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Developing a New Landscape in Cancer Research

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was recently awarded its first-ever National Institutes of Health T-32 research training grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in support of the GW Cancer Biology Training Program. The $1.4 million, five-year grant will support the training of junior scientists who will advance research on the molecular and genomic causes, progression, treatment, and relapse of human malignancies.

Leading the new training program will be Norman Lee, PhD, professor of pharmacology and physiology at SMHS and program director for the cancer biology PhD program, and Ed Seto, PhD, associate center director for basic sciences for the GW Cancer Center and professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at SMHS.

According to Seto, a NIH T-32 award is the hallmark of a first-class training program and brings great reputational value to the institution. “This type of grant recognizes that GW offers outstanding mentors and an excellent curriculum to prepare the next generation of outstanding cancer research scientists,” he said.

Each year, three postdoctoral trainees and one PhD student who have demonstrated a sincere interest in pursuing a career in cancer-related research will be selected for the two-year program. Trainees will choose a discovery research project guided by expert cancer researchers and clinician investigators with an eye toward publishing in high-impact research journals, and complete a curriculum of courses and workshops.

A key focus of the program is to address the notable health disparities in breast, cervical, colorectal, pancreatic, and liver cancers that affect African Americans in the Washington, D.C., area. Even after accounting for socioeconomic factors in these disparities, “there are still disparities in certain cancers, such as prostate cancer or triple-negative breast cancer,” said Lee. His research has identified genetic components associated with prostate cancers among African Americans that alter cancer progression.

The program directors will work closely with Alison Hall, PhD, associate dean for research workforce development, who will provide guidance on executing the program. Additionally, internal and external advisory committees will assist the program directors and provide oversight and review.

Our deep institutional commitment to health equity dictates that the training of our next generation of researchers includes an understanding of the forces driving health disparities,” said Hall.