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Director’s Letter

June 17, 2010

Whether through job losses, workplace budget cuts, or just tightening the belt at home, we’ve all been affected by the economic downturn.

Here at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, we have not let the economy stall our progress. We took very seriously the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity afforded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and were successful in securing more than $40 million in “stimulus” grants.

These funds from the National Cancer Institute and other divisions of the National Institutes of Health will allow our researchers to enhance their existing research projects and to pursue new areas of high impact cancer research.

In this issue of Momentum, we present a sample of research being fueled by “stimulus” grants – from generating animal models of rare cancers to developing drugs to treat a particularly lethal form of breast cancer.

This funding supports almost every area of cancer research: basic molecular mechanisms that cause cancer to form; novel methods of detection and therapeutic monitoring; and the
training of new young investigators.

By some estimates, each dollar awarded through NCI grants returns two dollars to the local economy. But in addition to realization of any economic benefit, we know that this additional funding will enrich our knowledge about cancer. The stimulus funding will place our investigators in a stronger position to obtain longer-term federal grants as well as philanthropic and foundational support to continue the “momentum” they are building today.

With or without the stimulus funding, Vanderbilt-Ingram researchers are attacking cancer from all angles. Among them:

• We have an incredibly strong group of researchers investigating the role of an infectious organism – a curvy little bacterium called Helicobacter pylori – in stomach cancer, the second leading cause of cancer mortality globally. Though their research focuses on one type of bacteria, it offers clues about how pathogenic organisms are involved in cancers – and how human genetics and environment interact to initiate cancer development.

• With decreasing costs and improved technologies for studying the human genome, there has been an explosion of new genetic information. At Vanderbilt, we are fortunate to have the nation’s largest biomedical informatics faculty – some of them trained oncologists – to help make sense of this mountain of data and find ways to use it to improve care. In this issue, we introduce you to some of these investigators and their important work.

• Technology is also impacting the cancer community by enabling the existence of online communities of survivors, their friends and families, and health care professionals and advocates. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are bringing these communities together. In this issue, you’ll learn how these communities can benefit survivors and how Vanderbilt-Ingram is part of this new phenomenon.

As always, we bring you stories about our researchers, clinicians, educators – and survivors – that keep propelling us forward toward a “world without cancer.”

We’re making progress. Let’s keep up the “momentum.”