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Stan Korsmeyer Education Fund

Stan Korsmeyer Education Fund

It is at this point in the program that I remind everyone of Dr. Stan Korsmeyer’s research work that led to the discovery in 1985 and subsequent elucidation of the widespread phenomenon of programmed cell death - apoptosis. Such research earned him worldwide recognition and innumerable honors before his untimely and premature death in 2005 from non-small cell lung cancer.

This year, 50 years after his 1968 graduation, we get to discuss the real, down to earth, recognizable fruits of Stan’s work , and the work of numerous subsequent contributors the world over. Two classes of cancer fighting drugs deserve mention. 

First: Venclexta was released for use about 18 months ago to treat a particular advanced stage lymphoma. This medicine is a direct inactivator of the Bcl-2 protein which Stan discovered and described. Stopping the action of this protein within the cell leads to widespread death of those cells containing abnormal levels of the protein. This has been an extremely effective  treatment when all else has been tried and failed. No doubt it will become more widely used earlier in the treatment of this common blood cell cancer. 

Second:  There is a class of drugs you have likely heard of as they have been heavily promoted in print and on television. Opdivo and Keytruda are about as equally effective in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, are well tolerated, and can lead to remarkable and long-term survivals in folks who often lived for only a few months. In some, years of high quality life have been added. These medicines can also be effective in the treatment of other cancers such as kidney, bladder, and malignant melanoma. Ex-President Jimmy Carter has been so treated and is living normally with heretofore rapidly fatal malignant melanoma of the brain. 

These two medicines are part of what is known as immunotherapy. That is, they both increase the number of healthy, cancer-fighting white blood cells. This is achieved by inactivating the programmed cell death pathway which has been turned on by the malignant tumor itself. 

There are two take-home lessons tonight. The first is that it took 25 plus years from the time Stan threw open the barn door for research into programed cell death until safe and effective treatments could be developed, tested, and approved. The second is that it is vitally important that motivated students become scientists who can further our understanding and help to solve problems. For some of us, those problems can be very personal. 

Hence, I ask that you remember the Stan Korsmeyer Science Education Fund and give generously. For some of you, as it is for me, giving may well be a way of saying “Thanks, Stan, for your work. I am enjoying a longer, better life because of it.”

 

Click on Articles below 

Herzsteins generosity honors scientists legacy

Korsmeyer Chair 1st recipient

Programmed Cell Death and The Regulation of Homeostasis

Recipients

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Work of Stan Korsmeyer

 

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