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Hepatitis B: eradication or control?


Medical research needs complex answers
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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We know very little about the causes of cancer in the pancreas. And I'm strongly advocating, I mean, I didn't do any of the studies myself, but... in our lab, but I mean, about 20 years ago, I put in a grant application to study cancer of the pancreas and hepatitis B virus, and that... which wasn't successful. But I'd love to see more work done on it. You know, you have human T-cell leukemia, virus 1 and 2, which is fairly common in parts of… it's common in Equatorial Africa. And there's nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is quite common in Southern Asia. And there's… there’s a tumor associated with, there's several bacterial ones, like cancer of the stomach, you know, they have a connection with pylori bacteria — Helicobacter pylori. And I'm sure, there are many others. And sometimes the connection may… may not be, you know, clear. As I mentioned before, everything has multiple causes. So in some cases, the virus may have some role, but not, you know, there may be other causes as we… but actually, one… one of the things you want in medical research, in particular, is you want complicated answers. You want complex answers, not simple ones, because the more… the more you know about different mechanisms, the more places you can intervene. And that's what's happening in drug therapy now, we know more and more about the molecular biology, that every time some sort of mechanism, it looks as if you could find some small molecule there, that will interfere with it, your… that's your candidate. That goes into the pipeline. You know, you have some idea of mechanism, you have, you know,  a cheap drug you can make, synthesize, and that's your next pipeline. So, what we don't want is simplicity. We want complexity, you know, understand as much as you can, in order to intervene.

American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: cancer, hepatitis B virus, bacteria, medical research, molecular biology

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009