Cancer Therapeutics Training Program

Currently accepting applications for positions available starting July 1, 2020. 

The deadline to apply is March 15, 2020. 

The mission of the NIH-funded CT2 program is to train the next generation of leaders in the field of oncology drug and diagnostic development.  It is open to both PhDs and MDs and the training consists of 2 years of mentored research (clinical or laboratory). The CT2 program provides training focused on acquiring a thorough understanding of cancer biology and the drug development progress to position graduates for careers in either academic or industrial oncology drug/diagnostics development.

Please direct inquiries Angela Robles at (858-822-1110) or stop by the office in Moores Cancer Center, Room 3343.


The development of better therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer is a high priority research goal for the next 20 – 30 years. Major advances in cell and molecular biology, genetics and genomics, structural and computational biology and medicinal chemistry have provided the tools needed to identify critical targets, validate their importance to cellular function, design drugs and clinical trials and identify patient populations most likely to benefit from treatment. To capitalize on these advances it is essential for institutions of higher learning to train scientists and physician-scientists in the skills needed to execute successful drug development programs. There is also urgent need to make this development process far more efficient. This will require that scientists and physicians be trained to use new technologies and paradigms that can be innovatively integrated to overcome long-standing barriers in the process of moving a drug from discovery through clinical trials to a successful new drug application (NDA). There is a severe shortage of professionals trained to effectively manage the various stages of the development of a cancer drug, and particularly to manage the overall process.  The Cancer Therapeutics Training Program (CT2) aims to address this challenge by providing scientists, physicians, and clinicans with an intensive two-year period of post-doctoral training in developmental therapeutics focused on cancer drugs. CT2 fellows are mentored by individuals from both academia and industry who are national leaders in each part of the development process. This training will take place in an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center whose research programs encompass each of the major steps in the drug development process and which is engaged in the discovery and testing of a wide spectrum of novel cancer drugs and drug-delivery systems.

Academic Environment

The UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center provides a superb crucible for the operation of a cohesive developmental therapeutics training program. It is located in the middle of one of the largest concentrations of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the world, with over 470 large and small companies dedicated to developing new therapeutics in its immediate environment. There is extensive interaction between the Cancer Center faculty and professionals in the surrounding companies skilled in the art of drug development, providing a highly innovative setting within which to train the next generation of scientists and physician-scientists to lead academic drug development efforts into the future.

The Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center

The UC San Diego Cancer Center was founded in 1979. Its growth has been fostered by the rich fabric of intellectual and entrepreneurial prowess for which San Diego has become famous. The Cancer Center has an administrative structure of seven Research Programs and 12 Shared Resources. The clinical faculty of the Center provides state-of-the-art cancer care within the context of a major clinical trials and translation research program. The Cancer Center sponsors multiple seminars, journal clubs, colloquia and meetings in which research progress is discussed. In 2006, the Center opened a 270,000 sq. ft. multipurpose building that houses all of the cancer outpatient clinical services and provides a large amount of laboratory research space. This facility brings together–both physically and programmatically–laboratory-based scientists, epidemiologists and clinical oncologists to effectively foster translational cancer research.

More than 400 new patients enter clinical treatment protocols annualy at the Cancer Center. This includes NCI Cooperative Group trials (CALGB, NSABP, RTOG and GOG) as well as investigator-initiated trials.  More than 50% of the patients are entered on institutionally generated protocols. There are 3 inpatient teaching hospitals, each of which offers a set of unique characteristics: These include the UC San Diego Medical Center (UCSDMC) in the Hillcrest region of San Diego, the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in La Jolla, and Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla.  UCSDMC is a 403-bed primary, secondary and tertiary care university hospital. The inpatient hospital population is equally divided between male and female patients. There is a 10-bed NIH-funded Clinical Research Center at which complex phase I and phase II protocols, including pharmacokinetic studies, are performed. A GCRC satellite facility operates in the new Moores Cancer Center facility adjacent to the Thornton Hospital. The VAMC has 238 beds, occupied primarily by men. There is a large cohort of patients who receive primary care under the auspices of the VA (approximately 25,000, of which 600 carry a diagnosis of AIDS), and a large number of both inpatient and outpatient consultations in Hematology-Oncology are requested.  Jacobs Medical Center has 245 beds and is a UCSD hospital. The blood and marrow transplant program (BMT) is housed at Jacobs Medical Center, and offers exposure to both autologous and allogeneic transplant procedures. Research facilities include the Cancer Center, Clinical Sciences Building, Center for Molecular Genetics, Center for Molecular Medicine, Leichtag Biomedical Research Building and the Veterans Administration Medical Center on the La Jolla campus.

The Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Community

A number of other leading biomedical research institutes with highly active cancer research and drug development programs are located immediately adjacent to the UC San Diego campus and the Moores Cancer Center building in La Jolla. These include the Salk Institute, the Scripps Research Institute, the Sanford-Burnham Institute (formerly La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation), the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, the Medical Biology Institute, and the La Jolla Institute of Experimental Medicine. The close physical proximity of these institutions to UC San Diego and to one another creates a remarkable concentration of biomedical research talent that is second to none in the world. UC San Diego is an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center; two of the other immediately adjacent institutes (the Salk Institute and the Sanford-Burnham Institute) are NCI-designated Basic Cancer Research Centers. Fostered in part by proximity and in part by common research interests, the faculty of these institutions are involved in an extensive network of collaborative interactions, many of which are supported by joint grants and dual appointments between the institutions.

In addition to having a leading research university surrounded by an outstanding set of independent biomedical research institutes, the cancer drug development efforts of the Cancer Center are fostered by an extraordinary community of biomedical and biotechnology companies that surround the campus. Ranked third in the nation in the number of established biotech companies, San Diego’s life science community has become a model for the rapidly growing biotech and biopharm industry. Well established since the 1980s, these industries continue to expand annually and such stability attracts both startups and new talent nationwide. The path to success in the world of biotech and biopharmaceuticals requires access to outstanding universities, generous venture capital, and large amounts of Federal funding. San Diego boasts all of these ingredients, enabling it to maintain a leadership position in the development of new cancer therapeutics. San Diego biotech companies currently have >200 products in development. What distinguishes San Diego from other cities is the established support structure and the availability of experienced professionals to guide the rapid growth of the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.  The establishment of innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors, for which UC San Diego has become famous, facilitates the development of truly novel therapeutic paradigms. A key component of the training program proposed in this application involves practical training through interaction with industry leaders and well as University-based mentors.

Program Overview

The CT2 Program provides a 2 year period of training in developmental therapeutics for  post-doctoral scientists and physician-scientists at the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.  The focus is on the development of novel therapeutics of all types combined with identification of biomarkers that allow individualization of treatment. The mission is to train investigators in each of the major steps in the development of a novel cancer therapeutic so as to position these individuals to play leading roles in academic institutions and industry in translating laboratory-based discoveries into safe and effective cancer therapeutic agents.

The training program has a single track for both PhD and MD scientists.  Irrespective of whether an individual’s past training and expertise is most relevant to an early (e.g., target identification/validation) or late (e.g., Phase I – III clinical trials) step in drug development, there is a core body of knowledge about the process of drug development that must be mastered by any person aiming to become a leader in cancer therapeutics.  The training program has three components: 1) the completion of formal didactic courses that cover key tools and skills needed in the drug development process; 2) the conduct of a drug development research project under the direction of a faculty mentor; and, 3) participation in lecture series including presentations from UCSD faculty and speakers from pharmaceutical companies developing cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.  Trainees are expected to attend Cancer Center and other institutional seminars, workshops and journal clubs and attend the annual American Association for Cancer Research or equivalent national meeting.  Clinically trained fellows will not have clinical responsibilities beyond what may be required by their individual training program. Clinical fellows will be offered the opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to have a half-day clinic in their subspecialty each week.

Hands On Research Training

Fellows will conduct a project of their choice continuously during the 2 year period under the mentorship of a CT2 faculty member. The project may be focused on any of the following steps in the drug discovery process:

  • Target identification, validation, function
  • Drug design or synthesis
  • Development or application of informatics or computational tools related to therapeutics development
  • Development or use of novel animal models for pre-clinical testing
  • Development or use of molecular or imaging diagnostic tools that can guide drug development
  • Identification of lead compounds and investigation of structure activity relationships
  • Cellular pharmacology and testing of in vitro activity in cell line models
  • Pharmacogenomics and genetic determinants of drug sensitivity and toxicity
  • Development of analytical tools for drug measurement in biological fluids
  • Efficacy in animal tumor models
  • Pharmacokinetics in animal models
  • Preclinical non-GLP toxicology and toxicogenetics
  • Identification of biomarkers that quantify or predict drug effect
  • Design and execution of Phase I clinical trials of novel agents
  • Design and execution of human pharmacokinetic trials
  • Design and execution of Phase II clinical trials of novel agents
  • Design and execution of Phase III clinical trials

In addition to providing individualized guidance to the trainee, the Mentor is a source of advice for the development of the individual’s career path.  Within the first 3 months, each trainee will prepare a 5-page project plan, to be reviewed by the CT2 Executive Committee. The final plan will serve as the basis for assessing progress and performance throughout the 2 year period.  There will be two formal reviews of each trainee’s progress during the training period, in month 8 and month 20, consisting of a presentation of research progress and feedback from the Executive Committee for the educational benefit of the trainee.

Didactic Training

CREST Coursework
CT2 trainees are required to complete 5 courses offered through the Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training (CREST) program, designed to be delivered over the 2 year training period (see Requirements). A different module is offered in each quarter; each module consists of 10 weekly, 2 hour periods of instruction in the late afternoon or early evening. The modules cover basic principles of cancer drug developmental therapeutics, biostatistics, data management and informatics, clinical trial design and execution, regulatory affairs, patient oriented research and epidemiology. A Certificate in Clinical Research and/or a Masters Degree in Advanced Studies in Clinical Research, are also available upon completion of this introductory curriculum with minor additions.

Ethics Requirement
Trainees are required to take one program-approved Ethics course offered during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters through the Research Ethics Program. This course satisfies the NIH requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Topics include roles and responsibilities of researchers, data collection and ownership, issues relating to use of animal and human subjects, scientific and grant writing, code of ethics for authors, reviewers and editors and conflicts of interest.

Seminars and Lectures
Trainees are expected to participate in 2 formal seminar programs:

  • Topics in Cancer Drug Development (see Lecture Schedule): A weekly seminar series during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters featuring talks on topics directly relevant to cancer therapeutics and diagnostics development by UCSD faculty and presentations by senior leaders in our biomedical/pharmaceutical company community on the drugs they are developing.
  • Cancer Center Lecture Series:  A bi-monthly meeting where national leaders in cancer research discuss issues and challenges.

Trainees may also participate in the Topics in Hematology-Oncology weekly lecture series that features Faculty members and Fellows lecturing on the clinical use of cancer therapeutic agents and the management of cancer.

Each trainee will be invited to present a seminar to the Faculty and Trainees of the CT2 Program each year.

Grant Writing

The ability to prepare a cogent and clearly written research proposal is essential to the trainee’s ability to assume a leadership position in cancer drug development in academia or industry. Within the first 18 months, trainees are required to prepare a mock NIH application which will is critiqued by an ad hoc group of faculty members, acting as a typical Study Section, and provide written feedback to the fellow.

Career Preparation

After completion of this Fellowship, trainees will be equipped with a broad range of skills vital to careers as independent investigators in Academia or leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. Under the direction of a  faculty Mentor, the trainee is expected acquire critical investigative skills in his/her focused area of research. In addition, the trainee will acquire practical experience within the field of developmental therapeutics and diagnostics.

Fellowship Stipend and Benefits

Your CT2 stipend level will be determined by the number of full years of training that you have completed since receiving your terminal/professional degree. The stipend is based on the NIH stipend scale and is not determined by the CT2 program or UC San Diego. You are eligible for a stipend increase following successful completion of your first 12 months of appointment.

The benefits of the program include HMO medical, dental and vision insurance coverage for yourself and your dependents.


A $1,000 annual travel stipend will be provided for you to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research or a similar conference.

Laboratory Supplies

The mentor in whose laboratory you will be working will provide research equipment, supplies and lab space for your entire training period during which you will be executing your research project.


Housing is not included in the CT2 award. Appointed trainees are encouraged to arrange for housing immediately upon acceptance, as housing is in high demand in areas close to the La Jolla campus. Faculty and staff housing information can be accessed at The UC San Diego La Jolla Del Sol Office (Phone: (858) 587-1221 E-mail: compiles a market comparison report which provides information regarding off-campus apartment complexes in the UTC area of La Jolla.  This report can be accessed through UC San Diego Housing.

Program Faculty

All program faculty are members of  Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. They represent 10 academic Departments (Cell & Molecular Medicine Program, Center For Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Division of Biological Sciences, Medicine, Nanoengineering, Pathology, Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Surgery) and 4 organized research units (Moores Cancer Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and the Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence). The 20 participating faculty constitute a group of extremely productive investigators who are major leaders in their respective fields. All faculty mentors have agreed to participate in the Program’s courses and seminars, to accept trainees into their laboratories and research programs, and to provide career guidance to trainees. The faculty have been carefully selected so as to bring expertise in all phases of drug development to the Program.

Rafael Bejar, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine. Dr. Bejar is a cell/molecular biologist and medical oncologist who is Head of the Center of Excellence in Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS). His laboratory utilizes deep sequencing to identify clonal mutations in MDS patients which are then studied in laboratory models to identify the mechanisms by which they alter cellular function and to assess the impact of specific mutations on prognosis and response to targeted therapy with the goal of applying these to individualized care.

Michael Bouvet, MD, Professor of Surgery. Dr. Bouvet is a surgical oncologist with expertise in management of pancreatic, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and the major GI cancers. His research interests include the testing of novel drugs in orthotopic models of pancreatic cancer, as well as the use of novel fluorescent probes for intra-operative imaging these tumors. His laboratory developed and validated the use of fluorophore-conjugated antibodies for surgical navigation and laparoscopic localization of gastrointestinal tumors.

David Cheresh, PhD, Professor of Pathology. The Cheresh laboratory studies tumor angiogenesis and tumor cell invasion and metastasis. Most recently, Dr. Cheresh has identified a pathway of drug resistance leading to the development of cancer stem cells.  Integrin αvβ3 was identified as a marker and driver of both resistance and stemness based on its ability to potentiate KRAS activation of NFkB. His group has developed a JAK2 inhibitor that is in late Phase 3. His recent paper in Nature Cell Biol describes a novel mechanism of resistant to EGFR inhibitors that involves integrin β3-KRAS- RalB3 complex.

Ezra Cohen, MD, Professor of Medicine is a medical oncologist and expert in head and neck cancers. He is co-leader of the Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program (with Dr. Howell) and also directs the Cancer Center’s major immunotherapy program which includes translational and clinical studies of adaptive T-cell therapy, vaccines, immune modulators, and manipulation of the tumor microenvironment. He is orchestrating clinical trials aimed at defining neoantigens in different cancer types with the goal of identifying immunogenic peptides that can be presented in the context of MHC class I and II.

Napoleone Ferrara, MD, Professor of Pathology. Dr. Ferrara is the Senior Deputy Director for Basic Science at Moores Cancer Center. The Ferrara lab studies the biology of angiogenesis and the identification of its regulators. Dr. Ferrara is the scientist (then at Genentech) who reported the isolation and cDNA cloning of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that led to the development of bevacizumab. The lab is now investigating mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis, alternatives to VEGF, in particular the role of factors produced by myeloid cells and fibroblasts.

Pradipta Ghosh, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine. The Ghosh lab investigates how rheostats serve as critical hubs within the pathologic signaling networks that drive most malignancies. Dr. Ghosh has helped identify nodes at which multiple signal pathways converge upon the multi-modular rheostat proteins which shape entire disease networks via modulation of trimeric G proteins. She has discovered novel interfaces assembled at the crossroads of G protein and growth factor signaling pathways, and assessed their significance as potential therapeutic targets.

Kun-Liang Guan, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology. Research in the Guan lab is focused on the TSC-mTOR and Hippo pathways that effect organ size and tumorigenesis. Dr. Guan has made seminal discoveries in biomedical sciences spanning a wide range of disciplines, including bacterial and viral pathogenesis, cancer biology, and metabolism. Currently, the lab is working to identify the novel upstream regulators which may contribute to dysregulation of YAP/TAZ during pathogenesis.

J. Silvio Gutkind, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Associate Director for Basic Science. The Gutkind lab focuses on the study of growth-promoting signal transduction pathways, the nature of the dysregulated signaling networks in cancer, and on the use of genomic, proteomic, and system biology approaches to study cancer initiation and progression. The lab is now investigating the effectiveness and mechanism of action of PI3K/mTOR inhibitors for oral cancer prevention and treatment, as single agents and as part of novel signal transduction-based co-targeting strategies.

Stephen B. Howell, MD, Professor, Medicine. The overall goal of the Howell research program is to elucidate the mechanisms by which tumors become resistant to the platinum-containing drugs and to develop novel drug delivery systems that can overcome resistance by markedly and selectively increasing drug delivery to tumors. This includes molecular and genetic studies of resistance mechanisms and the development of novel nanoparticle Pt drug tumor targeting and delivery systems.

Trey Ideker, PhD, Professor of Medicine. Dr. Ideker is Co-Director of the Cancer Genomics and Networks program at Moores Cancer Center, and also Director of the San Diego Center for Systems Biology, which has a major cancer research component. His is an expert in the analysis of Big Data and research in his laboratory focuses on mapping the molecular networks underlying cancer and using these networks to guide the development of novel therapies and diagnostics.

Paul Insel, MD, Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine. Dr. Insel is Director of the UCSD Medical Scientist (MD/PhD) Training Program. Dr. Insel studies G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their signaling mechanisms in malignant cells with the goal of identifying previously unrecognized regulators of cell function and novel therapeutic targets. Studies of GPCR expression, signaling and responses pancreatic cancer cells and pancreatic cancer-associated fibroblasts have recently identified several GPCRs as potential therapeutic targets for in this disease.

Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine. Dr. Jamieson is Director of the CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic and Chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine. She is also co-director of the Cancer Center’s Hematological Malignancies Program. She is a stem cell biologist and clinically active hematologist whose interest is in the events involved in the reprogramming of hematopoietic cell progenitors into self-renewing leukemia stem cells. Recent studies revealed that RNA splicing of pro-survival BCL2 family genes and ADAR1-mediated RNA editing functions are disrupted in leukemic progenitors. Her work has led to the discovery of small molecule and monoclonal antibody therapeutic inhibitors that are now being tested in clinical trials for three different hematologic malignancies.

Michael Karin, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology.  Dr. Karin is an expert on NFkB pathway signaling and cellular responses to stress and inflammation. His laboratory is elucidating how inflammatory cytokines drive malignant transformation and the progression of tumors, and the details of how signaling pathways activated by such cytokines operate. Recent discoveries include the finding of a key role of B cells as regulators of response to chemotherapy in prostate cancer.

Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine. Dr. Kipps is Cancer Center Deputy Director for Research. He is a hematologist/oncologist and expert in chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). Dr. Kipps leads a large international collaborative group focused on this disease. His laboratory is studying the etiology and treatment of CLL including immunotherapies and genetically targeted vaccines. The anti-ROR1 antibody developed by his laboratory is now in clinical trials for CLL and has shown activity in preclinical models of ovarian cancer.

Andrew Lowy, MD, Professor of Surgery. Dr. Lowy is Director of Surgical Oncology. He specializes in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and peritoneal metastasis from GI cancers. His laboratory focuses on the use of mouse models to study the RON receptor tyrosine kinase and other signaling molecules critical to the transformation of pancreatic cancer precursors. Dr. Lowy currently serves as co-chair of the Pancreas Intergroup Task Force which directs the design of large cooperative group trials in pancreatic cancer in the US, and he is the surgical principal investigator for the cooperative group trial ECOG/Intergroup E2204.

Paul Mischel, MD, Professor of Pathology. In addition to his appointment in the Dept. of Pathology Dr. Mischel is a Member of the Ludwig Cancer Research Institute at UCSD. Dr. Mischel is an expert on the biology of glioblastoma. His laboratory studies the signal transduction and metabolic networks that promote tumor growth, focusing primarily on EGFR/PI3K/mTOR signaling and its biochemical consequences in glioblastoma. Studies include identification of the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to signal transduction inhibitors, the targetable metabolic circuitry activated by oncogenic signaling, and the role of intratumoral heterogeneity in the evolution of cancer drug resistance.

Quyen Nguyen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery. Dr. Nguyen is a head and neck surgeon who is working on the development of Live Molecular Navigation for fluorescent guided surgery also known as “color-coded surgery”. She holds R01 funding from the National Institute of Health (NIBIB) and private funding from the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund to support her basic research program. Dr. Nguyen was chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE, award date April 15, 2014), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.

Tariq Rana, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics. Dr. Rana is an expert in chemical and RNA biology whose research is focused on illuminating the function of regulatory RNAs. He has uncovered mechanisms by which small RNAs and RNA-protein complexes control gene silencing and regulating host-pathogen interactions. Since joining the faculty at UC San Diego in 2014, he has turned his attention to the control of KRAS expression by regulatory RNAs.

Tony Reid, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine. Dr. Reid is a molecular biologist, medical oncologist and clinical trialist who is Director of the Early Phase Clinical Research Program at Moores Cancer Center and is responsible for managing an impressive portfolio of phase I and II clinical trials. His laboratory research interest is in the engineering of oncolytic viruses so that they will selectively replicate in and lyse tumor cells while sparing normal cells and potentially enhancing the presentation of tumor antigens. He has recently been awarded a patent on using this oncolytic vector to express genes and peptides.

Tannishtha Reya, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology, studies the signaling pathways that regulate the choice between stem cell renewal and commitment, and how these pathways are subverted in cancer. These studies have implications for not only understanding the basic mechanisms that regulate normal and oncogenic self-renewal, but also for enhancing stem cell based therapies for human diseases.

David D. Schlaepfer, PhD, Professor of Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Schlaepfer is a cell and molecular biologist who works on the molecular mechanisms of cancer progression and metastasis. Using spontaneous and syngeneic mouse tumor models he is studying the role of FAK and p190RhoGEF signaling in this disease, particularly in the context of chemotherapy resistance. He is collaborating on the development of small molecule FAK inhibitors, and on control of signals modulating cell migration and survival.

Stephen Schoenberger, PhD, Professor of Medicine, is an immunobiologist who is investigating the mechanism by which primary B and T cells induce a state of antigen-specific immune tolerance in CTL and the extent to which their transformed counterparts (lymphoma and leukemia) utilize the same pathway to purge the host repertoire of T cells capable of recognizing the numerous mutated antigens which arise as a consequence of neoplastic transformation.

Geoffrey Wahl, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, UCSD; Member, Salk Institute (former President, AACR). Dr. Wahl is a cell and molecular biologist who has played a major role in understanding the function of p53, and elucidating the genetic mechanisms by which tumor cells become drug resistant. His research is now focused on the stem cell state and the identification and function of stem cells in breast cancer with the major goal being to gain a greater understanding of the pathways that contribute to the growth and survival of the fetal mammary stem cells and to determine if human cancers share these pathways.

Peter Yingxiao Wang, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering. Dr. Wang focuses on developing molecular biosensors based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to visualize signaling molecules and hierarchies in live cells at subcellular compartments. His lab is particularly interested in engineering integrated machinery molecules which can provide a surveillance of intracellular space for the recognition and eradication of tumors. Dr. Wang is the recipient of the Wallace H. Coulter Early Career Award (both Phase I and Phase II), the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and the National Institutes of Health Independent Scholar Award.

Jing Yang, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pediatrics. Dr. Yang is a cell biologist interested in the role of the TWIST transcription factor in cellular transformation and response to carcinogen exposure. Her current research focuses on dissection of the signaling pathways that regulate EMT and tumor metastasis and determinations of how activation of EMT promotes tumor metastasis in vivo. She uses genomic, cell and molecular approaches to understand the downstream targets and upstream regulators of Twist1 in promoting EMT and tumor metastasis.

Liangfang Zhang, PhD, Professor of NanoEngineering. His research focus is on the design, synthesis, characterization and evaluation of biomimetic nanotechnologies for biomedical applications with a particular focus on drug delivery, biodetoxification and vaccination. One major research goal is to overcome the various therapeutic barriers in cancer treatments. Dr. Zhang recently invented a novel and robust cell-membrane-coated nanoparticle system for advanced drug delivery and anticancer vaccination. By cloaking synthetic drug nanocarriers with natural cell membranes, the resulting hybrid, biomimetic nanoparticles are disguised as natural cells and have shown many unique features for systemic anticancer drug delivery and vaccination.


Project Plan

Within 90 days of appointment, CT2 trainees will be required to submit a 5 page project plan, structured in the format of a standard R01 application to be reviewed by the Executive Committee which will serve as the basis for the Committee’s assessment of their progress and performance throughout your 2-year period of training.


Trainees will be consistently evaluated throughout their appointment term. Formal reviews (in the form of a presentation as part of the Topics in Cancer Drug Development Lecture series) may be required at months 8 and 20.

Grant Writing

The ability to prepare a cogent and clearly written research proposal is essential to the trainee’s ability to assume a leadership position in cancer drug development in academia or industry. Within the first 18 months, trainees are required to prepare a mock NIH application which will is critiqued by an ad hoc group of faculty members, acting as a typical Study Section, and provide written feedback to the fellow.

Clinical Research Enhancement Through Supplemental Training (CREST)

The UC San Diego School of Medicine has established a specialized program to doctoral candidates, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty pursuing a career in clinical or translational research.  Scholars in this program complete a series of courses offered in a modular format. The CT2 training program cross-registers its trainees in the CREST program and requires that they complete 5 of the following:

Components of the CREST Program Curriculum
Year 1 Modules Year 2 Modules
Epidemiology I Biostatistics I*
Epidemiology II Biostatistics II*
Patient Oriented Research I Health Services Research
Patient Oriented Research II Data Management and Informatics
Research Budgeting and Project Management
Scientific Communication**
Personal Development Skills
*Required    **Recommended

Feedback from previous appointees has indicated the high value of Biostats courses I and II. As such, both of these courses are now required for all trainees. The Scientific Communication module focuses on grant writing, scientific writing and presentation skills, is not required but is highly recommended for all Trainees; Patient Oriented Research I and II are recommended for MD Trainees.

The full CREST curriculum is designed to be delivered over two years and is comprised of eight modules which cover the principles of epidemiology, biostatistics, patient-oriented research (two modules each), health services/outcomes research, and career development (one module each). Each course is designed to be given over one academic quarter and is comprised of 10 weekly, 2-hour periods of instruction which are given in the early evening. The format for instruction includes a combination of didactic lectures, group discussions and hands-on computer-based training. Once-a-week evening classes allow the scholars to focus on their primary research projects during the work week with minimal interruption.

Since trainees enter the program with a variety of different backgrounds, two tracks are offered through the CREST program. In Track I Trainees take only a subset of 5 of the courses; in Track 2, Trainees take the entire set of 10 courses and earn a Certificate in Clinical Research upon completion. A third option, which requires all 10 courses listed above, an applied quantitative analysis course, two electives and an independent project, results in a Masters degree in Clinical Research. Feedback from current trainees has revealed a strong interest pursuing the Masters degree. CT2 trainees may elect to participate in either Track I, II/Certificate in Clinical Research or pursue the Masters Degree.

A detailed description of the CREST coursework is described below:

Courses And Seminar Topics Available Through The CREST Program

Module Objectives
Epidemiology I Scholars will recognize and understand different types of epidemiologic study designs, the relative strengths and limitations of each, and the proper choice of study design in conducting their own research. They will also be able to identify and calculate the correct measure of risk for each study design. Participants will recognize major sources of bias, confounding, interaction and misclassification, and understand design and analysis methods of dealing with each. They will also be familiar with criteria to differentiate association from causation, and understand the components of causality. Participants will conclude this course with a written final examination.
Epidemiology II Scholars will build on the content of Epidemiology I by attending guest lectures given by epidemiologists currently active in their field. Both methodology and content will be addressed in these guest lectures including topics such as smoking studies, genetic epidemiology, reproductive epidemiology, ecological studies, and the epidemiology of violence. Students will also gain an understanding of health disparities in epidemiologic research and be exposed to additional and advanced epidemiologic methods such as meta-analysis and cluster analysis. Participants will become familiar with advanced epidemiological issues and understand how study designs are practically applied in specific content areas. Students conclude this course with a comprehensive written research proposal that could be submitted for funding.
Patient Oriented Research I Develop and apply the theory of clinical trial design and analysis, discuss the practical issues of implementation of clinical trials including recruitment, describe issues of monitoring trials and working in cooperative groups. The scholar design and present to a group of peers a concept sheet for phase II/III clinical trial.
Patient Oriented Research II This course will review the ethics and basic regulatory issues for research involving human subjects; the principles of data management for clinical research, including architecture, access and confidentiality, and integrity of databases; and skills in graphic and verbal presentation of research data. Scholars will prepare a mock submission to the IRB for peer review and practice presenting graphic and tabular data.
Biostatistics I Understand and apply the principles of measurement of clinical data, data types, and identification of statistical methods appropriate for analysis of a given clinical data set.  Assemble clinical datasets in formats suitable for analysis by NCSS or other comparable statistical packages. Conduct graphical and numerical exploratory data analysis, comparative tests of categorical, ordinal, and continuous data, linear and logistic regression analysis, and survival analysis by life table and Kaplan‑Meier techniques.
Biostatistics II Scholars will understand and conduct more advanced biostatistical analyses including: ANOVA, multiple linear and logistic regression, survival analysis, and Cox proportional hazards modeling. The scholar will also be familiar with person-time rate analysis with Poisson regression and develop a conceptual understanding of major multivariate methods. Quantitative aspects of decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis will be covered. Analysis of survey research data will focus on measures of reliability and validity and on sampling designs.
Health Services Research Scholars will evaluate relevant outcomes in patient-oriented research from the patient (quality of life) and societal (economic) perspectives and locate potential resources for assessing the relevant outcomes in a wide variety of study designs. They will also be able to describe the relative strengths of different health services research approaches to a clinical problem. Finally, they will understand the components of clinical practice guidelines, including patient preferences, and how these guidelines both depend upon as well as inform patient-oriented research.
Data Management and Informatics Understanding of the regulatory requirements and best practices for effective and accountable management of data in clinical research settings, and an appreciation for the tools and methods that can be applied to research data management. Orientation to database design and management and covers key issues regarding data handling for clinical research and clinical trials. The course is taught in a hands-on computer laboratory setting.
Seminar Topics
Research Budgeting/Project Management Cover regulatory requirements associated with conducting clinical research; budgeting and common overheads; federal and state reporting requirements; possible penalties for administrative negligence; and best practices in common administrative processes. Relationships with external funding agencies, federal agencies involved in clinical research funding, their respective missions, organizational structure, and funding practices.
Scientific Communication Scholars will learn the fundamentals of clear scientific writing and oral presentation of scientific work.  They will also learn how to write an NIH-style grant including all components of a grant.
Personal Development Skills Interpersonal Communications, Conflict Resolution & Negotiation, Dealing  with change, Crisis and Transition, Healthcare Human  Resource Law

Ethics Requirement

Trainees are required to take a program-approved Ethics course offered during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters through the Research Ethics Program. This course satisfies the NIH requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Topics include roles and responsibilities of researchers, data collection and ownership, issues relating to use of animal and human subjects, scientific and grant writing, code of ethics for authors, reviewers and editors, and conflict of interest.

Lectures Series

Principles of Cancer Drug Therapeutics Development. This required lecture series consists of 12 weekly lectures delivered by CT2 and UC San Diego faculty members during the fall quarter.  These lectures are focused specifically on the necessary sequential steps in drug development.

A second lecture series, Topics in Cancer Drug Development, is a series of 10 monthly lectures given by leaders in cancer drug development from industry. The goal of this lecture series is to expose trainees to experts with a substantial track record dealing with the “real life” challenges of cancer drug development. The lecturers are typically the CEO, Director of Research or Medical Director from a company in the San Diego biomedical community, although experts from large pharmaceutical companies have participated actively in this lecture series as well. The outside speakers are invited to discuss the real life challenges they face in the development of a given target or novel therapeutic and thus give the fellows an opportunity to hear the story of the development of specific therapeutic agents.

For the combined Principles of Cancer Drug Therapeutics Development and Topics in Cancer Drug Development lecture schedules, see the “Lecture Schedule” tab.

In addition to the two required lecture series, all CTtrainees (both PhDs and MDs) have the opportunity to attend several additional seminar programs based at the Moores UC San Diego Cancer Center:

  • Research rounds: Held every Friday afternoon at 3:30, post-doctoral fellows from throughout all of the Cancer Center’s Programs are invited to present their research in a forum that promotes discussion and provides feedback. The research rounds are well attended by mentors and faculty who run laboratories in the Cancer Center.
  • A weekly seminar “Topics in Hematology-Oncology” in which the faculty and fellows of the Division of Hematology/Oncology present lectures at 7:00 – 8:00 AM on Friday mornings on the clinical use of cancer therapeutic agents and the management of various types of cancer. This is followed by two case presentations (8:00 – 9:00) and then a formal lecture on a research topic by one of the Cancer Center faculty members (9:00 – 10:00).
  • A monthly “Cancer Center Director’s Lecture Series” in which national leaders in cancer research from throughout the country are invited to lecture on their research.

It is also expected that trainees will attend research seminars, Tumor Boards and journal clubs specific to their area of specialization. The major biomedical institutions in San Diego (UC Sam Diego, Salk Institute, Sanford-Burnham Institute, and Scripps Research Institute) publish a weekly list of all the seminars scheduled and this averages >25 for any given week between September and June. Many of these deal with cancer therapeutics.  Each of the cancer- related clinical services has a weekly Grand Rounds open to CT2 trainees and there are numerous journal clubs that meet on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. There are variety of opportunities to participate in a large number of additional training activities covering an enormously wide range of relevant topics.

Application Information

The Cancer Therapeutics Training (CT2) Program is an NIH-funded training program in cancer therapeutic development. This program accepts both PhD and MD post-doctoral researchers.

If you are interested in applying, please contact Angela Robles (


Citizenship Requirements

CT2 applicants must be United States citizens, noncitizen nationals or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence by the time of their appointment.

Non-citizen nationals are people, who, although not citizens of the United States, owe permanent allegiance to the United States. They are generally people born in outlying territories of the United States (e.g., American Samoa and Swains Island). Individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence must have a currently valid Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551) or other legal verification of such status.

Sorry, but individuals on temporary or student visas are NOT eligible for CT2 support.

Prior Ruth L. Kirschstein-NRSA support

The National Research Service Award (now known as Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award) provides for a maximum of 3 years of post-doctoral funding.  Since the CT2 program requires a two-year, NRSA-eligible commitment, eligibility for the program requires that you have had no more than 1 year of prior NRSA post-doctoral support,

Faculty Mentor

All CT2 applicants must identify a faculty mentor prior to having their application reviewed by the Executive Committee.  Please contact the mentor in whose laboratory you wish to complete your research prior to submitting your application.  A letter from your mentor expressing interest in having you join his/her group is required to move your application forward.

Application Requirements

If you would like to be considered for a training position please identify a faculty mentor and submit the following to

  1. Cancer Therapeutics Training Program Application (with faculty mentor identified)
  2. Curriculum Vitae
  3. A one-page personal statement describing your past research or medical experience, why you are interested in the program, and your future goals
  4. Proof of Citizenship
  5. 3 formal letters of recommendation (should be PDF version, on letterhead, with signature)
  6. A letter from your chosen mentor (this can substitute for one of the letters of recommendation) 

Please send application and other materials via e-mail (preferred) or by standard mail to:

The Cancer Therapeutics Training Program
c/o Angela Robles
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
3855 Health Sciences Drive, #0819
La Jolla, California, USA 92093-0819

Further Information

For further information, please contact the CT2 Program Manager, Angela Robles, via email at or telephone at (858) 534-5436.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

The Cancer Therapeutics Training Program
c/o Angela Robles
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
3855 Health Sciences Drive, #0809
La Jolla, CA 92093-0819

Phone and Fax Numbers

  • P: (858) 534-5436
  • F: (858) 246-5227

For all other inquiries, please e-mail:

Lecture Series

All lectures are on Tuesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. in Comer Commons at Moores Cancer Center (directions and map). Lunch is available at 11:45 a.m. for those attending the lecture.

Principles of Cancer Drug Therapeutics Development

This is a required series of 12 weekly lectures delivered by CT2 and UC San Diego faculty members during fall quarter. They focus on the necessary sequential steps in drug development.

Topics in Cancer Drug Development

This is a series of 10 monthly lectures by industry leaders in cancer drug development. The goal is to expose trainees to experts with a substantial track record in the “real life” challenges of cancer drug development. The lecturers are typically CEOs, directors of research, or medical directors from companies in the San Diego biomedical community, although experts from large pharmaceutical companies have also participated. The outside speakers are invited to discuss challenges of developing a given target or novel therapeutic and give fellows an opportunity to hear the story of the development of specific therapeutic agents.

Upcoming Lectures

Please visit the Events & Seminars page for more information.

​Schedules for previous years:

Program Organizer:

Sara N. Campbell

Cancer Therapeutics Training Program Manager

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