foundation folk announced a $15,000 challenge grant for the present OncoSENS cancer research crowdfunding effort. All donations from here forward will be matched dollar for dollar from the grant, and the deadline for the fundraiser has been extended for another thirty days to give this a chance to run. The funds raised from the community through this initiative will be used to carry out the first high-throughput screening of drug candidates for cancers that use the alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) mechanism to maintain their growth. Finding ways to block ALT is a necessary part of any future universal cancer therapy based on preventing telomere extension in cancer cells: all cancers must do this to grow, and without it they will wither away. The matching fund is provided by the generosity of an anonymous donor and Christophe and Dominique Cornuejols, who you will recall have helped to build the matching funds for the past few years of Fight Aging! SENS fundraisers. Their efforts are very much appreciated! You can find the announcement at 5:18 in the conference livestream from earlier today:
Cancer will be controlled, the only question is how long it takes to achieve that goal. The next generation of immunotherapies and other very targeted approaches to kill cancer cells with few side-effects will greatly improve patient outcomes for all of the most common cancers. These therapies will still, however, have the disadvantage of being very tailored to specific cancers and attributes of cancer cells. It takes a lot of time and money to produce a new treatment for cancer, and if that treatment is specific to only one or only a few of the hundred of subtypes of cancer ... well, that isn't very efficient. There is only so much funding and only so many researchers. Tackling cancer one type at a time is just not the way to win on a short timeframe.
The strategy and economics of the situation are why it is so very important that work on a universal cancer therapy prospers. The most targetable mechanism that is known to be necessary for all cancers is telomere lengthening. Telomeres are sequences of repeated DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes, and a little of that length is lost with each cell division. This is a part of the limiting mechanism that prevents the overwhelming majority of ordinary somatic cells in our bodies from running amok to divide and replicate endlessly: cells with short telomeres self-destruct or become senescent, in either case dividing no more. Cancers can grow destructively because the mutated state of their cells has unlocked one of the few possible ways to lengthen telomeres. A range of research groups are working on the production of therapies to block telomere extension that occurs through telomerase activity, but next to no-one is working with ALT. Because individual tumors evolve rapidly, blocking both telomerase and ALT will be necessary: blocking only telomerase has already been demonstrated in animal studies to cause a cancer to switch over to ALT. Thus the SENS Research Foundation, supported by philanthropic donations from people like you and I, has stepped in to pick up the slack and get this job done. Do you want a future free from cancer? Then here is a chance to help make that happen: donate to the OncoSENS fundraiser.