Unraveled is Dana-Farber’s science podcast that explores the mysteries of the science of cancer. Veteran broadcaster Ken Shulman digs into the cutting-edge science that is transforming cancer research, and providing hope for scientists, and for cancer patients.
Season 2 Episode 3: Stop the Division: CDK-4/6 Inhibitors and the Cell Cycle
26:59Cancer is often a problem of cell division; cancer cells keep doubling and doubling, faster and faster. Eventually, they crowd out the healthy cells we need to survive. So researchers proposed a question: Why not stop that land grab? Why not find a way to jam the gears of the cell cycle to stop cancer cells from dividing? Today, we have drugs that do just that: They're called CDK-4/6 inhibitors. The story of those drugs, the momentum that brought them from bench to bedside, was written largely at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — and keeps being written today. It's the story we're telling in episode three of Unraveled.
Season 2 Episode 2: Thalidomide and its Second Act in Multiple Myeloma
28:43Momentum isn't always one way. And it's not always constant. Sometimes it shoves you sideways, sometimes it stops you in your tracks. And sometimes only sometimes, it drives you to write one of the most astonishing second acts in all of medicine. That's the story we're telling today about thalidomide, its second act in multiple myeloma, and the promise of protein degradation.
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Season 2 Episode 1 BCL-2 Inhibitors: Driving Cells to Destruction
30:17The story begins decades ago with a man named Stanley Korsmeyer, who led the molecular oncology program at Dana-Farber from 1998 until his death in 2005. He discovered that B-cell cancers like CLL over-produced a protein called BCL-2, and interfered with apoptosis, or programmed cell death. But how that went from an interesting discovery to a game-changing cancer drug is a story of persistence and momentum, and it’s the first episode of season two of Unraveled
Season 2 Trailer
2:11In season 2 of Unraveled, we explore the theme of momentum. The momentum that takes therapies from test bench to bedside, and then back to test bench for fine tuning. The momentum provided by researchers, who defy headwinds and even gravity to keep science moving forward. And the momentum that doctors harness, with medicines and care that can transform once lethal cancers into treatable conditions.
Episode 6: Dana-Farber in the Time of COVID
31:22A beauty… that in some cases becomes tragic. It’s not the way most people would describe a virus. In the simplest of terms, a virus is a snippet of genetic code. It can’t reproduce on its own. So, in order to replicate, it needs to infect and hijack a living cell. Scientists can’t even agree on whether viruses are alive or dead. What they do know is that every so often, one of them goes, well, viral. And when it does, it can bring everything to a skidding halt. Well, almost everything. One thing the COVID pandemic didn’t stop was cancer. And that meant that everyone at Dana-Farber had to find a way to keep on working. And they had to find a way to keep themselves and their patients safe.
Episode 5: Turning Science Fiction into Fact
31:02It’s always fun to think about the future. Flying cars. Cities in the clouds. Colonies on Venus and Mars. Ok. So we didn’t end up living like the Jetsons. But a few of those visions did come true. And Judy Wilkins knows that first hand. Wilkins is a former patient at Dana-Farber. And she’s the poster child for a bold new therapy where science fiction becomes science fact.
Episode 4: The Blueprints of Your Cells
31:08There are approximately 20,000 genes in the human genome. 20,000 packets that house the blueprints for every human cell. And every human cell contains a complete copy of that genome. It’s an incredible feat of bio-engineering. But here’s the question. If every human cell contains every single human gene, how does the cell know what to do? What process determines whether it becomes a pancreas or a patella? And what happens if that process falters—if the right gene is selected but cast in the wrong role.
Episode 3: The Culture of Mentorship
31:43What do cancer researchers and 15th century Florentine masters have in common? Well for one, a culture of mentorship. Both come of age in a culture where knowledge is transmitted from master to pupil. In this episode, we take a closer look at that culture, and the crucial role mentorship plays at Dana-Farber, and with Nobel laureate, William Kaelin.
Episode 1: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
34:21The parable of the wolf in sheep’s clothing tale reminds us that things aren’t always as they seem, that bad guys can dress up as good guys to do their bad guy things. And there’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing story in cancer research, complete with a crafty predator, a clever disguise, and a visionary team of researchers who finally found a way to nab the wolf.
Episode 2: Behind the Science of the 2019 Nobel Prize
30:19It’s hard to overstate just how important oxygen is to life on earth. Almost every living thing on the planet needs it to convert fuel into energy. We can’t survive without it. Not even for a handful of minutes. Fortunately, our bodies know this. And they’ve developed several (easier to say) rapid response systems to keep us going when oxygen runs low. A few cancers have found a bug in the system, a way to sound a false alarm and make the body think it’s low on oxygen when it’s not. And then to hijack the body’s response to feed hungry tumors. It’s a complicated process, and a fascinating one. And it earned one Dana-Farber doctor the biggest prize of all.