Shrikant Anant, Ph.D.
Joan Lewis-Wambi, Ph.D.
Cancer Biology Education Committee:
The Graduate Program in Cancer Biology (CBIO) will be a University-wide interdisciplinary training program. The focus of the program will be at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC); although, use of technology allows the program to share local expertise as well as to integrate expertise on other campuses of the University. Thus, CBIO will draw upon clinical and basic scientist mentors from multiple divisions, departments and schools throughout KUMC, the University of Kansas Cancer Center (KUCC, including consortium partners at the Stowers Institute, Children's Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas Lawrence).
The primary goal of Cancer Biology is to train future scientific leaders in cancer biology by providing a rigorous multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary education. The scientific focus is broadly defined - cancer research - but there will be student-identified areas of emphasis that include: cancer cell biology (including cellular signaling and response pathways that are altered and contribute to cancer etiology, progression and/or therapeutic resistance), cancer prevention, cancer therapeutics (including identification of novel diagnostics, cancer genetics and epigenetics, prognostic markers, therapeutic targets) and cancer care delivery. The program will be primarily basic research focused; but, translational, clinical and population-based research will also be included (and added as resources permit).
While sub-specialties exist within the cancer research rubric, it is crucial for every cancer researcher to be conversant in the other areas in order to most rapidly translate findings into clinical practice (and vice versa). Therefore, the CBIO Program will emphasize cross-disciplinary approaches encompassing new concepts and state-of-the-art techniques of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics, proteomics, structural biology, cell biology, pharmacology and molecular medicine. CBIO will strive to integrate students into the extensive and rapidly expanding clinical and translational research programs of the University of Kansas Cancer Center and the affiliated basic science programs.
Cancer Biology will utilize innovative training formats and pedagogy so that students receive mentoring and input from both physicians and basic science researchers. Doing so ensures that students will be exposed to clinical as well as molecular aspects of cancer diseases. Students who complete this training will be especially well qualified to bridge the disciplines of cancer biology and clinical oncology.
In recent years, biomedical PhD programs have become so focused on molecular biology that studies in pathologic mechanisms and knowledge of disease processes have taken a back seat. As a result, too few PhD graduates enter the workforce with sufficient knowledge of the underlying pathobiology to effectively translate molecular advances in cancer biology into clinical practice. Essential to transdisciplinary training is to bridge gaps in language and pathobiological understanding that exist between most basic researchers and physicians. Integrated throughout are enrichment opportunities that provide exposure to patient-oriented, case-based topics; drug-development research; valid experimental design and statistics; and exposure to logistical and regulatory components of the drug development process. The enrichment activities will take advantage of the unique opportunities available by close association with KUMC and KUCC. Ultimately, students will enter the workforce with the experience in translational research to move discoveries more effectively from bench to bedside.