SENIOR STAFF WRITER|
There were nearly 600,000 cancer-causing deaths in 2009. The time is better late than never for Dr. David Baltimore’s new therapy of directly engineering patients’ immune systems.
“Today we are treating human melanoma. The initial response is very promising and gratifying,” Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology, said.
Baltimore’s appearance on APU’s campus is part of a yearlong celebration of the new Segerstrom Science Center. The symposium is the second in a three-part series entitled “Embracing Medical Discovery Today, Training Scientists for Tomorrow,” which discusses issues in the world of science.
The symposium, which took place on Thursday, Jan. 14, held a discussion on the latest medical breakthroughs with experts Claire Pomery, M.D., MBA, vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of the school of medicine at UC Davis, as well as Baltimore, who delivered the keynote address entitled, “The Challenge of Translational Science.”
“Dr. Baltimore is in a league of his own. It’s not often that we have a Nobel Prize winner on campus,” David Weeks, dean of college of liberal arts and sciences at APU, said.
Baltimore’s career has proven gratifying through medical breakthroughs. He is most recognized for his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975, along with Renato Dulbecco and Howard Temin, for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell, according to a statement by Karolinska Institute.
Baltimore’s most recent discovery, though it is still in the testing stages at UCLA, will prove beneficial for the detection of cancer cells and to the hurdles and duration of treatment, according to James M. Miser, M.D.
Miser, a professor of pediatrics at City of Hope, in Duarte, Calif., has performed some of his own research in immunotherapy of cancer.
“In general, 75 percent of all cancerous tumors are cured,” Miser said. “As a result, new therapies, preferably those that are not toxic, need to be formed.”
T-cells, which scour the body looking for problematic cells to eliminate, find it difficult to notice tumors, according to Baltimore. Therefore, he developed a way to arm T-cells with genes that can detect those hidden cancer cells.
“I think it’s really cool that we can take something the body is already doing and program it to provide the person with better health,” senior applied health major Jaycen Brown said.
Baltimore currently resides in Pasadena, and as a citizen of this region, his interest in APU and its students was part of why he chose to accept the university’s invitation to speak at the symposium.
“Your [APU student body] focus on science will set the stage for the participation of APU in the 21st century of medicine,” Baltimore said.
Baltimore explained to students the importance of a scientific literate population and left a lasting impression on junior biochemistry major Deralyn Glanzer.
“I feel like it’s important for the general public to know what’s going on because we live in a democratic society so we can affect our policies with medicine,” Glanzer said. “And to be able to vote on different issues you have to know a little bit on the science behind it.”
APU has already taken steps in making the advancement of science an imperative component among the student body.
The building of the Segerstrom Science Center, and now a series of symposiums available for all students, is symbolic of their commitment to education in science and a dedication to future action.