Did you know that, of the 66 cancer research institutes in the country carrying the prestigious designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 10 of them are in California? And that three of them are right here in San Diego? If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you or someone you know works in a job connected to cancer research; San Diego is home to one of the country’s top biotech and life-science research clusters. Researchers here strive each day toward saving lives.
On California’s June 5 primary ballot, voters will have an opportunity to consider Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act. Prop 29’s goal is to provide funding for cancer research by increasing the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1. At just 87 cents per pack, California’s tax on cigarettes is currently among the lowest in the nation. Prop 29 will generate total annual revenue of $855 million, which will be used to fund research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases and smoking prevention and cessation programs.
Researching cancer requires great dedication. Matthew Petroski, an assistant professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, says, “I don’t think there is any other profession where you can find such highly motivated, energetic, and creative people. The discoveries in the lab might seem esoteric sometimes, but there is a real chance they could help cancer patients.”
Revenue generated by Prop 29 would help researchers at institutes like Sanford-Burnham, the Salk Institute, and UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center better understand how cancer develops and how it metastasizes so they can design better diagnostics and therapeutics. By understanding cancer at its source, researchers can start to figure out which people are at the greatest risk for what types of cancers, and why. This knowledge could lead to personalized medicine, giving patients the best chance of responding.
Another area in which cancer researchers stand to make great strides is in the development of “smart” drugs. These could be directed straight to tumors without harming healthy cells—the cause of the devastating side effects that usually accompany chemotherapy treatments.
Dr. Robert Wechsler-Reya, director of the Tumor Microenvironment Program in Sanford-Burnham’s Cancer Center and member of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, also located in La Jolla, gave an example of how an extra $1 million in funding could advance his research on medulloblastoma, a devastating form of brain cancer found in children.
“Identifying new drugs is difficult, and validating their efficacy in animal models is time-consuming and expensive. An extra $1 million would allow us to scale up our efforts at drug identification, accelerate the pace at which we test therapies, and quickly move the most promising agents forward into clinical trials,” he said.
In short, more money for cancer research would mean more lives saved, not only here in San Diego but around the world. Learn more by visiting Californiansforacure.org.