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Interdisciplinary Translational Pre/Postdoctoral Program in Cancer Nanotechnology

Konstantin V Sokolov

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
In the last decade there has been an exponential growth in nanotechnology research in cancer demonstrating that nanotechnology could provide unique and otherwise unattainable solutions to cancer management including very early cancer detection, accurate molecular specific diagnosis and treatment that diminishes side effects. However, achieving this promise is extremely challenging because it requires overcoming multiple constraints imposed by translational barriers in clinical applications of nanomaterials that is multiplied by complexity of cancer biology. Currently, there is a growing gap between new discoveries coming at a fast pace from academic labs and their translation into clinic. Therefore, there is an urgent need in addressing this gap in cancer nanotechnology translational pipeline. To this end, we have designed a novel training program to educate future leaders in the broad field of nanotechnology with specific interests in cancer-related applications, who are keenly aware of the needs and demands of clinical environment as well as of major challenges of translational research. We believe that the only way to train cancer translation minded Ph.D. researchers is to insert them into the environment of an outstanding cancer center. Therefore, our program is based on a close collaboration between The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University. As part of our program, we have developed a comprehensive plan for recruiting trainees from underrepresented minority groups that are historically underrepresented in health-related research, including women, minority individuals, and individuals with disabilities. Our training program includes multidisciplinary mentorship of translational research projects combined with multidisciplinary, hands-on coursework and seminar experiences. All trainees will work with at least two program faculty mentors (one from Rice and one from MD Anderson) to define and carry out an independent research problem. Didactic coursework will prepare them to contribute to research projects that directly address barriers to translation of nanotechnology-based approaches and to develop the skills needed to define and lead such projects. Incoming trainees will participate in a unique 2-week-long boot camp in "Cancer Management and Nanotechnology" that provides an overview of current opportunities and barriers in the field. Trainees will develop foundational background in the fieldby taking four courses related to translational cancer or nanotechnology topics. Trainees will gain an appreciation for federal resources to assist in cancer nanotechnology research by taking a trip to the NCI Nanotechnology Characterization Lab. Finally, trainees will gain important lab management skills by participating in a short hands-on course providing an introduction to laboratory and project management. At the end of the program, fellows will have a deep understanding of translational research in cancer nanotechnology, with the most important component being the demonstrated ability to carry out independent translational research in this challenging multidisciplinary field.

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