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Fighting for the Next Generation of Drugs to Improve Cancer Outcomes

Read Time: 2 minutes

Ben Myers, PhD
Ben Myers, PhD

Ben Myers, PhD
Cancer Researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute
Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences, University of Utah

“My 5 is for two of my former colleagues whom I lost to cancer. I think losing two people who were really close to me, and who happened to be scientists, made me realize that nobody is exempt from this disease. It also underscored the importance of the work we’re all doing as a community of cancer researchers so that one day those tumors won’t be fatal.” 
Ben Myers

Ben Myers never expected to be a cancer researcher. He first started out his career in neuroscience, studying how we sense pain as a result of very hot or very cold temperatures.

“I started thinking about the ways in which our bodies develop and how cancer cells hijack that process to make cells grow out of control,” he says. “I realized that a lot of what I had learned by studying proteins in the nervous system could also apply to cancer biology in ways that other scientists weren’t necessarily thinking about.”

Myers works on a key issue in treating cancer patients—when certain medications stop being effective—known in the field as drug resistance. His research focuses on developing better drugs that will get around this issue, but he realized we didn’t understand basic aspects of the molecules that we’re developing drugs against.

“It’s like a child’s birthday party where there is a piñata, and the kids are trying to hit the piñata, but they have blindfolds on,” he says. “They may be able to hit it if you give them enough time, but it would make a heck of a lot more sense if they could take off their blindfolds.”

The 5 For The Fight Fellowship asked researchers to study an idea that could lead to a breakthrough. It allows researchers to seed new projects and closes the gaps to obtaining critical staff and materials.

“Doing innovative work as a scientist is a chicken-and-egg dilemma because often when you’ve got a new idea, you can’t run with it right away,” Myers says. “You can’t secure traditional funding until you can show that your idea is going to work, but at the same time you can’t take those key first steps without some initial funding. The 5 For The Fight Fellowship is absolutely critical to my lab because it is helping us make those key first steps toward innovation.”

Advice for Young Scientists

“Don’t follow the same path that everyone else follows. Do something different, and don’t be afraid to take risks and make big changes. There are still a lot of really important unanswered questions out there.”

Cancer touches all of us.