Sunday, June 27, 2010

Down Time

I am a volunteer EMT, giving me the reverse of many. To me, the ambulance is where I go when I need a break from lab and school. Running call is a nice practical break from all my theory. Seeing patients reminds me that not everyone will be as hard to deal with as a squirming mouse.

Yes that is right, a mouse.

I am a research scientist whose focus ranges from pediatric graft versus host disease to immunotherapy for solid tumors. Simplified, I work to cure cancer.

In fact, I have miracle mice.

I cured cancer.

A highly aggressive, clinically relevant, pediatric solid tumor.

Okay, it was only in mice, but it was with limited distress to the mice who had very large, typically incurable by chemo sized tumors. I swore this new drug wasn't going to work, swore that the tumors were too big, swore that I should just give the mice a break and sacrifice them before the experiment was up.

But science and mother nature (and my boss) proved me wrong. While I didn't cure all the mice, I made a very nice dent in what would have otherwise been a death sentence. Over half of my experimental group are alive and currently tumor free. No surgery. No chemo drugs. No hair loss. No damage to the immune system.

In fact, it was their own immune system, with a little help, that cured these mice. All I gave was a drug that makes the immune system a better immune system, breaking the tolerance that many tumors create in a host to protect themselves from the immune system. Breaking that tolerance is hard as the body doesn't like kill off 'self' cells. But it work and better yet, it may even be repeatable.

So yes, I am a science geek and love research almost as much as love my clinical interactions with patients on the unit. I believe that a strong foundation in science, in understand research as the basis for why medicine works and advances is key to being a good clinician. Sure, I am not research emergency medicine and maybe I won't always be research when I reach my goal, but I know that it will help me understand. And hey, in the mean time, I may have just put this drug in the 'to be developed for clinical trials' box. Who ever said research can't save lives :)

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