NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
December 6, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 47 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Profiles in Training...

For Population-Based Science

Cancer prevention and control would not be possible without studying the disease among whole groups of people, such as families and populations. These studies reveal how the incidence and etiology of cancer vary with risk factors such as behavior, genetics, and environment.

In NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), over 60 population scientists in training are conducting research on the etiology of cancer. Their projects, each guided by a senior scientist, cover a spectrum of potential causes, including genes, lifestyle factors, nutrition, radiation, infectious agents, hormones, and chemicals in the workplace and environment. Fellows work on interdisciplinary research teams with epidemiologic, genetic, statistical, clinical, and laboratory expertise. They also have opportunities for training in science writing, molecular epidemiology, and career development.

A number of training opportunities also reside in the Office of Preventive Oncology (OPC) in the Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP). Physicians and postdoctoral scientists in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program (CPFP) receive intensive 3-year training across NCI. Fellows have the opportunity to pursue a Master of Public Health degree during the first part of the program, followed by 2 years of research spanning the fields of population science, laboratory-based science, clinical chemoprevention trials, and the ethics of prevention and public health. Research opportunities are also available at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the NCI-FDA Joint Fellowship Program. Through the NCI Summer Curriculum in Cancer Prevention, open to individuals throughout the government, academia, health departments, and industry, OPC provides additional training in timely cancer prevention topics.

The Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program at the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) trains scientists through a dedicated career track for cancer prevention, control, behavior, and population science. There is also a special award for those interested in interdisciplinary, team-oriented research. (See Unique transdisciplinary training opportunities in population-based science are available through DCCPS-funded initiatives that include the Centers of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research, the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers, and the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer Centers. (See,, and, respectively.)

For Clinical Science

As the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training, part of NCI's mission is to prepare the next generation of scientists to develop state-of-the-art cancer treatments and prevention strategies, perform clinical trials and other clinical research, and bring successful new therapies into clinical practice. To that end, the institute provides both intramural and extramural training opportunities for clinicians who wish to become clinical or translational researchers.

Intramural training at the NCI campuses includes 1- to 3-year residency or postdoctoral fellowship programs coordinated through the Center for Cancer Research (CCR). These programs feature residencies in anatomic pathology, dermatology, cytologic pathology, and medical oncology; fellowships in pediatric hematology and oncology, adult hematology and pathology, surgical, urologic, neurologic, and gynecologic oncology, and HIV and AIDS-related malignancy research; and translational research fellowships in radiation sciences and molecular pathology. In addition, the Clinical Research Training Program provides year-long internships for medical and dental students who wish to make clinical research part of their careers. Another intramural fellowship program, through DCEG, offers training for up to 5 years in NIH Clinical Center protocols in cancer genetics and genetic epidemiology. The intramural training programs at NCI have an interdisciplinary, collaborative focus, and provide physician investigators access to additional expertise and resources though partnerships with leading universities and research institutes.

NCI also funds and administers five branches and programs that provide extramural training opportunities: the Cancer Training Branch (CTB), the Comprehensive Minority Biomedical Branch (CMBB), the CPFP, the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, and the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD), all of which have seen a steady increase in funding for training and career development. Combined, extramural and intramural training programs allow NCI to support a wider range of activities and a larger number of trainees.

For details on clinical training opportunities at NCI and other members of NIH, including how to apply, investigators can visit

For Minorities

Since 1975, with the establishment of the CMBB, NCI has been working toward its ultimate objective of significantly increasing the number of successful independent minority researchers in the basic, clinical, behavioral, and population sciences.

Because of the continued high cancer incidence and mortality among underserved populations, there is an urgent need to prepare a manpower base of personnel and scientists who are not only well trained, but also culturally sensitive.

NCI currently makes available a continuum of minority training opportunities through the Continuing Umbrella for Research Experiences program of the CMBB, ranging from high school to college to graduate student to postdoctoral to independent investigator. In addition, the CMBB Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership program, established in 2001, is contributing significantly to the training of students and faculty at Minority Serving Institutions in NCI-designated Cancer Centers.

CMBB programs have reached targeted levels of training in each category based on a 5-year strategic plan, and it is expected that more competing grant applications will be submitted to NCI, NIH, or other funding agencies as more trainees move into independent career paths. CRCHD also offers training opportunities for minority students and scientists in critical areas of cancer health disparities research and community outreach.

This combination of programs and award mechanisms makes possible the training and career development of underrepresented minority students and scientists, noted Dr. H. Nelson Aguila, CMBB program director. All phases of training include intensive tracking and nurturing of individuals as well as the opportunity to actively participate in professional development workshops, he added.

For Basic Science

Predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees, including clinicians, can initiate or continue the development of a career in basic science research by applying to NCI's CTB for support through the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grants Program. The usual entry point for this support is the T32 grant; however, postdoctoral individuals with prior research experience and publications generally apply for individual postdoctoral (F32) NRSA awards.

The T32 awards are designed to provide individuals with an early research training experience that will assist them in their career progression to independent investigator. Predoctoral students and physicians generally "come into the research arena with little or no prior research experience," explained Dr. Lester Gorelic, with CTB. The advantage of a T32 grant is that it is an institutional award where applicants at comparable stages in career development compete internally for available slots, he added. More information on CTB's various basic research training programs can be found at

In addition, within NCI, CCR supports each year between 800 and 1,000 basic research postdoctoral and postbaccalaureate researchers who train under the direction of CCR scientists. The major funding mechanism to support these fellowship programs is the Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA). "The goal of all the programs is to train the next generation of scientists," noted Dr. Jonathan Wiest, director of CCR's Office of Education and Training. "Currently, one of our biggest areas of focus is translational research training."

CCR also offers individual courses in basic and translational research. One example is the Translational Research in Clinical Oncology course that is designed to provide an overview of general principles of cancer biology and treatment, epidemiology, mechanisms of resistance, metastasis, use of preclinical models, and identification of novel molecular targets.