Conquering Cancer Initiative launched at special event with former Vice President Joe Biden providing keynote address
Jonas Salk used basic science to rid the world of polio and alter the course of the 20th century in a bold endeavor that changed the lives of untold millions. Now, the Salk Institute has launched a similarly bold approach to take aim at five deadly cancers: triple-negative breast, pancreatic, ovarian, lung and glioblastoma. The Conquering Cancer Initiative is a roadmap to the future of cancer care and will empower our world-renowned research team to transform cancer therapy.
The initiative was formally launched April 20 at a special event with former Vice President Joe Biden providing a keynote address to the more than 300 people in attendance.
“Cancer research comes with its own complex mazes to navigate,” said Biden in his speech. “That’s what [Salk] has been so successful at for decades—at taking on the big challenges and delivering new breakthroughs.”
Indeed, the Institute has a long history of focusing the best minds on the most difficult problems. Ever since Jonas Salk’s discovery of the first safe, effective polio vaccine, he and the Institute that bears his name have made taking on the biggest challenges a hallmark of their efforts.
Yet cancer holds a unique place in Salk’s work. Since establishing the Salk Cancer Center in 1970, the Institute has had a history of cancer breakthroughs. Nobel Prize winners, such as Robert Holley (1968) and Renato Dulbecco (1975), have played key roles in Salk’s efforts, as have other luminaries, such as Leslie Orgel, Walter Eckhart and Tony Hunter. The fruits of their efforts have been manifest in new treatments for leukemia and other cancers, as well as entirely new classes of drugs, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which turned death sentence diagnoses into manageable chronic conditions.
More recently, new breakthroughs have paved the way for Salk researchers to take on some of the most difficult to treat cancers. Ronald Evans discovered receptors that are now targets in treatments for breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia. Diana Hargreaves investigates common genetic mutations found in many solid tumor cancers to find new drug targets. Susan Kaech discovered that stimulating the CD40 receptor on immune T cells can suppress tumor growth. Geoffrey Wahl seeks to identify new therapeutic targets for drugs that can be tailored to individual cancer genomes.
The Initiative is led by Salk Cancer Center Director Reuben Shaw, himself a pioneer in exploring the links between metabolism and cancer that saw the testing of Metformin, a type 2 diabetes drug, in clinical trials for various cancers.“The Salk Cancer Center will pursue scientific discoveries that fundamentally change the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” says Shaw. Cancer research is at an inflection point requiring determination and collaboration among researchers and scientists to speed up progress, expedite personalized medicine and discover new treatments faster. By focusing on some of the hardest cancers to treat, Salk scientists aim to unlock foundational knowledge and develop powerful tools to help treat all cancers. Jonas Salk said upon the founding of the Institute, “we cannot be certain what will happen here, but we can be certain it will contribute to the welfare and understanding of man.” Conquering Cancer’s objective remains the same. To learn how you can join in Conquering Cancer, please visit www.salk.edu/conqueringcancer.