To answer the national call to cure cancer, the public and private sector will need a renewed commitment to providing funding for biomedical research. A Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute researcher developing a potential cure for cancer can attest to that, recalling times when high school bake sales helped to keep his work going.

“We’ve had cancer too long,” Dr. Craig Meyers, distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology, told a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, news conference on the subject in March. “It’s silly that we can spend so much money on things that really do not affect our lives in a meaningful way but we right now don’t spend a lot of money on trying to cure cancer.”

Considering that it takes $2.6 billion and more than 10 years to bring a new drug to market, researchers like Meyers, on the cusp of finding a cure, are in constant motion to secure funding to continue their research.

Meyers has spent more than 30 years working on cervical cancer and human papillomaviruses, gaining international renown for his groundbreaking HPV work. One day, Meyers and his team noticed that a virus not harmful to humans — adeno-associated virus type 2 or AAV2 — killed cervical cancer cells.

They thought they made a mistake. Repeated testing showed the same thing. In checking its effect on other cancer cells, the team found the virus has the ability to kill breast cancer cells of any type. That was more than 10 years ago.

So began an arduous search for the funding to develop an oncolytic virus therapy to treat triple negative and other aggressive breast cancers.

“It was very difficult to receive funding, but thanks to the lead of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, we were able to start getting funding,” Meyers said of grants the coalition has awarded for his work multiple times, beginning in 2001.

Meyers recalled that their support opened the gates and led similar groups like Girls Night Out Altoona to raise and donate $30,000 in 2014 and even led high school students to hold bake sales “to specifically fund what I am doing.”

All the years of work have culminated in Meyers and his team nearing the close of preclinical testing and hoping to apply soon for clinical trials in humans.

“I have been amazed at the advocacy and generosity of the citizens of this state which will allow me and my colleagues at the Penn State Cancer Institute to soon complete our required preclinical studies and begin the human trials and see if this will actually work in people,” he said.

Groundbreaking science and innovation have the potential to save lives. It takes the work of dedicated professionals like Dr. Meyers and his team to move cures forward — and it takes adequate research funding.

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