The training of the next generations of cancer investigators is essential to execution of the Moores Cancer Center (MCC) mission of transforming cancer prevention, detection and care. Thus, cancer research enhancement is a high priority across the Center. The overall goal of this core is to attract talented individuals into the field and to enhance the research skills of those who have already launched careers in cancer research by leveraging the enormous depth of knowledge about cancer and the care of cancer patients that is resident in our faculty. The specific aims are to:

  • Ensure an active integrated pipeline of training activities that extends from high school through the undergraduate, graduate and junior faculty phases of a research career.
  • Coordinate existing programs of research education and training at the MCC to optimize exploitation of available opportunities and educational talent
  • Identify areas where new research training efforts are needed and provide leadership to obtain appropriate funding

Introduction

Our mission is to improve the care of cancer patients. This will be accomplished by training the next generation of scientists and physicians who will make the essential discoveries and execute the clinical trials needed to carry out this mission. Our approach is to provide research training in all the major disciplines that relate to the biology and treatment of cancer at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels in the basic, translational, population, and clinical sciences. Using our own resources, and by affiliating with training programs based in the UCSD School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, General UCSD Campus and SDSU, we operate a pipeline of outstanding training programs and activities to enhance the skills of the next generation of cancer researchers.

Leadership Structure

The CRCERA core is co-led by Drs. Quyen Nguyen from UCSD and Hala Madanat from SDSU.

Quyen Nguyen, MD PhD, is an Professor and surgeon-scientist in the Departments of Surgery and Pharmacology and is the Associate Director for Research Education and Training at MCC. Dr. Nguyen’s specialty is Neurotology-Skull Base Surgery and Facial Paralysis. She conducts translational and clinical research focused on injectable probes for fluorescence-guided surgery. She has 10 years of experience in leading an externally-funded research lab and is the recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She is the Director of the Neurotology-Skull Base Surgery Fellowship program, and is the Co-PI of a T32 training grant which trains Head and Neck Surgery residents in translational research. Dr. Nguyen is also a faculty member of the Doctoral of Audiology program for cancer (joint program between UCSD and SDSU) which trains audiologists on the care of patients with hearing loss including hearing loss resulting from chemotherapy/radiation.

Hala Madanat, PhD, is the Co-Director of the Core. Dr. Madanat is a Professor and the Director of the School of Public Health at SDSU and core-investigator at Institute for Behavioral and Community Health. She currently co-leads the evaluation core for the SDSU/UCSD Comprehensive Cancer Partnership and is also the Co-PI of a HRSA grant aimed at enhancing the education of primary care providers, other geriatric team professionals, paid and family caregivers, and the general public about best practices in caring for underserved people with age-related diseases.

Drs. Nguyen and Madanat will establish priorities and develop action plans with the support of a steering committee of experienced cancer educators from multiple areas of expertise (Dr. Michael Bouvet, Professor, Cancer Therapeutics Training Program; Dr. Colin Depp, Director, CTRI Fellowship; Dr. Daniel Donoghue, Director, CBIO Program; Dr. Tannishtha Reya, Co-Director, Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program; Dr. Jeffrey Chang, Director, Oncofertility Program; Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, Director, Hematology/Oncology Fellowship; Dr. Antonio De Maio, Director, IMSD Program). The steering committee will assist Drs. Nguyen and Madanat in establishing priorities and assessing progress with regular progress meetings. Drs. Nguyen and Madanat will be supported by a “grants specialist” who has extensive experience in training grant preparation, submission and operations.

Identification of Gaps and Opportunities

The CRCERA core maintains an inventory of all MCC training activities that includes intensity of effort and provides an up-to-date contour map of the MCC training landscape. The CRCERA core will maintain an updated inventory on a website based platform and utilize social media to increase awareness of cancer research opportunities at different levels. This map is reviewed regularly as existing grants expire and new grants are activated, and thus it makes it possible to quickly identify gaps as they develop. It also allows CRCERA to anticipate when key training program renewals are due and thus, identify possible deficiencies in the landscape should renewals fail. The web-based platform can be further expanded in the future into an interactive virtual “Cancer Classroom without Walls” that allows active learning of cancer research topics at different education levels and also into a global mapping feature, with data from the T32 programs to track the trainees after graduation.

Strategy Development

New fields of endeavor which require augmented training support are emerging quite rapidly as exemplified by developments in the field of immune-oncology. As an early warning system for these shifts, and as a strategic planning exercise, the CRCERA will hold a bi-annual half-day planning retreat at which experts in emerging or underserved fields will be asked to specifically identify training needs, approaches and technology unique to the field or population and the extent to which cross-training can link traditional and new fields.

New Initiative Development

The output from bi-annual CRCERA retreats will be a rank ordered list of recommended actions for either modifying the focus of existing training activities or initiating new ones. The co-Directors and Staff of the CRCERA will take the lead in identifying and working with an appropriate PI to develop a training program targeted to high school, undergraduate, graduate or post-doctoral candidates as appropriate to the opportunity. This will include gathering the data needed to make the case for more training resources and liaising with training programs on the UCSD campus, SDSU and at our C3 partners the Salk Institute, the Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Institute to explore join training grants that leverage the expertise at all 3 NCI-designated Cancer Centers. At this time we are contemplating:

  • An Oncology Clinical Investigator Mentorship Program including a master’s degree through the CREST Program of our CTSA funded Clinical and Translational Research Institute
  • A T32 funded Research Training in Cancer Medicine Program geared toward early career post-doctoral fellow and house staff from all specialties involved with cancer.
  • A joint MCC/SDSU pre- and post-doctoral training program in cancer public health and disparities research focused on physicians and researchers from underserved communities and populations
  • Expansion of current fellowship training programs at UCSD to include other C3 cancer centers
  • A joint UCSD/LJI post-doctoral fellowship program in immune-oncology

We welcome your participation and invite you to browse the list of available programs, and to contribute by listing your own program on this site.

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