Thursday, September 6, 2012

Giving Feedback on Cancer Research Proposals


Now that I’ve had breast cancer, my opinion is sought after.  A local medical researcher asked my thoughts on his latest grant pre-proposal.  The Komen foundation actually requires applicants to consult with women who have had breast cancer before submitting their requests for money.

This particular application was for research on mice. I’m okay with animal research.  My opinion on animal research was not affected by having had breast cancer.  The medical researcher wanted to know if I think his idea has potential for helping humans. I told him I’d need to see the mouse data before I could think about it.  Again, my need for data was not affected by having had cancer.

The proposal outlined 3 experimental groups.  I thought a 4th group (combining two of the drugs) would also be appropriate.  When I mentioned this to the researcher, he said, “I hear you loud and clear.”  I felt as if he’d been trained by a therapy group. He has now done his required “show it to a breast cancer survivor” step.  But nothing I said to him was influenced in any way by having had cancer.

If the real goal is to get input from lay people, that was not accomplished.  I am scientifically trained. I understood the polysyllabic gobbledygook of the proposal.  I was able to use appropriate tech talk when I suggested that I’d like to see the problem stopped earlier in the process.  Who wouldn’t?  Nobody wants to get cancer.  

Perhaps the thinking is that women who have had breast cancer will be more interested than other women in helping evaluate research proposals.  That does apply to me.  I think it would also apply to women who have family members who have had breast cancer.

The researcher told me he got more than he’d planned on when I suggested rephrasing some of the words in his application, and adding experiments to his proposal.  But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of involving non-scientifically trained people in planning scientific research.  I hope that the more people feel involved in research, the more they will support it and the sooner cancer will become an easily treatable disease.

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