Adult brain cancer continues to be a significant challenge to clinicians. Although not among the most common organ-specific malignancies, there are over 20,000 cases diagnosed per year, and the mortality rate associated with brain tumors is among the highest of all cancers. Because the prognosis for individuals with the most common types of brain cancer remains poor, it is of critical Importance that new therapies be developed. This proposal requests funds to support a training program that takes promising young investigators and trains them to understand brain tumor biology and therapy as an integrated whole. Investigators trained in this stimulating and comprehensive manner will provide effective, competent leadership for future research efforts aimed at improved treatments and outcomes for brain tumor patients.
The objective of this program is to provide postdoctoral training for individuals interested in pursuing careers in translational brain tumor research. Brain cancer remains among the most deadly of all malignancies, and despite the best efforts of neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, and laboratory-based scientists, the average survival of individuals with glioblastoma, the most malignant and common form of brain cancer, remains less than 15 months. Improvements in brain cancer therapy have come slowly, in part because of the relative dearth of individuals trained in a manner that allows them to communicate with both clinicians and lab-based investigators working in the field. This application is a new request for funding to support an existing program that focuses on developing translational brain tumor investigators of the future; individuals who can move seamlessly between clinical and laboratory worlds and in doing so can more effectively contribute to the development of new therapeutic interventions for brain tumors. This application requests support for 3 post-doctoral trainees per year, each of whom will be selected from PhD-level post-doctoral fellows attracted to the labs of the faculty, or from MD or MD/PhD trainees in the UCSF Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program, or the UCSF Radiation Oncology Residency Program. The best qualified candidates then enter the training program, the core of which consists of the 20 research labs whose work has made the brain tumor community at UCSF one of the most productive and recognizable in the world. Over the course of the two years of support requested, the trainees work with the PIs of these labs to develop and complete meaningful and significant translational brain tumor research projects, and in the process become fluent in laboratory-based and clinical research techniques. At the same time trainees take part in a faculty-led didactic curriculum that is uniquely focused on issues of importance in brain tumors and which allow trainees to develop a common language with which to discuss and understand underlying brain tumor biology, diagnostic and therapeutic modalities, and unresolved problems in the field. Additional courses and training events that encourage effective speaking and writing are also included, and there is an extensive selection of existing courses to help tailor the educational experience of individual trainee's. Finally, evaluation and mentoring mechanisms are included to help ensure success in the program and in attaining future career goals. Although this is a new request for support, the Training Program in Translational Brain Tumor Research at UCSF has an extensive track record of attracting well-qualified individuals, and in successfully preparing investigators who have gone on to lead translational brain tumor research teams at UCSF, nationally, and internationally. The support requested will allow the brain tumor community at UCSF to expand efforts to train effective translational brain tumor investigators, and to ensure that such individuals will continue to be available to assume leadership roles in the fight against brain cancer.