Selling a story or working for the cure ??

Lab Note #11
Feb 10, 2015

I have been in different labs over the last 14 years. I have learned good things in all of them. However, in my experience I am worried about the increase of this "selling the story" mode that seems to driving research in a lot of labs right now. Sparse funding has created the need to be more focus, more specialized and work on creating a niche where a lab can develop his own story. I understand this view.

But my problem is that when we're focusing so much on the story, on selling our "vision" to grant reviewers, on adjusting everything to a very small and narrow vision of reality... are we really working to cure cancer?

A few months ago, somebody asked me if the protein I was studying was over expressed or down regulated in lung cancer. I was told that was the basic question that I need to answer in order to build a story. I repeated several western blots and compared expression of the protein in human lung cancer cells against normal cells. Overall, there was a pattern but I did not feel comfortable with this vision that seemed to indicate that my protein was responsible for cancer progression. It was not a moral question... it just did not agreed with other results I had before.

Today, I am looking at a western blot that indicates that under Tarceva, this protein really goes up, and lung cancer cells start to die. But if I silence this protein and treat the cells with Tarceva, lung cancer cells survive. Therefore, the black or white question I was asked before was a very reductionist view of the problem that did not include the effect of a drug treatment.

Some people say that this is not possible. But results are there to prove it. Are we more interested in building a story that we like or do we want to understand what is really going on ??

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