In a guest post, John DiGiovanni, PhD, writes about the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes’ plans to identify and organize basic and translational cancer research taking place at The University of Texas at Austin. DiGiovanni is the associate director of basic research at the Institutes, and serves as co-chair of the Institutes’ Basic/Translational Research Working Group.
The LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes of the Dell Medical School are committed to building an innovative research program, one that will foster collaboration with the well-established research community in Austin.
As part of these efforts, the Institutes hosted their first Basic/Translational Research Retreat on March 1. The goal of the day-long event was to bring as many University of Texas at Austin faculty researchers as possible together to summarize their basic and translational cancer research and to begin organizing this research into programs within the Institutes.
This was the first time that such a large group of UT Austin cancer researchers has come together to discuss ongoing research: more than 30 faculty members from various colleges and research departments participated, including the College of Pharmacy, the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Molecular Biosciences and the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, among others.
Hosted by me and Gail Eckhardt, MD, director of the Institutes and associate dean of cancer programs at Dell Med, the retreat demonstrated the quality and breadth of existing cancer research on the UT Austin campus. Ongoing research areas that were discussed by the faculty included a range of general topics: mechanisms of DNA repair and genomic instability; mechanisms of cancer development and progression; cancer drug development; and cancer diagnostics and imaging.
Working Group to Further Discuss Organization
Building on the momentum of the retreat, Tom Yankeelov, director of cancer imaging research at the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes, and I started the Basic/Translational Research Working Group to further discuss the organization of cancer research at UT Austin and Dell Med. The group consists of 15 faculty members from across campus who represent various cancer research areas and programs.
As a group, we focused on how to organize existing cancer research into thematic research programs and examined what shared resources are needed to support these programs. Other topics included development of a pilot project funding grant program to stimulate collaborative cancer research — an important goal of the Institutes — and consideration of the types of enrichment programs (e.g. retreats, symposia and seminars) that would further stimulate interaction and research collaborations.
Most of the topics covered, which also included collaborative educational activities, facilitating research grant proposals and targeted faculty recruitments, will continue to be discussed at future meetings. The group will report back to the Institutes’ steering committee in July on the results of the committee discussions and recommendations.
Speaking for myself (and, I believe, the rest of the the working group), I am grateful to be a part of such a dedicated community of cancer researchers. We look forward to filling the gaps in cancer diagnosis and treatment to improve outcomes for all patients.