"Over the last 50 years, there have been tremendous advances in our understanding of the molecular and cellular processes of cancer, and great progress in the treatment of a number of neoplastic disorders; however, there has been no change in the age-adjusted mortality due to cancer," said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the principal investigator on the project and the chair of Rice's Department of Bioengineering. "We need to revolutionize the way we translate our knowledge of cancer biology into new technologies for detecting and treating cancer, and with HHMI's help we'll be doing that."
Rice and M. D. Anderson's program involves a unique training program for bioengineering Ph.D. students that integrates courses in cancer biology, clinical medicine, bioengineering and translational research; unique internships in clinical cancer care and translational research; and jointly mentored inter-disciplinary Ph.D. projects. The program marries Rice's bioengineering Ph.D. program, ranked among the nation's 10 best, with the clinical and basic science strengths of M. D. Anderson, one of the nation's top-ranked cancer hospitals.
The new program, Translational Bioengineering for Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics, is funded by a four-year, $850,000 award from HHMI. Rice's program is one of 13 pioneering new translational medical research programs funded today by HHMI's Med to Grad initiative, supporting innovative graduate programs that introduce Ph.D. students to the world of clinical medicine.
Rice's program will build upon four joint areas of research that already exist between Rice and M. D. Anderson: computational bioengineering for design of cancer inhibiting drugs and vaccines; molecular imaging for early cancer detection; nanobiotechnology to design new cancer imaging and therapeutic agents; and cell and tissue engineering to develop effective reconstructive procedures following tumor resection.
Starting this fall, Rice will enroll seven Ph.D. students per year in the program. The students will complete courses taught jointly by M. D. Anderson and Rice faculty, and they will complete an intensive clinical cancer internship that rotations at M. D. Anderson in diagnostic imaging, surgery, radiotherapy, internal medicine, lab medicine, pathology, bone marrow transplantation and cancer prevention. The students will also carry out a translational research rotation that is co-supervised by faculty at both institutions.
"In designing and implementing this program, we're bringing together an outstanding group of faculty dedicated to translational research and education," said Dr. Michele Follen, director of M. D. Anderson's Center for Biomedical Engineering and professor of gynecologic oncology.
Richards-Kortum, Rice's Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering, said, "Rice is one of only two institutions without a medical school to win an HHMI grant under this program. This win is a testament both to the strength of Rice's and M. D. Anderson's partnership and to the caliber of their combined programs."
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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