San Diego is a hub for life science research. According to San Diego Regional EDC, the region is home to more than 600 life science companies and 80 research institutes, which employ more than 42,000 people. Much of this industry is located in California’s 49th Congressional District, represented by Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Last Friday, Rep. Issa sat down with many of San Diego’s life science leaders.
Pedal the Cause–San Diego, the region’s only multi-day cycling fundraiser for cancer research, will announce their first annual event today at 11 a.m. PT, on our La Jolla campus.
Sanford-Burnham is excited to be part of this new fundraising event for cancer research, in partnership with our two “neighbor” National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
We announced today that we’ve signed a new collaborative agreement with Mayo Clinic to build a pipeline of therapeutic drugs aimed at a variety of diseases with serious unmet medical needs. Under this agreement, Mayo Clinic scientists will work with researchers in our Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (Prebys Center) to conduct early-stage drug discovery, including assay development, high-throughput screening, and lead identification.
San Diego is a powerhouse for cancer research, home to two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated centers for basic research—our Cancer Center and the Salk Institute Cancer Center—and the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the region’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.
Napoleone Ferrara, Ph.D., was propelled into the national spotlight last week, when he was named one of 11 winners of the first Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences. This new prize—awarding a no-strings-attached $3 million to each recipient—was bestowed by Silicon Valley innovators Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner. One goal of the prize is to make household names out of the country’s top scientists.
Editor’s note: below is a message that Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., our President and Interim CEO, sent to Sanford-Burnham scientists and staff today.
I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ze’ev Ronai to the position of Scientific Director of the La Jolla campus. As many of you are aware, such position was held by Dr. John Reed in 1995-2001, while I held a similar position of Executive Vice President for Scientific Affairs prior to my appointment as President in 2010.
Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford has reaffirmed his commitment to Sanford-Burnham and expressed his confidence in our interim chief executive officer, Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., by pledging a seven-figure donation to cancer research.
“At this time of transition, I want to provide both financial support and a personal endorsement of Sanford-Burnham’s excellence,” said Mr. Sanford. “I have the utmost confidence in the Institute’s future and Dr. Vuori’s leadership as interim CEO.” Mr. Sanford’s previous pledges to the Institute total in excess of $70 million, including the transformative gift that resulted in the Institute’s name change in 2010.
Vuori, president of the Institute since 2010, was named interim CEO last month when John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., stepped down from the position. Reed and Vuori worked closely together during a time when the Institute emerged as a world leader in research and early-stage drug discovery.
“Mr. Sanford has made an indelible mark on this institution through financial support which he has characterized as investments in medical research. He envisions a healthier future and we are honored to be part of that vision,” Vuori said. “As a cancer researcher, this latest substantial gift means a great deal to me personally, as well as to Sanford-Burnham.”
It’s a good idea for the people within an organization to stop and look around once in a while. And there is perhaps no better time for reflection than during a time of transition.
As John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., put it, “All organizations benefit from fresh leadership approximately every decade, and that time is now for Sanford-Burnham.” Reed announced on January 14 that he would be stepping down after 11 years as CEO to accept a position with pharmaceutical company Roche.
This turn of events led to an opportunity to reflect on our past, present and future, when Sanford-Burnham’s leaders presented “Reflections on a Decade of Growth.” Our scientists and staff heard from Reed, as well as distinguished professor and past president (1989-2002) Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., and president and interim CEO Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
Their inspiring presentation including four key observations:
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Board of Directors (trustees) announced today that John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., has accepted the position of Head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development and member of the Corporate Executive Committee. Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., president of Sanford-Burnham, will assume all leadership responsibilities on an interim basis.
“John has led Sanford-Burnham through a decade of tremendous success and growth, particularly in translational research, and we wish him the best as he moves to a new stage of his career,” said M. Wainwright Fishburn, Jr., chairman of Sanford-Burnham’s Board of Trustees. “We have a strong foundation for continued growth, and we have complete confidence in Kristiina’s ability to lead through the management transition.”
Added Dr. Reed, “I am grateful to have led Sanford-Burnham over the past decade, especially in the growth of the Institute’s work in translational research. While I am sad to be leaving the Institute, I look forward to the potential for collaborations in the future between the two organizations. I am confident in the financial strength of the Institute following the strongest year of grant revenue in its history, as well as in Dr. Vuori’s ability to lead through the time ahead. We have worked side-by-side in leading Sanford-Burnham, so she is uniquely qualified to guide a smooth transition and continued excellence.”
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. In 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), 202,964 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 women died from the disease, according to the CDC. Approximately 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives.
The most common types of breast cancer include ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast, and lobular ductal carcinoma, which originates in the breast lobes.
A variety of genetic and environmental influences can increase a person’s risk of breast cancer. However, some breast cancers are associated with inherited mutations in a few specific genes. The best known are mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility gene), which account for five to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases.
Depending on the type of breast cancer and its progression, treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy aimed specifically at disrupting the molecular underpinnings of the disease.
Breast cancer research at Sanford-Burnham
Sanford-Burnham is home to one of just seven National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated basic cancer centers in the United States. Researchers in this center aim to preempt cancer before it develops, detect the disease at its earliest point, and eliminate its spread.
Historically, our scientists have made seminal contributions to breast cancer. Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., now director of Sanford-Burnham’s Cancer Center, and others published early findings on cellular communication networks in breast cancer cells. John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., now Sanford-Burnham’s CEO, and his laboratory made seminal contributions to the understanding of how certain proteins direct programmed cell death (a process called apoptosis) in breast cancer cells and how these proteins allow breast tumors to resist chemotherapy.
While many researchers in Sanford-Burnham’s Cancer Center study cellular growth and lifespan—work that impacts almost every type of cancer—our scientists are also pursuing several strategies for finding new treatments that specifically target breast cancer.
Here are a few current breast cancer studies at Sanford-Burnham:
Thomson Reuters has selected Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., cancer researcher and distinguished professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, as one of its 2012 Citation Laureates. Citation Laureates are scientists that Thomson Reuters has predicted to win the Nobel Prize.
Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates are chosen based on how frequently their research has been cited by other researchers. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between citations and regard by one’s peers, which is a factor often reflected in major professional awards. Using this quantitative approach, Thomson Reuters has made many correct predictions—in the past 10 years, 26 Citation Laureates received Nobel Prizes. The 2012 Nobel Prizes will be announced beginning October 8.
Ruoslahti is among the 50 most-cited researchers of the last 20 years and an influential figure in cell biology and cancer research. He was one of the early pioneers in research on cell adhesion—the study of how cells stay in place by sticking to their surrounding environments. Ruoslahti’s work has clarified many of the fundamental mechanisms responsible for clinically relevant problems, including blood clotting, immune cell homing, and tumor metastasis. His research spawned many drug-discovery programs around the world aimed at finding new treatments for arterial restenosis, thrombosis, cancer, and more—some of which have resulted in FDA-approved drugs.
In addition to his research, Ruoslahti distinguished himself through the leadership and vision he provided during his 13 years as president and chief executive officer of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (1989-2002). Under his direction, Sanford-Burnham’s National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center became one of the leading basic cancer research centers in the world.
We’ve made remarkable progress in the war on cancer over the past four decades, but we haven’t won yet. One in two men and one in three women are still expected to get cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
At Sanford-Burnham, our cancer research has been guided by the belief that the most substantial breakthroughs come from studying the basic mechanisms of cells and the molecules that comprise them. We take great pride in the fact that research in our Cancer Center, one of just seven National Cancer Institute-designated basic research cancer centers in the nation, is yielding tangible medical benefits, including diagnostic procedures and FDA-approved therapeutic agents.
Join us in standing up to cancer.
How: Tune in to the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) telecast, which will feature SU2C’s scientific Dream Teams—top scientists working together to combat a particular cancer—as well as entertainers such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Samuel L. Jackson, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw, and many more
When: September 7, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET and PT / 7 p.m. CT
Where: All major television networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, HBO, and VH1
Why: Support scientists, patients, and survivors standing up to cancer, including Dr. Kristiina Vuori, Sanford-Burnham’s own SU2C Dream Team member
After weeks of counting absentee and provisional ballots following California’s June 5 primary election, Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act, was defeated today. The measure failed by a narrow margin, 50.3 – 49.7 percent. (The final tally is subject to change—the Secretary of State has until July 13 to certify the election results.)
Prop 29 would’ve increased state tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack and applied the revenue to fund cancer and tobacco-related disease research and tobacco prevention and cessation programs in California.
“It’s disappointing to see that the tens millions of dollars the tobacco industry spent on deceptive ads against this life-saving measure were so effective,” said Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., president and director of Sanford-Burnham’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. “We missed a unique opportunity to create the world’s largest Cancer Research Fund, surpassed only by the National Cancer Institute, right here in California.”
Yesterday, California voters considered Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act, on the statewide primary ballot. The measure aims to increase state tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack and apply the revenue to fund cancer and tobacco-related disease research and tobacco prevention and cessation programs in California.
With all precincts reporting, the results currently stand at 50.8% against, 49.2% in favor—a margin of just 63,176 votes out of nearly 3.9 million cast. However, absentee ballots are still being counted. The final results will be reported here as soon as they are available.
In a May 27 article, L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik sided with the tobacco companies, urging Californian voters to reject Proposition 29, a measure to raise state cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, because it won’t fix our roads or schools. Amazingly, opponents also call Prop 29′s goal to boost cancer research in California a “narrow purpose.” Today, Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., Sanford-Burnham’s president and director of our NCI-designated Cancer Center, and Sherry Lansing, chairman of the University of California Board of Regents and co-founder of Stand Up to Cancer, respond in the L.A. Times: