The last few days have arrived for this year's SENS Research Foundation crowdfunding campaign, focused on important groundwork to establish a universal therapy for all types of cancer. There are still a few thousand dollars left in the matching fund, so donations are still being matched. Cancer is just as much a part of aging that must be ended, brought completely under control, as all of the other line items in the SENS rejuvenation research portfolio, and this year is the first time that the SENS Research Foundation has run a fundraiser for this program.
Hopefully there is no need to remind the audience here that the SENS Research Foundation, and important ally the Methuselah Foundation, have in recent years achieved great progress in the field of rejuvenation research on the basis of our donations and our support. Some of the high points you'll find mentioned here and there at Fight Aging!: support and ongoing expansion of the mitochondrial repair technologies now under development at Gensight; seed funding Oisin Biotechnologies for senescent cell clearance; unblocking efforts to clear glucosepane cross-links that stiffen tissues; running the lauded Rejuvenation Biotechnology conferences; and many more. If only all charities produced as great an impact with as few resources - and if only we were further along in the bootstrapping of an industry focused on the development of rejuvenation therapies. But we are where we are, and it remains wholly our opportunity as grassroots activists to light the way for others, to point out the research programs most likely to produce great gains in human health and longevity, and to attract a larger community of supporters to help out. They will be drawn by the fact we are a growing crowd, and that we have declared our support and expectation of good results from these programs: from senescent cell destruction, from mitochondrial repair, from glucosepane cross-link clearance, and from the others of the SENS program.
These SENS rejuvenation biotechnologies are unified by the theme of picking out specific areas of research that have been or are presently largely ignored, but that are also essential to the production of enormously beneficial outcomes in medicine, great leaps ahead rather than the incremental plodding that is the more usual state of medical progress. We live in an era of enormously rapid progress in biotechnology, and our medicine should reflect that fact - but in all too much of the research community there is a decided lack of ambition, and a culture that prefers to inch forward by increments. The entire point of the SENS vision, and the activities of the SENS Research Foundation and its allies, is to demonstrate that timidity and incrementalism can be bypassed to the benefit of all. There are large gains in health out there to be had, if the right strategy is chosen for research and development.
When it comes to the matter of aging that strategy is to focus on repairing the fundamental biomolecular damage of aging, the well-cataloged changes that distinguish old tissues from young tissues, and which have no other cause beyond the normal operation of healthy metabolism. These are forms of biological wear and tear, if you like, the accumulation of waste products and tiny breakages that spiral out into dysfunction and organ failure. For cancer research, meanwhile, the situation is more akin to an economic revolution, or disruptive advance in technology. Because all cancers must lengthen their telomeres, and because telomere lengthening is governed by a small number of processes, there is the opportunity to change the focus of cancer research from an endless procession of expensive new therapies, each targeting a tiny number of the hundreds of subtypes of cancer, to one single therapy that can effectively suppress all cancers. That is a huge difference, and turns the complete medical control of cancer from a distant future prospect into something that might be achieved from start to finish in a few decades.
The SENS Research Foundation's contribution to this project, the work that we as philanthropists choose to fund, is to run an assay with new tools against the standard drug library to find candidates to suppress alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). This should lead to a better understanding of how to build very effective therapies for ALT cancers, and in the best scenario will produce the starting point for a first wave of general therapies that can be applied to these cancers within a few years from discovery, based on repurposing known drugs. Other research groups are working on suppressing telomere lengthening by blocking telomerase, but it is becoming increasingly clear that telomerase cancers are quite capable of switching to become ALT cancers if provoked. The effectiveness of this road towards a universal cancer treatment depends on the blockade of both ALT and telomerase, but next to no-one has been working on ALT. This is where the SENS Research Foundation scientists, supported by you and I, can do their part to make this new approach to cancer a reality, by picking up this neglected but vital line of research and making the same success of it as they have in other areas.
How to make this happen? All we have to do is donate, mention this to our friends, say something to the world about how important it is that the whole of cancer research be transformed in this way. It is a golden opportunity to do something here and now to help build the type of future that we want to see.