Preclinical animal models have been the foundation for the development of novel cancer therapies. Historically, this foundation has relied on mouse models. While mouse models are fundamentally important, the models are insufficient and need to be complemented. Companion animals are an important combination of outbred animals that have spontaneous cancer development with an intact immune system and have environmental and epigenetic exposures as humans. Tackling complex cancer research problems should include investigators with broad experience across animal and human species presenting a unique opportunity for DVMs and MDs to have a crucial role in basic to translational research. Veterinarians can strengthen comparative approaches essential to multidisciplinary research accelerating innovative treatments for animals and humans. Medical doctors bring a patient-centered approach linking biology with clinical therapy. Unfortunately, recruiting and retaining biomedical scientists with comparative oncology expertise, especially DVM or MD clinician-scientists, continues to be a challenging issue facing the broader research community. The Comparative Oncology Training Program (T32) will provide an outstanding environment to train predoctoral (DVM/PhD) students and post-DVM or post-MD fellows who are interested in cancer research. To accomplish this goal, Drs. Chen, Kent, and Canter (MPIs) organized a diverse team of twenty-seven UC Davis faculty mentors from the School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Medicine, College of Biological Science, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and College of Engineering. The faculty mentors are accomplished biomedical investigators with NCI or cancer-related funding. The proposed program will leverage the NCI-designated UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and will be fully integrated into the Center?s cancer education program. The T32 program?s objectives are to: 1) recruit and retain a diverse group of clinician-scientists that prepares them to become future leaders in academia, government service and public health, 2) expose the T32 scholars to cancer-focused career paths, and 3) train the scholars to use comparative medicine to address human cancer biology. The objectives will be accomplished by providing up to 3-year funding support for DVM/PhD dual-degree predoctoral students and post-DVM or post-MD postdoctoral fellows. During the training, the T32 scholars will enhance their knowledge through tailored coursework, mentored research, multidisciplinary interactions, and career development activities. By the end of the grant period, we expect to train eleven professionals encompassing two dual-degree DVM/PhD students, seven post-DVM fellows, and two post-MD fellows to become highly-qualified basic and translational comparative oncology researchers.
The UC Davis Comparative Oncology T32 program will provide an outstanding environment for biomedical research training. The goal is to train 1) veterinarian- and physician-scientists and 2) graduate students pursuing dual DVM-PhD degrees to integrate the study of companion animals, which have naturally occurring cancers, with human cancer biology and therapy (comparative oncology). This will create a new generation of scientists engaged in basic and translational cancer research that advances the health of people and animals.