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American Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Cancer Research Training and Faculty Development: Recovery Act Investment Report

November 2009

Public Health Burden of Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. In 2009, it is estimated that nearly 1.5 million new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed in this country and more than 560,000 people will die of the disease.

Public Health Significance

Nurturing and developing the next generation of cancer researchers is a priority recognized by the entire cancer community. Indeed, if we are to reach our goal of eliminating the suffering and death caused by cancer, our scientific workforce must be greatly expanded. Researchers are needed to pursue new ideas, translate discoveries into innovative interventions, and disseminate evidence-based treatments and practices across the country and the rest of the world. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has historically had and will continue to have a leading role in developing the nation's cancer research workforce. ARRA funding has enabled NCI to increase the number of grants to support the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and to provide additional funding to support new investigators in establishing their careers. 

Cancer Research Training, Career Development, and Education

NCI's training programs serve as a catalyst for developing a 21st century workforce capable of advancing cancer research through a scientifically integrated approach. Efforts are coordinated to provide research training and career development opportunities for fellows and trainees in NCI's laboratories and clinics and across the Unites States. ARRA funding has allowed additional training programs to be supported and the number of career development awards to be increased. For example:

  • One training program will support short-term research experiences in cancer prevention for graduate students and minority undergraduates who have backgrounds in the basic biomedical sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, genetics, behavioral and social sciences, nursing, medicine, or related public health disciplines. The goal of this program is to encourage students to pursue careers in cancer prevention research.(1)
  • Programs to support postdoctoral training include research opportunities in the fields of translational immunology and immunotherapy of cancer(2), population-based studies to improve our understanding of skin cancer epidemiology(3), and research into how microRNAs regulate gene expression in cancer cells.(4)
  • Investigation of the Hedgehog signaling pathway is the focus of an individual post-doctoral training award. The Hedgehog pathway has been implicated in the development of skin, brain, lung, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Deciphering Hedgehog signaling mechanisms could lead to the development of novel therapeutics.(5

Faculty Development and Enhancing Research Capacity

The influx of ARRA funding has allowed continued support for existing NCI programs to enhance research capacity. For example:  

  • Continued support for early-phase treatment studies in adults with primary central nervous system cancers is designed to maximize clinical trial efficiency and enhance support for translational research.(6)
  • Roughly 500 new anticancer agents will be available for clinical development within the next decade. Additional support for early-phase clinical trials will facilitate swift and accurate go/no go drug development decisions.(7)
  • Research capacity in the field of tumor-initiating stem cells will be increased at one institution through the hiring of a physician scientist who has expertise in the biology of tumor stem cells and who will be able to develop innovative cancer treatments based on the sensitization of tumor stem cells to radiation-induced cell death.(8)
  • Research capacity at another institution will be enhanced through the hiring of multiple early-stage investigators to pursue pilot projects in an expanding initiative in melanoma-focused basic and translational research.(9)

Research Support to Promote Diversity in Cancer-Related Research

NCI is part of the national effort to increase diversity in the scientific, medical, and academic communities. ARRA funds have been used to support a variety of training opportunities for high school students, undergraduates, and post-baccalaureate students to participate in cancer research programs during the summer. ARRA funds have also been used to further graduate and postdoctoral research training and support the career development of new investigators. Examples of funded research studies include the following: 

  • A study to evaluate the efficacy of a new, telephone-based coping skills training protocol tailored for African American prostate cancer survivors and their intimate partners. African American men have a 60 percent higher incidence rate of prostate cancer, more advanced disease at diagnosis, and mortality rates twice as high as those seen in Caucasian men.(10)
  • A project to investigate Rlip (RLIP76, RALBP1), a stress-responsive glutathione-electrophile conjugate (GS-E) transporter that is overexpressed in lung, ovary, prostate, and skin cancers. Rlip appears to be necessary for cancer cell survival.(11)
  • A study of the mechanisms involved in cancer immunotherapy that will enhance the design of future immunotherapies for melanoma and other cancers that are able to evade the immune system. Melanoma is a cancer that is rapidly increasing in prevalence in the United States.(12)
  • A study to develop a nanoparticle targeted-delivery system that uses beta-lapachone, a novel bioactive agent that causes the death of human lung cancer cells and holds promise for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancers. Patients with non-small cell lung cancer experience five-year survival rates of only 15 percent.(13)

Selected References

  1.  3R25CA056452-18S1 — Cancer Prevention Education:  Student Research Experiences — Chamberlain, Robert M. (TX)
  2.  3T32CA115308-03S1 — Tumor Immunology Training Program — Djeu, Julie Y. (FL)
  3.  3K07CA108978-04S1 — Population-Based Approach to Skin Cancer Epidemiology — Qureshi, Abrar A. (MA)
  4.  3T32CA009657-19S1 — Chromosome Metabolism and Cancer — Cooper, Jonathan A. (WA)
  5.  3R00CA129174-03S1 — Biochemical Mechanisms of Hedgehog Signaling —Rohatgi, Rajat (CA)
  6.  3U01CA137443-01S2 - Adult Brain Tumor Consortium (ABTC) — Grossman, Stuart A. (MD)
  7.  3U01CA062487-16S1 — Early Clinical Trials of New Anti-Cancer Agents — Lorusso, Patricia M. (MI)
  8.  1P30CA147933-01 — Cancer Stem Cells and Radiotherapy: New Approaches to Radiosensitization — Mitchell, Beverly S. (CA)
  9.  1P30CA147877-01 — New Faculty Recruitment to Enhance Melanoma Research —Gerson, Stanton L. (OH)
  10.  3R01CA122704-03S1— Prostate Cancer Recovery Enhancement (PROCARE) for African American Men — Campbell, Lisa C. (NC)
  11.  3R01CA077495-11S1 - Mechanism of Drug Transport in Lung Cancer Cells - Awasthi, Sanjay (TX)
  12.  3R01CA127565-02S1 — Immunomodulation in melanoma therapy — Craft, Noah A. (CA)
  13.  3R01CA102792-07S1 — Use of Beta-lapachone for Lung Cancer Chemotherapy —Boothman, David A. (TX)