Program Overview

Moores Cancer Center

The CT2 Program provides a 2 year period of training in developmental therapeutics focused specifically on cancer drugs to post-doctoral scientists and physician-scientists at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.  The focus is on the development of novel therapeutics directed at molecular targets critical for tumor cell survival combined with identification of biomarkers that allow individualization of treatment. The mission is to train investigators in each of the major steps in the development of a novel cancer therapeutic so as to position these individuals to play leading roles in academic institutions and industry in translating laboratory-based discoveries into safe and effective cancer therapeutic agents. 

The training program has a single track for both PhD and MD scientists.  Irrespective of whether an individual’s past training and expertise is most relevant to an early (e.g., target identification/validation) or late (e.g., Phase I – III clinical trials) step in drug development, there is a core body of knowledge about the process of drug development that must be mastered by any person aiming to become a leader in cancer therapeutics.  The training program has two components: 1) the completion of formal didactic courses that cover key tools and skills needed in the drug development process; and, 2) the conduct of a drug development research project under the direction of a faculty mentor.  Trainees are expected to attend Cancer Center and other institutional seminars, workshops and journal clubs and attend the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting.  Clinically trained fellows will not have clinical responsibilities beyond what may be required by their individual training program. Clinical fellows will be offered the opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to have a half-day clinic in their subspecialty each week. 

Hands On Research Training

Fellows will conduct a project of their choice continuously during the 2 year period under the mentorship of a CT2 faculty member. The project may be focused on any of the following steps in the drug discovery process:

  • Target identification, validation, function
  • Drug design or synthesis
  • Development or application of informatics or computational tools
  • Development or use of novel animal models for pre-clinical testing
  • Development or use of molecular or imaging diagnostic tools that can guide drug development
  • Identification of lead compounds and investigation of structure activity relationships
  • Cellular pharmacology and testing of in vitro activity in cell line models
  • Pharmacogenomics and genetic determinants of drug sensitivity and toxicity
  • Development of analytical tools for drug measurement in biological fluids
  • Efficacy in animal tumor models
  • Pharmacokinetics in animal models
  • Preclinical non-GLP toxicology and toxicogenetics
  • Identification of biomarkers that predict drug effect
  • Design and execution of Phase I clinical trials of novel agents
  • Design and execution of human pharmacokinetic trials
  • Design and execution of Phase II clinical trials of novel agents
  • Design and execution of Phase III clinical trials 

In addition to providing individualized guidance to the trainee, the Mentor is a source of advice for the development of the individual’s career path.  Within the first 3 months, each trainee will prepare a 5-page project plan, to be reviewed by the CT2 Executive Committee. The final plan will serve as the basis for assessing progress and performance throughout the 2 year period.  There will be two formal reviews of each trainee’s progress during the training period, in month 8 and month 20, consisting of a presentation of research progress and feedback from the Executive Committee for the educational benefit of the trainee.

Didactic Training

CREST Coursework

CT2 trainees are required to complete 5 courses offered through the Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training (CREST) program, designed to be delivered over the 2 year training period (see Requirements). A different module is offered in each quarter; each module consists of 10 weekly, 2 hour periods of instruction in the early evening. The modules cover basic principles of cancer drug developmental therapeutics, biostatistics, data management and informatics, clinical trial design and execution, regulatory affairs, patient oriented research and epidemiology. A Certificate in Clinical Research and/or a Masters Degree in Advanced Studies in Clinical Research, are also available upon completion of this introductory curriculum with minor additions.

Ethics Requirement

Trainees are required to take a program-approved Ethics course offered during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters through the Research Ethics Program. This course satisfies the NIH requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Topics include roles and responsibilities of researchers, data collection and ownership, issues relating to use of animal and human subjects, scientific and grant writing, code of ethics for authors, reviewers and editors and conflicts of interest.

Seminars and Lectures

Trainees are invited to participate in 3 formal seminar programs in addition to a Journal Club:

  • Topics in Cancer Drug Development (see Lecture Schedule): A monthly seminar series in which a Director of Research or Medical Director from the surrounding biomedical community is invited to discuss challenges which they face in developing a target or novel therapeutic.
  • Topics in Hematology-Oncology:  A weekly seminar featuring Faculty members and Fellows lecturing on the clinical use of cancer therapeutic agents and the management of cancer.
  • Cancer Center Lecture Series:  A bi-monthly meeting where national leaders in cancer research discuss issues and challenges.

Each trainee will be invited to present a seminar in the “Topics in Cancer Drug Development” seminar series each year. 

Grant Writing

The ability to prepare a cogent and clearly written research proposal is essential to the trainee’s ability to assume a leadership position in cancer drug development academia or industry. Within the first 18 months, trainees are required to prepare a mock NIH application which will is critiqued by an ad hoc group of faculty members, acting as a typical Study Section, and provide written feedback to the fellow.

Career Preparation

After completion of this Fellowship, trainees will be equipped with a broad range of skills vital to careers as independent investigators. Under the faculty mentor, the trainee should acquire critical investigative skills in his/her focused area of research. In addition, the trainee will acquire practical experience within developmental therapeutics including designing, executing, and analyzing experiments.

Fellowship Stipend and Benefits

Your CT2 stipend level is determined by the number of full years of training that you have completed since receiving your terminal/professional degree. The stipend is based on the NIH stipend scale and is not determined by the CT2 program or UCSD. You are eligible for a stipend increase following successful completion of your first 12 months of appointment, as described above.

The benefits of the program include HMO medical, dental and vision insurance coverage for yourself and your dependents.

Travel

A $1,000 annual travel stipend will be provided for you to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research or similar conference. 

Laboratory Supplies

The mentor in whose laboratory you will be working will provide research equipment, supplies and lab space for your entire training period during which you will be executing your research project. 

Housing

Housing is not included in the CT2 award. Appointed trainees are encouraged to arrange for housing immediately upon acceptance, as housing is in high demand in areas close to the La Jolla campus. Faculty and staff housing information can be accessed at http://offcampushousing.ucsd.edu/. The UC San Diego La Jolla Del Sol Office (Phone: (858) 587-1221 E-mail: ljds@ucsd.edu) compiles a market comparison report which provides information regarding off-campus apartment complexes in the UTC area of La Jolla.  This report can be accessed at http://hdh.ucsd.edu/housing/faq.asp.