John Dick, the subject of this month’s Q&A at Nature Reports Stem Cells (April 2009), identified the first cancer stem cell, in leukaemia. The widely used xenotransplantation assay that he developed can confirm the identity of prospective haematopoietic stem cells by demonstrating their ability to re-establish a human blood system in the mouse. He is a professor at the University of Toronto and its affiliated Princess Margaret Hospital and Director of the Program in Cancer Stem Cells at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Monya Baker, Editor of Nature Reports Stem Cells investigates his call for more controversy.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a scientist?
A: Everyone in science has to have an ego. You have to think: Here’s a question that nobody knows an answer to, and I think I can come up with a way to answer that question. Of course you always want to answer the questions that nobody has answered before, but if an experiment is worth doing, it’s worth doing even if there are a number of people also trying to get the answer. If someone else gets there first, it just means that you can go on faster to the next question.