The overall objectives of this U54 grant are to strengthen and expand the existing partnership for cancer research between Meharry Medical College (MMC) and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) to achieve three ends:
- to enhance the competitive cancer research capability of MMC;
- to create stable, long-term collaborative relationships between MMC and VICC investigators interested in cancer research, cancer training and career development, and cancer education and/or cancer outreach; and
- to improve the effectiveness of VICC research, training and career development, cancer education and cancer outreach activities designed to benefit minority populations in the region served by VICC.
The current funding will support one full research project, and several pilot and pre-pilot projects. All six projects currently under investigation involve collaborators at both MMC and VICC, thus strengthening the working relationship established during the first funding period. In addition, this grant will allow Meharry to establish new core resources for tissue acquisition, biostatistics, and community outreach, and will continue a clinical trials core that enables MMC to participate in national oncology trials. Meharry also plans to recruit new cancer research faculty members in the basic sciences, medical oncology, and epidemiology, and to expand an existing cancer research training program by supporting 3 doctoral students, 2 MSPH students, 2 MSCI students and 2 medical oncology fellows. All of these activities involve a coordinated, well-planned interaction between MMC and VICC and will be monitored by both an internal advisory committee composed of faculty and staff from both institutions, 4 internal advisory sub-committees and a Program Steering Committee composed of nationally-recognized cancer investigators from other institutions.
As the MMC-VICC partnership matures, there are three additional areas of opportunity to explore. The first is the development of program project grants; these will be a natural outgrowth of the collaborations that already have been established. The second is integrated, joint programs in research training. As cancer research at MMC intensifies, for example, it will become possible for Vanderbilt students to train in Meharry laboratories; also students at one institution will be able to enroll for credit in courses offered only by the other institution. Analogous programs could be developed for residents and fellows. The third area is the development of a community cancer research network including community health centers. The paradigms and systems developed through the outreach core are necessary to expand and strengthen our ties with the community, in order that we may more effectively address cancer disparities from both a research and educational aspect.