Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dark Arts not so Dark

Good morning! Well, here I sit at my hotel desperately waiting for the breakfast area to open so I can get another shot of coffee before beginning another brisk day of peer review. Why hotel rooms only supply you with four packets of coffee is beyond me. Even at that, you can only only use the pre-made coffee packets twice. That is merely 8 cups off coffee. Who can live like that? Yesterday was a full 12 hours of work. I know that sounds awful but keep in mind we were given three 10 minute breaks and one 45 minute break for lunch. The rest of the time, however, the 20 some odd group of experts (and I) sat around and debated the various merits of a voluminous stack of research proposals. It has been fun but I must admit, tiring. Maintaining concentration and focus has, fortunately, not been particularly hard as much of the research is very interesting.

The difficulty, from my standpoint, is weeding out fact from fiction. Due to the availability of this research funding many researchers have crossed disease boundaries in an effort to grab a hold of some of the neuroblastoma dollars. I have never seen so many proposals on the subject of neuroblastoma coming from other cancer and disease specialists. This is good, in that it brings new ideas and perspectives to the neuroblastoma portfolio. It is frustrating because so many of them clearly lack basic understanding of the disease. In many cases these researchers have partnered with neuroblastoma experts but I would be lying if I said all. If I see another paper addressing how another interesting piece of research is going to save the lives of these "brain" cancer patients I am going to puke. So many miss the boat. However, many also bring new thoughts and directions. The group of neuroblastoma experts that are a part of this review are as about as tolerant as I and I can say we have honestly entered ever discussion with an open mind. There is significant talent in our room. These guys are smart and it is ,once again, assurance that our researchers are among the cream of the crop.

Today will be another excessively full day of debate. However, late this evening, I will be boarding a plane and heading home to a family that I miss very much. I can't wait to see them.

Trips like this are incredibly important but I must admit that I feel my purpose is split.

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