As we begin the holiday break and prepare for a New Year, my hope is for all of you to have a healthy start to 2022.
The twists and turns of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be disrupters in our lives. As I write this message, fear and preoccupation with the newest COVID-19 variant, omicron, is derailing the status quo of how we have been living in a pandemic world. This new variant creates an additional strain on an already burdened health system, impacting, in particular, those who provide patient care across our four clinical campuses. And it may disrupt the start of the new year.
While we continue to navigate the pandemic — as researchers, clinicians, educators and learners — we are not pausing on our mission to improve the health of the world. Through curiosity and scientific discovery, our mission to improve global health begins right here in our own backyard in Cleveland.
I want to share some recent observations.
Over the course of a single month, I learned:
- That omicron can infect more people than any virus in history over a shorter time period.
- That the best vaccines, antivirals and antibodies can keep us out of the hospital but not keep us from becoming infected or infectious (although the risks are reduced).
- That acquired mutations of aging in hematopoietic stem cells, something that gives rise to clonal hematopoiesis — reduce the risk of Alzheimer's while increasing cardiovascular disease and myelodysplastic syndrome — perhaps by improving the macrophage (glial cell) inflammatory response, providing a new target for therapy (American Society of Hematology annual meeting, December 21). Learn more
- That CART CD 19 cell therapy is much more effective than autotransplant for the treatment of relapsed lymphoma, which will likely switch our stem cell transplant programs to CART programs in short order (ASH 21). Learn more
Talk about science that leads to a paradigm shift, policy impact and change in clinical practice!
Like most of us, I realize that to keep up in medicine, our task of lifelong learning never ends, and the only way to grow, focus and achieve our goals is by keeping up with the daily task of discovery.
Have a wonderful end of the year, celebrating the holidays with family and friends and join me in a bright new 2022 full of discovery and learning.
Stan Gerson, MD
Dean and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs
School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (acting)
Director, National Center for Regenerative Medicine