Interest in cancer immunology has never been more intense. Breakthrough observations with inhibitory receptor blockade in solid malignancies and Hodgkin's lymphoma, combined with ground breaking advances in the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cell adoptive therapies for hematological malignancies have highlighted the critical need to further basic and translation research in cancer immunology. However, while the pipeline of potential immunotherapeutic targets is extensive, the pipeline of future cancer immunologists is limited, despite significant demand in industry and academia. There is a critical need for training programs that optimally prepare the next generation of cancer immunologists. Surprisingly, our Cancer Immunology Training Program (CITP) is one of only a handful of NCI-supported T32s nationwide that entirely focus on cancer immunology. This makes our program unique and essential. The CITP at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM) is in its 15th year and we are seeking support for the next five years. The goals of the CITP are to provide graduate students, fellows and physician scientists with courses, research projects and highly-qualified mentors that will allow them to: (1) make a significant contribution to our understanding of key questions in one or several of the areas of research focus covered by this training program: (a) Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Tumor Microenvironment, (b) Adaptive Immunity and Cellular Migration, (c) Modulation of the Immune Response to Tumors, (d) Innate Signaling and Mechanisms in Tumors, and (e) Cell-Based Therapies in Cancer; (2) gain a clear understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms relevant to cancer immunology; (3) obtain a practical understanding of the immunology of human cancer; (4) gain a clear conceptual understanding of all areas that impact cancer immunology; (5) become well-versed in the responsible conduct of research; and (6) develop critical career skills and managerial ability. Building meaningfully on what was a proven training program and leadership, we have made substantive improvements such as a greatly enhanced cancer immunology-focused faculty pool (31 total; 52% new), and the addition of many new program-specific training features. Importantly, UPSOM is making an unprecedented new investment in immunology, with emphasis on cancer immunology. The training program exploits particular strengths at UPSOM, including an outstanding NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, a strong immuno-centric translational research base and an excellent Immunology Department that underpins strong basic research. UPSOM has implemented effective programs to ensure outstanding training, with emphasis on increasing the recruitment and retention of women and URMs. Our applicant pool is outstanding due to the success of our IBGP and MSTP graduate programs, highly sought-after clinical fellowships, and outstanding mentor pool. We are excited and eager to execute our training plan, and to capitalize on the significant improvements that we have made to train the next generation of cancer immunologists.
Current standard therapies for cancer can have substantial systemic toxicity and while they might provide some short-term efficacy they are almost never curative in all patients, thus there is a critical need for new treatments with durable responses and better approaches to prevention. Cancer immunotherapy has made major breakthroughs in the last few years and is likely to have a greater impact in the future. Our Cancer Immunology Training Program seeks to train the spectrum of basic to applied and predoctoral to postdoctoral clinical fellows and young scientists to carry out the next generation of cutting edge research, within the ideally suited, dynamic environment of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
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