Shades of Violet

ShadesofVioletimage © Karen McRae, 2013

A few days ago I received a note from a fellow nature enthusiast. Someone thanking me for connecting community through my blog, through examining nature. Someone who finds nature as inspiring as I do, but takes it in a whole other direction.

Dr. Jim Olsen is a pediatric brain cancer specialist and researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He told me about an important project he and his team are working on and wondered if I might be willing to talk about it here.

In his email he explains,
My family and I are nature and outdoor enthusiasts. Since I was a small child, I marveled at the innovative ways that plants and animals evolve to protect themselves and interact. Now, as a pediatric oncologist and researcher, I have turned to nature once again to generate new drug candidates for diseases that we currently consider incurable. Many plants and animals produce natural drugs that have been perfected over millions of years, and we are learning how to use these scaffolds to create candidate therapeutics for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism. I’m reaching out to you to ask for some help in spreading the word about how – without ravaging nature – we can learn from nature’s drug designs to help create new opportunities for children and adults to lead healthy lives.

After two decades of caring for children with cancer, I recently gave a talk at TEDxSeattle, in which I opened my heart to share how some of these individual children changed my life and drove incredible innovation through research. I am writing to see if you would be willing to share the link to this talk with your readers.

After watching this video and doing a little research about Project Violet I was compelled to share this innovative and interesting project on my little art and photography blog although I realize it is an unusual post.

I could write quite a bit about this research but it wouldn’t be as eloquently or as accurately expressed as Jim’s words. Here are a couple of things about the research that intrigued me, though:

  • A ‘tumour paint’ that lights up cancer cells to enable more precise removal of these cells during surgery. Interestingly, this drug is developed from a molecule in the venom of scorpions.
  • The development of  “a fundamentally new class of anti-cancer compounds – molecules engineered to specifically attack cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.” *

If you have a few minutes please watch Jim’s TEDxSeattle talk. You can support this research just by watching the video at the link below **:

How Nature and a 9-Year Old Are Revolutionizing Cancer Treatment

** The Washington Research Foundation has generously offered to donate $10 to support their work for each time the talk is viewed, up to $50,000. The goal is to have 20,000 people view the TEDx talk this month!

To find out more about Project Violet (and who Violet is) please visit the website.

* Link to Dr. Jim Olson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Here is a recent interview with Jim on GeekWire

Update: A recent interview/article with Jim on NPR!

36 thoughts on “Shades of Violet

  1. Thanks for this post with the wonderful picture. The Madagascar periwinkle saved the life of a loved one decades ago just when this drug was discovered.

  2. Thanks Karen for sharing this link what fantastic research – I have reblogged your post in the hope that it spreads a little further. One of my beautiful twin daughters has cerebral palsy – not life threatening – but hope is a wonderful thing and there would certainly be some off shoots of this research that would feed into providing better outcomes. 🙂

  3. This is truly wonderful news and extremely exciting! Will watch that Ted talk asap! Also congrats on such a beautiful image and thanks for adding me to your blog list 🙂

  4. Excellent that the arts can help science. Beautiful photograph as well, Karen. Interesting about the scorpion venom – if you shine a black light on a scorpion it glows in the dark. I have to wonder if whatever chemical causes that to happen is helpful in mapping the cancer cells that have to be excised.

  5. How interesting and exciting. Important work, and so great that you share this. I will check out the link. And I of course love the photo too. 🙂

  6. This is what is wonderful about the blogosphere; that each of us can choose to use our talents to enhance peoples lives. How? by doing just what you have done today Karen in sharing the information about this most exciting work.
    I commend you .. Helen x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s