With the development of cutting-edge technology and algorithms, such as next generation sequencing coupled with bioinformatics that allow analyses of vast amounts of data from thousands of patients, our understanding of the cancer disease process, including molecular pathogenesis, is becoming more comprehensive and detailed. The advent of new lines of highly effective therapies, such as immunotherapy and specific small molecule inhibitors, coupled with innovative techniques of imaging facilitating early diagnosis and monitoring, is now translating to significant positive impact on patient survival and prognosis. The next generation of cancer researchers now need not only to understand basic cancer biology but also must grasp the translational applications of laboratory-based findings, and the appropriate use of bioinformatics analyses. The overall goal of translational training in cancer should be to broadly educate trainees to work in diverse teams integrating basic research, patient-oriented research, and population-based research, with the long-term aim of advancing public health. In addition, the researchers also need to be involved in engaging with the community to educate and better understand the impact of their research work and obtain experience mentoring the next generation of scientists. Although it is not possible for every cancer researcher to be an expert in basic cancer biology, translational approaches, bioinformatics, and community engagement, it is important for trainees to be exposed to all of these important aspects of cancer research, to allow them to communicate with colleagues in these various disciplines. Students value experiences that engage them in clinical and community settings, providing the tools and experience to conceive and develop a clinical trial with laboratory-based correlates. The VCU Cancer and Molecular Medicine (CAMM) PhD concentration has been tailored to provide PhD and MD- PhD students with training in basic cancer and molecular biology, with a strong emphasis on the translational applications of the training. The present R25 application is aimed at extending and strengthening this curriculum with de novo components, namely translational clinical and community engagement and reproducible cancer bioinformatics, to provide well-rounded training. This unique combination will equip graduate students with a comprehensive breadth of knowledge and experience, thereby facilitating establishment of a successful career as a cancer researcher who is able to conduct translational science. This comprehensive curriculum can be disseminated to and adopted by graduate programs focused on translational cancer research.
There is an unmet need for a comprehensive curriculum in translational oncology that provides well-rounded knowledge of basic and translational research, community engagement, and cancer bioinformatics to predoctoral students. The present R25 application is aimed at developing and disseminating such a comprehensive curriculum to train future career scientists. The proposed courses will utilize innovative approaches to transdisciplinary topics, integrate clinical and academic environments, and engage trainees in broadening their approach to clinical and translational research.