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Helping Young Scientists Triumph

Annual Report - Winter 2010

By Mary Jane Schier

Curtis Pickering, Ph.D., grew up wanting to be a scientist, but it wasn’t until he arrived at M. D. Anderson that he saw the full impact of translational research.

Jeffrey Myers, M.D., Ph.D. (left), mentors Curtis Pickering,
Ph.D., through the TRIUMPH Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
developed by Khandan Keyomarsi, Ph.D. (right).

Being one of the first two participants chosen for the TRIUMPH Postdoctoral Fellowship Program that began in 2008 allowed Pickering to meet many physician-scientists and discuss their laboratory research. He asked to work with Jeffrey Myers, M.D., Ph.D., professor and deputy chair for academic programs in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery.

In Myers’ laboratory, Pickering studies gene expressions and correlates his findings to clinical outcomes for tobacco-linked oral cancers, which are a major cause of cancer death. He also spends time observing Myers’ patients in clinic and in surgery.

“I’m more excited every day about getting such a wonderful clinical perspective, along with the opportunity to conduct translational research that can be applied directly to cancer patients,” Pickering says.

"TRIUMPH is visionary and can help bridge the gap between laboratory research and clinical needs."

In addition to working with mentors, Pickering and other TRIUMPH fellows in the three-year program take didactic courses, attend seminars and rotate through medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology and pediatrics services. They also learn about drug development in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics.

“TRIUMPH is visionary and can help bridge the gap between laboratory research and clinical needs,” notes Myers, one of about 20 mentors for the program.

Khandan Keyomarsi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, developed TRIUMPH (Translational Research in Multidisciplinary Program) in collaboration with Robert Bast Jr., M.D., vice president for translational research.

“TRIUMPH aims to attract the most talented young Ph.D.s for unique mentorships that will show them the breadth and depth of M. D. Anderson’s extensive translational research activities,” says Keyomarsi, the program’s director.

After completing the program, fellows will receive certificates from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, operated by M. D. Anderson and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

TRIUMPH is supported through an M. D. Anderson strategic alliance with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Bast notes that the fellows have opportunities to visit GSK laboratories and learn about drug development from the pharmaceutical industry.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center