Entering the Final Days of the SENS Universal Cancer Treatment Fundraiser

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.


I can't even convince family members to donate! Everyone has their own problems that they can't see past. I got the "too much charity money is given to cancer and should be spent elsewhere" response. And you can only bring things up so many times before people get narky.

What is especially sucky is that one of them is now a trustee for a fund set up to donate to charities.

Still, nagging is not the only or best way. If I get some health back soon I think fundraisers e.g. a half triathlon to raise money for cause X might be a better way to engage people's attention and wallets. Maybe even some crappy, but homemade infographics to explain things...

Posted by: Jim at September 6th, 2016 12:12 AM

Jim, talking about infographics, I was thinking about suggesting the SRF to make of those to explain why SENS is important and why it isn't BS. E.g. "what is ageing ?", "what is the SENS approach to combatting ageing ?", "who/why/how the SRF" (the latter explaining that besides being a non profit, a big chunk of its funds was donated by Aubrey himself, so he isn't here to scam people... yeah, I've come across such a comment).

Or the community could do that ; if there are talented members or if we set up a small campaign to get funds and pay a professional designer. Because home made stuff won't get us far - it'll only reinforce the idea that our movement is nothing more than a bunch of dubious, incompetent amateurs.

Posted by: Spede at September 6th, 2016 5:30 AM

Homemade stuff looks rubbish I aggree with Spede, appearance and a professional layout is essential.

Posted by: Steve Hill at September 6th, 2016 6:30 AM

I've thought about doing infographics before.
Thanks for reminding me.

Also the SENS website needs an update I think.
The explanations are from the previous website and those are at this point what? 15 years old?
Making them more readable and accessible would be best. And of course writing a coherent scientific summary with up to date citations would make sense as well.

Posted by: Anonymoose at September 6th, 2016 6:47 AM

On a tangent I am creating a "SENS: are we there yet?" article shortly in collaboration with some other people. We want to produce a comprehensive summary of each of the damage types, their state of development, who is working on them etc... etc...

Posted by: Steve Hill at September 6th, 2016 11:06 AM

@Anonymoose : I agree, their website isn't really laymen-friendly. (And I'm one myself.)

@Steve : That's nice Steve, then your article could eventually be a good source for making an infographic.

Posted by: Spede at September 6th, 2016 2:13 PM

@Spede yes the MMTP has at least two people who can produce professional infographics

Posted by: Steve Hill at September 6th, 2016 2:23 PM

Great ! I thought about asking you guys this, when I checked the MMTP site again and saw the nice graphics. It was also a welcome surprise to see blog articles written in Spanish and Russian.

Once you're done with the article and thinking about also turning it into an infographic, please let the community know if you need some funding for this specific project (which could eventually and ideally expand as a series of several infographics). The community will also lend a hand for translating these infographics into as many languages as possible.

Posted by: Spede at September 6th, 2016 3:35 PM

This is going to be a stream of consciousness as any fellow writers may be familiar with. So please forgive my scatter-gun musings.

You've talked recently about the failure of Cryonics (yet to sign up, want to) as one thing. Aubrey coined the term (paraphrasing) "the death trance".

This is problem 1. People don't like to talk or think about it, and I think we need to prod them with it. Either subtly or perhaps even violently (not actual violence, I mean intervention style). Make people face up to the fact that they're going to get old and/or die.

I'm not even entirely sure this thinking is entirely true (we're all going to die as things stand, I mean that people don't recognise it), because everyone knows they're getting older, But something doesn't seem to click about it. James Altucher is someone I read quite often, and the guy sounds like he's scared of his own shadow, yet in his most famous book (AFAIK) he says (paraphrasing again); "I'd like to find the fountain of youth, yet science has its limits" What the fuck? This guy could donate a good chunk to SENS, yet hides behind a terrible term like that?

Maybe in regards to "science has its limits" we need to educate on the fact that funding is usually that limit.

In regards to funding also, people seem to forget that charities and the people behind them need to be housed, fed and travelled. They almost expect that sending even as little $5 should suddenly cure cancer.

I also know that not all of my donation money strictly goes into science directly, but I hope it's being spent well. I only roughly know this because of people who review charities.

But, when you hear of people like the Red Cross CEO taking home a 6 figure income, it makes you sceptical. Maybe more "transparency" to the cause could perhaps help? Although, I don't think it needs it.

I seem to remember Aubrey talking about how the Carnegie (I think) library fund was basically redundant. He's right. The majority of those books are free on feedbooks, archive.org and the like. Why waste money?

Speaking of wasting money, what's the point in owning a 6 figure sports car when you're dead? None as far as I can tell, why can't we convince people to put they're money where it's most needed? The future.

I'm no communist, but should we not shun brands as fodder? A $20 t-shirt does the same thing as one that costs $95. The marketer in me is tempted to say that's how much mine cost, the difference is I want bio-rejuvenation where as others don't. So buy a t-shirt from me! But your $20 would be better spent sending it to SENS so don't do it unless you really have to.

I don't want to leave the post with that, so I'll add one other thing: We need to connect dots. I remember watching; The Transcendent Man" for example, a few years ago. Yet, it didn't click with me until 2-3 years later, and I've only just in the last 2 years heard about SENS and bio-rejuvenation. We need to find ways to spread the word.

The dots took a long time to connect. If I knew about this sort of thing 10 years ago, I dare say at least one of my grandparents may still be here today, or that the technology would be far closer to saving someone that might not be here tomorrow.

Posted by: Transhuman Tees at September 6th, 2016 10:36 PM

A couple of (quite rehashed) points to get your ball rolling :

- Making the fight against ageing fashionable, and as normalised as the fight against AIDS and cancer, would certainly help the cause. Reason made an article about that recently, there was also a talk about that in a recent video by the co-founder of Lifespan.io.
The issue is to enroll mainstream "celebrities" in our cause (why do they still have to organise botox parties ?), so that they could kickstart a change of mind amongst the people who think more about show-business gossip than about civilisational problems.
Basically we'd have to make them understand that they can really help save the world by supporting SENS, thus getting Gutmensch points like those they receive when they participate to a charity concert or a Telethon.

- People want immediate and material rewards, as opposed to future and immaterial ones.
"Oh you want me to spend 600€ on a donation that will someday make ageing a thing of the past, instead of spending this sum on a dumb phone ? But I'm already queuing in front of the Apple store."

- Young people just don't care. Why would they ? They're 20 and happily healthy. "Ageing is for gramps, bro."
Of course there are young chaps out there who do care, mostly those who are interested in science (props to the young interns at the SRF - that's a fantastic programme). There are also, and unfortunately, a good number of people who've had to experience health issues since they were little. But overall, it is my sentiment that youngsters don't feel concerned by the problems of ageing. They are busy with growing.

Thus, I'd say let's very selectively target teens and the youngest adults, and then make the bulk of our advocacy towards 30+ people. Starting from this age they're young-ish but more experienced with direct or indirect pain (theirs or their relatives') and more future minded. Growing is generally over, it's about thriving and (already) surviving now.

Oh and ideally, the problems of ageing and the social stance over it (as well as funding problems as you said) should be taught from primary schools on. But that's too far from our reach yet...

Posted by: Spede at September 7th, 2016 12:16 AM

I am a fan of the SENS vision, and think your focus on establishing a therapy for all types of cancer is fantastic. But I am wondering whether you could consider trying to do the same for mental illness. I have been suffering from treatment resistant depression since 1995. I was 39 years old when it started, so perhaps it is age related. (I am 60 now.) Rejuvenation biotechnologies won't do me, or anyone else with depression, any good if depression is not either treated via the rejuvenation, or successfully treated beforehand.

Posted by: NY2LA at November 5th, 2016 3:49 PM
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