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The Power of Collaboration, Patience and SU2C

Posted on December 4, 2014, 9:00 AM
The Power of Collaboration, Patience and SU2C

Tyler Jacks, PhD is the Director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Jacks pioneered the use of gene-targeted technology in mouse models to study cancer genetics and development. Over the past 34 years, he has learned there are no turn-by-turn directions when it comes to cancer research. Watch the video below of his most recent talk to see what he’s learned about cancer over the course of his career and what it means for all us.

Stand Up To Cancer took a moment to talk to him about the future of cancer research and the power of collaboration.

Q: Can you speak to the power of collaboration in cancer research?

A: Let me answer this in the context of the Koch Institute at MIT, which was developed with the conviction that collaboration can increased the pace and effectiveness of cancer research. We brought cancer scientists and cancer-oriented engineers under the same roof in a new building. I couldn’t have predicted going into this project how important our proximity to each other would be, but after living it everyday for the past 4 years, I can tell you the value of different perspective is very powerful. People from diverse scientific backgrounds think about things fundamentally differently. Through these discussions, new approaches are discovered; through these collaborations, we are doing so much more. It’s hugely beneficial.

Q: Every scientist, researcher and doctor committed to unlocking answers to the cancer puzzle is working towards the same goal, but what motivates them?

A: I can break down the motivation into two broad categories:
  1) A strong passion to solve a major human health problem.
  2) The discovery process. We are motivated to understand things we don’t know and there are a lot of
  unknowns in cancer research. We want to bring clarity to a very complex and sometimes confusing

Q: People outside of the lab might think that cancer research is moving slowly, how do you respond to that?

A: It’s hard to make people appreciate how much progress we have really made, because everyone is anxious to have the problem solved once and for all. But, in reality, the progress has been overwhelming. We now treat many cancers fundamentally differently than we did even 10 years ago, and people are living longer and have a better quality of life. This is the product of a lot of hard work from a whole community of researchers. It’s important to recognize that incremental advances are still advances. Those single steps forward enable many other steps to be taken, and, ultimately, this moves us much further along. Today’s advanced technologies are increasing the pace of discovery, and this is allowing us to change the landscape quickly and very significantly.

Q: What impact do you feel SU2C has had on cancer research, in terms of on the culture of cancer research as well as its impact on progress?

A: Stand Up To Cancer fosters collaboration—which is a very important direction for the field. SU2C also provides substantial funding for cancer research, which is imperative for progress in the field. Funding is often a limiting component to success. Lack of funding has a direct effect on scientists’ progress and willingness to be bold. If they know there won’t be sufficient funds to carry out their vision, and resources are limited, they may not pursue their boldest and potentially most impactful research. SU2C makes it possible for investigators to dream big, and this can get novel therapies to patients most quickly. This type of work is often very expensive, so the funds raised by SU2C are incredibly important.

Watch Tyler Jacks discuss the cancer maze in his TED talk.
“The maze that is cancer is incredibly complex. The solutions that we have developed have come from the dedicated efforts of a legion of researchers who are committed to find those solutions, no matter how hard it is, no matter how long it takes.”

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