The Gift of Time
The answers came back fairly quickly: “Yes,” “Yes,” “Happy to participate,” “Glad to help,”
We are forming a scientific steering committee to direct the research agenda around ocular melanoma and I had sent a request to about 20 researchers asking them to volunteer their time. The positive responses reflect the dedication and commitment of an amazing group of doctors and scientists.
This year we have seen two new drugs approved by the FDA for advanced melanoma. Behind the online buzz and news stories is a largely untold story. It is a story built on countless hours of work required to bring those approvals to reality.
People in the research community, particularly those at the top of their game, tend not live “normal” lives. They come to work early and stay late. They spend their weekends at conferences, sharing ideas with colleagues from other institutions. They travel to exotic locations like Argentina and Australia, only to spend the entire time in a sterile, anonymous conference room listening to presentations on data.
When they watch a baseball game, they do so surrounded by the latest journal articles, scanning charts and graphs between pitches. Their seventh inning stretch is spent dictating case notes and outlining a new research strategy.
And in the melanoma space this investment of time and talent has been, too often, an exercise in futility. Some brilliant people have spent their entire career seeking answers to this cancer, only to see every approach fail. Still, they labor on.
This kind of dedication means that time is a precious commodity.
Now here I am, asking for more of their time. Asking for a few hours to speak with colleagues and peers, trying to find answers to one of the more challenging forms of melanoma.
These men and women—M.D.’s, Ph.D’,s, some holding both degrees—know the challenges in the ocular melanoma space. A couple of thousand diagnoses a year. Many will metastasize. Metastasis is almost universally fatal. So the answers come back—“Yes,” “Of course,” and the one that really, really sets me back: “I am honored to be asked.”
If their field were football they would be the highlight reel. If they were entertainers, we would all know their names and the paparazzi would follow them around. But they are scientists and doctors, working away in non-descript laboratories long after most of us have sat down for a relaxing evening of television.
In the war against melanoma they are the unsung heroes, and we owe them our thanks.