Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Front Page Coverage of CIRM-backed Research

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California stem cell agency scored during the weekend in a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle that heralded a possible cancer treatment involving a "don't-eat-me-molecule."

The piece by Victoria Colliver said,
"In a potential breakthrough for cancer research, Stanford immunologists discovered they can shrink or even get rid of a wide range of human cancers by treating them with a single antibody."
The story was played prominently on the Chronicle front page on Saturday. However, the stem cell agency and its funding role was not mentioned until the last paragraph of the story. Nonetheless, on Saturday night, the Chronicle website reported that it was the most read and most emailed story on its site at that time.

When we looked at the story that evening, the article had 84 comments from readers, including several which praised the agency for its work. One reader noted, however, that other funding agencies were involved besides the California stem cell agency. The reader quoted from the Stanford press release, which said,

"This work was supported by the Joseph & Laurie Lacob Gynecologic/Ovarian Cancer Fund, the Jim & Carolyn Pride Fund, the Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, the Weston Havens Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and anonymous donors."

Stanford's news release said,
"It is the first antibody treatment shown to be broadly effective against a variety of human solid tumors, and the dramatic response — including some overt cures in the laboratory animals — has the investigators eager to begin phase-1 and –2 human clinical trials within the next two years."
The Los Angeles Times also carried a story last week on the research, but did not mention CIRM. The agency itself wrote about the research on its blog.

CIRM Chairman J.T. Thomas and other CIRM directors have been concerned about the lack of coverage in the mainstream media – particularly favorable coverage – of the agency's work. When this writer was at a meeting yesterday afternoon at CIRM headquarters in San Francisco, Thomas pointedly presented a copy of the Chronicle front page, suggesting the article was worthy of note. Thomas is correct; the piece can certainly be counted as a favorable mention of the $3 billion research effort. Now it is up to CIRM and its new communications director, Kevin McCormack, who began work on Monday, to multiply the Chronicle piece many times over.

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