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M. D. Anderson Launches Graduate Program in Cancer Metastasis

Competitive University of Texas System grant funds uniquely focused curriculum

M. D. Anderson News Release 03/26/09

A one-of-a-kind graduate program that focuses on the most lethal aspect of cancer will open this fall at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center with support from a highly competitive grant from The University of Texas System.

The Graduate Program in Cancer Metastasis Research: Bench to Bedside, will concentrate on understanding and attacking the spread of cancer from its original site to other organs. The program will be offered through The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, a combined program of M. D. Anderson and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

"Metastasis is far and away the major killer of cancer patients, and this doctoral program is the first to treat the study of metastasis as a separate discipline," said program organizer Gary E. Gallick, Ph.D., professor and director of education in M. D. Anderson's Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and a member of the GSBS faculty.

UT System allocated $485,250 to the metastasis program over three years, one of only seven grants awarded in a systemwide competition called the Graduate Program Initiative. The University of Texas System Board of Regents allocated $5 million for the initiative to cultivate innovative programs that will attract high-quality graduate students to UT System institutions. Each institution submitted multiple proposals.

"It's crucial that we improve our basic understanding of the underlying mechanisms for the spread of cancer to distant sites," said M. D. Anderson Provost and Executive Vice President Raymond DuBois, M.D. Ph.D.  "This program will enhance the training of   future scientists who will advance metastasis research."

The metastasis program integrates a traditional hypothesis-driven, basic-science research approach with M. D. Anderson's strong emphasis on cultivating close collaborations among physicians and scientists. "Students will learn to appreciate the clinical aspects of metastasis by visiting clinics and hearing physicians' perspectives on how the basic science issues worked on by students play out in the clinic," Gallick said.

Many institutions have established interdisciplinary research programs in cancer biology that include metastasis research. The organizers of the M. D. Anderson cancer metastasis program have tailored new courses and approaches to address unique requirements of metastasis research, providing students an unparalleled educational opportunity.  The only similar program is offered jointly by the Université de Lausanne in Switzerland in conjunction with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Top students admitted to the program will be designated I.J. Fidler Fellows in Metastasis Research. The awards honor Isaiah J. Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of M. D. Anderson's Cancer Metastasis Research Center and professor and former chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, a longstanding leader in research and translational programs in the area of metastasis whose pioneering work led to the recognition that metastasis is a separate discipline of cancer biology, providing the basis for this new program.

The GSBS is a combined program of M. D. Anderson and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.


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