The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 26, 2013

Science’s top breakthroughs of the year

WASHINGTON — Every year, the editors of Science huddle together and pick an outstanding scientific achievement as the Breakthrough of the Year. This year’s winner is:

Cancer Immunotherapy: harnessing the immune system to battle tumors: Scientists have thought for decades that such an approach to cancer therapy should be possible, but it has been incredibly difficult to make it work. Now many oncologists say we have turned a corner, because two different techniques are helping a subset of patients. One involves antibodies that release a brake on T cells, giving them the power to tackle tumors. Another involves genetically modifying an individual’s T cells outside the body so that they are better able to target cancer, and then re-infusing them so they can do just that.

We are still at the beginning of this story and have a long way to go. Only a very small proportion of cancer patients have received these therapies, and many are not helped by them. Doctors and scientists still have a lot to learn about why the treatments do and do not work. But the results have been repeated at different centers and in different tumor types, giving doctors hope that immunotherapy for cancer may benefit more and more people in the future

The editors also singled out nine runners-up for special praise:

Genetic Microsurgery: A year-old gene-editing technique called CRISPR touched off an explosion of research in 2013. It’s short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”: repetitive stretches of DNA that bacteria have evolved to combat predatory viruses by slicing up the viral genomes. The “knife” is a protein called Cas9; in 2012, researchers showed they could use it as a scalpel to perform microsurgery on genes. This year the new technology became red hot, as more than a dozen teams wielded it to manipulate specific genes in mice, rats, bacteria, yeast, zebrafish, nematodes, fruit flies, plants and human cells, paving the way for understanding how these genes function and possibly harnessing them to improve health.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Porch leap looked muchbigger as a kid

    It’s no secret that porch designs have changed over the years. Drive through new Norman developments and look at the porches. Most only have room for a potted plant and a spot to drop those UPS packages, no place for a porch swing or ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Keeping the war buried

    International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Gaza’s victims: civilians and peace

    After more than two weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel, there is no question which side has the upper hand. Thursday’s strike on a U.N.-run school for Palestinian children increased the Palestinian death toll to more than 760. By ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014

  • They just want to be free ... maybe

    Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead ...

    July 20, 2014