Lou Gehrig's Disease - Motor Neuron Disease - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Thought it had been cured by now? Still no known cause. Still no cure. Still quickly fatal. Still outrageous.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is It Wrong To Yell "Fire Extinguisher..." a crowded, burning theatre where the doors are all locked?

Of course not if you have a fire extinguisher in your hands and are trying to clear a path to help.

It would be very wrong if you have a great blueprint for an awesome  extinguisher (that you consider to be a "breakthrough" in snuffing fires)  and a successful experiment and a patent application but have yet to go through rigorous testing, certification, approvals, pilot production, or production.  You would set a really cruel expectation amidst a lot of people facing death.

Last week was an interesting one in the fight against ALS.  We had already seen the news published August 7 about TDP-43 in Science

That was certainly another good scientific step forward.

In a tenuous attempt to link the scientific good news to last August's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we started getting crafty statements.   What better way to encourage donations this year than to associate it with a recent advance in understanding ALS?

Media coverage was being cultivated, and this makes a feel-good story about the marvelous, fun phenomenon of August, 2014.  It makes a wonderful feel-good story.

Then there was the Reddit AMA exchange with one of the paper's authors followed by some national interviews.  A tie of the #ALSicebucketchallenge to this project was emphasized.  Wow.  We did that with the ice, eh?  A young scientist almost seemed giddy with enthusiasm about the significance of his discovery.  Double-wow.  And this was emanating from one of the finest academic medical institutions in the nation, Johns Hopkins.

As Answer ALS aptly described in a statement on Facebook, "The headline seen this evening had the phrase 'A Cure for ALS Could Be Coming Soon.'  As the last few days have gone on, the headlines seemed to create themselves... "

And for families craving optimistic sound-bites as they deal with ALS, were they ever getting the optimistic sound-bites, right from the scientist's mouth.

And the ecstatic news went on and on.  Mission accomplished?

Perspective, anyone?

  • When did this work start?
  • How much did the project cost and exactly who supplied what funding? 
  • What are the next steps?
  • How much money is needed for the next steps?
  • What is the most optimistic timeline for the next steps?
  • What are the barriers (scientific or regulatory) to bringing this finding to a therapy?

That clarity and perspective will help us all to understand not only the significance of the findings but also what we all need to do to help bring those headlines to reality.  

Maybe we need to talk about patient-centric p.r. and fundraising.  A respected medical institution needs to celebrate its achievements and raise funds with respect for the patients and caregivers and loved ones who are trapped in a burning theatre.  They just heard "fire extinguisher" on the national news last week.

1 comment:

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