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In Memoriam: Becky Wald


You probably never met Becky Wald. In many ways, she was a throwback to an earlier time: she raised seven children, rejoiced in staying home with them, and had an unshakable faith in God. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was one of the most genuinely caring individuals I've ever met. And I don't mind telling you that it was her chocolate chip cookie recipe that got me through some grueling exam seasons in college. Last year, Becky was diagnosed with colon cancer that had metastasized to her liver. There had been few symptoms, none serious enough to be taken as a warning sign. Seven months later — seven months earned through aggressive and often debilitating treatment — she died at the age of 56.

We all have our own Becky Wald — someone so unfairly lost to cancer. But as Evan Eichler says in our Q&A this month, it can be all too easy for scientists to think of the patients they study as DNA samples, and not as people. We need to remember the human element.

This year as we planned our fourth annual cancer special issue, we wanted to highlight the terrific research going on, but we also felt compelled to include a more practical look at the field. We interviewed experts to find out what can be done now to have the most immediate impact on cancer treatment. You'll find that on p. 43, and our scientific highlights — including advances with microRNA, sequencing, gene expression, and more — on p. 32. To round out the cancer focus, we profiled the MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the first nationally designated cancer care facilities in the US and a great example of the translational research model.

Becky Wald often spoke of her battle against what she called "the Cancerites." Some would say that she lost that battle (for the record, she never considered those precious extra months with her family a loss), but I have faith that this community really can win the war.

The Genome Technology staff would like to dedicate this issue of the magazine to Becky and to Robert Dublin, our reporter Matt Dublin's uncle who was felled by pancreatic cancer late last year. And our deepest thanks to you, our readers, who are out there fighting the good fight for people like them.

The Scan

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.

Adenine Base Editor Targets SCID Mutation in New Study

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, report in Cell that adenine base editing was able to produce functional T lymphocytes in a model of severe combined immune deficiency.

Researchers Find Gene Affecting Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.