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Dr. Keith Black
(b. 1957)

If you want to understand the artist, you study his art. If you want to understand God, you study the anatomy of the brain.

Art is a discipline that is practiced with passion and science is a passion that is practiced with discipline.
—Dr. Keith Black

Born in 1957 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Dr. Keith Black is a world-renowned neurosurgeon and scientist. Dr. Black, a leading researcher in his field, is in the process of "changing the paradigm" for cancer treatment. His pioneering research has focused on the treatment of brain tumors. He has devised two innovative methods for treating brain cancer. Dr. Black's cutting-edge research has led to the development of a delivery method for administering chemotherapeutic drugs directly to the tumor, and the creation of vaccines to enhance the body's immune response.

Presently director of the Cedars-Sinai Neurological Institute, Dr. Black displayed a penchant for medical science from an early age. In 1975, he published his first scientific paper on the damage done to blood cells in patients with heart-valve replacements, which won the prestigious Westinghouse Science Award. In the same year, he enrolled at the University of Michigan medical school's accelerated program—a six-year degree in biomedical science and medicine—where his fascination with the brain began as early as his freshman year. In 1994, he patented his method of selective opening of abnormal brain tissue capillaries.

Dr. Black is best known for his discovery that bradykinin, a peptide occurring naturally in the body, was highly effective in opening the blood-brain barrier by causing capillary walls to be leaky. The blood-brain barrier is a protective network of blood vessels which impedes the progress of medication moving from the blood stream to brain tissue. He initially investigated other natural body compounds—leukotrienes—that induce swelling after injury and also make blood vessels leaky. However, Dr. Black explains that "the fantastic thing about bradykinin is that it does not open the barrier to the normal brain—only to tumors". Therefore, chemotherapy can now deal with the tumor itself without damaging delicate brain tissue. A synthetic version of bradykinin can then be delivered directly to the tumor.

Another innovative method based on Dr. Black's research is geared towards strengthening the body's own immune response. The method involves extracting the tumor cells during surgery; culturing the cells in the laboratory; genetically modifying the culture cells; and injecting the genetically engineered product into the patient as a vaccine. Dr. Black explains: "In order for the cancer to survive one of the things it has to do is make itself invisible to the immune system, the first step is to get the immune system to recognize the tumor." After the tumor cells are removed, genetically engineered and re-injected into the patient, "the immune system can now recognize the tumor, identify it, and mount an immune response against it, and develop millions of immune cells to go out throughout the body, find these cancer cells and eradicate them."
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