Research during the past several decades has made impressive advances in our understanding of the basic mechanisms that promote cancer development and growth. In recent years, the completion of the sequencing of the human and other genomes, coupled with the rapid development of new technologies for the analysis of biological processes using genetic, cellular and biochemical approaches, has greatly accelerated these advances, and this pace will surely be accelerated exponentially in the future. The accumulation of new information is both impressive and daunting. Therefore, a major challenge of the next decade will be to translate these advances into identifying the best molecular targets for cancer therapies and diagnostic tests as well as to facilitate the design and testing of novel approaches for anti-cancer treatment. The premise of the Cancer Cell Biology Training Program (CCBT Program) is that doctoral students graduated from this and other institutions are well trained in the paradigms of molecular and cellular biology, but rarely receive significant training in the pathobiology and treatment of cancer. With an increasing emphasis on translational, disease-oriented research, the need to address this deficiency in graduate student training has become of greater urgency. Thus, the broad goal of this program is to provide comprehensive training in cancer biology to allow students to effectively contribute to the new wave of translational research.
This Program provides a strong emphasis on the histopathology of cancer and exposure to other topics crucial to tumor biology, including cancer drug discovery and cancer treatment. Therefore, it fosters the training of doctoral candidates who are uniquely trained and who are clearly distinguished from those of individual departments or other training programs funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). The emphasis of this Program on the pathobiology and treatment of cancer is unique and distinguishes it from the other basic science predoctoral programs at UNC-CH. Like other predoctoral programs, a Program goal is to foster an interdisciplinary approach to research. Trainees are not confined to a single methodologic approach in a project narrow in scope. Instead, they are encouraged to enrich their conceptual and technical abilities through exposure to other disciplines. However, the integration of basic science together with an exposure of trainees to important issues of the epidemiology of cancer, cancer prevention and control, cancer diagnosis and prognosis, cancer treatment and cancer drug discovery are unique features of the CCBTP. Thus the Program provides students with a unique opportunity to appreciate and understand cancer beyond aberrant cell biology, and additionally as an important clinical and social problem.
Our Program was initiated at UNC-CH in 1996 and is currently in its 16th year. The Program is located in and is an integral component of the UNC-CH Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC). All Program preceptors (41) are members of the LCCC. The 41 preceptors represent:
- ten Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences at UNC-CH
- six Ph.D. granting programs in the School of Medicine (Biochemistry and Biophysics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Pharmacology)
- one Ph.D. program in the College of Arts and Sciences (Biology)
- preceptors are also members of the Ph.D. programs for the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Curriculum in Neurobiology.