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Training Program Overview

Cancer Training Program students

What is this training program all about?

This training program in the biochemistry of growth regulation and oncogenesis is supported by an institutional Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award #T32 CA009523 from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. This T32 training program arose originally in recognition of the growing convergence of interests among the training faculty and a desire to take full advantage of a scientific environment that was already highly interactive in many respects.

Funded under the single longest-running NCI training grant at UC San Diego through 2019, this T32 has supported the advanced training of more than 200 predoctoral and 100 postdoctoral scholars. Currently, funding for four predoctoral trainees and six postdoctoral trainees is administered through the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which has operated a high-quality graduate program since the founding of UCSD in 1960. Now in its 33rd year of successful operation under the uninterrupted guidance of the same Program Director, Dr. Daniel Donoghue, together with Co-Director Dr. Jing Yang going forward, this is a remarkable record of continuity in our program.

Our Training Faculty

Under the umbrella of The Moores UCSD Cancer Center, the training faculty for this T32 program encompass a variety of units within the UCSD campus and community, including The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The Division of Biological Sciences, The Department of Pharmacology, The Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and The Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences - the last three of which are divisions within The School of Medicine. In addition, this T32 program shares strong links with The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and with The Ludwig Institute. For a complete list, see our Training Faculty page.

This T32 program was initiated in 1984 by some of the training faculty who believed that experimental research in signal transduction and cell cycle control will lead to a deeper understanding of oncogenesis and cancer. The greatest strength of this training program lies in the quality of the training faculty, their outstanding research programs, the terrific trainees they recruit, and their commitment to understanding cancer from a cell biological and biochemical perspective.

It should also be noted that five of the faculty are members of the National Academy of Sciences: Dixon, FerraraHunterRosenfeld, and Taylor. In addition, one member of the training faculty (Rosenfeld) is a current member of The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and three faculty members (FerraraHunter, Wahl) are Fellows of the American Association of Cancer Research. All of our training faculty members are also members of The Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

Faculty Research Areas

The training faculty members are expert in a variety of areas, including cell and molecular biology, signal transduction, structural biology, molecular virology, histopathology, endocrinology, and drug discovery. One unique aspect of this T32 program is its emphasis on understanding proteins involved in growth regulation and oncogenesis at the molecular and structural levels.

Our research programs emphasize common themes relating directly to mechanisms of cellular growth control, with four different focus groups providing an intellectual framework for the diverse research activities of our training faculty. These focus areas are:

  1. Kinases and Phosphatases / Receptors and Ligands / Signaling Pathways
  2. Control of Cell Cycle Progression / DNA Checkpoints and Metastasis
  3. Transcription Factors and Systems Biology
  4. Chemical Approaches to Cancer Therapeutics

We have also organized specific curricular requirements for our trainees depending upon the focus group of their mentor.

The training faculty are united in their desire to advance the understanding of basic cell biological events that cause cancer, and to identify drugs and strategies for the treatment of cancer.

Our Trainees

The quality of our trainees funded under this T32 program, both PRE-doctoral and POST-doctoral, is excellent. Their published work, which has had significant scientific impact, is impressive as judged by the number of publications and by the caliber of the journals wherein their work appears. To read more about our trainees, visit the Current Trainee or Past Trainee pages.

To sum things up...

The overall scientific environment at UCSD, enhanced by the dedication in 2005 of our new facility for The Moores UCSD Cancer Center, together with our association with The Salk Institute and with The Ludwig Institute, is truly outstanding. Moreover, the proximity of UCSD to other premier research institutes such as The Scripps Research Institute, and The Sanford-Burnham Institute (formerly known as The La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation) further enhances the scientific interactions possible in our local community. The training environment provided at UC San Diego is among the most intellectually exciting and vibrant in the country. Most importantly, this training program has helped to focus participating faculty and trainees alike on the problems of growth regulation and oncogenesis as a key issue of scientific study.