Translational Oncology for Basic Scientists

Course instructor: Cesar M. Castro, MD

There are increasing synergies between the basic sciences and clinical medicine. Translational oncology seeks to leverage insights from both the bench and bedside to improve cancer care. The thesis behind this course proposes that opportunities for innovation in oncology occur everywhere along the spectrum from diagnostics to treatment. Through its 10 lectures, the course seeks to improve understanding and hence partnerships between basic scientists and potential clinical colleagues.


Lecture 1. Introduction to translational oncology

This first session will review the basic concepts and clinical approaches towards cancer to provide context for the remaining lectures.

Lecture 2. Clinical trial design

This session will review fundamental clinical trial designs in oncology with particular attention to areas of unmet needs and novel designs (e.g. biomarker driven trials).


Lecture 3. Cancer biomarkers

Biomarkers are ubiquitous in medicine. This session will review the role of tumor markers and the evolving role of pharmacodynamic readouts for assessing drug response.

Lecture 4. Cancer imaging and procedures

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. This session covers the concepts and rationale behind standard imaging approaches. Fundamental specimen collection procedures are reviewed. Emerging imaging modalities and alternative clinical specimens are also discussed.

Lecture 5. Profiling strategies

Cancers from similar histologies may look identical under the microscope yet can harbor drastically different clinical trajectories. This session covers DNA, RNA, and protein profiling platforms and how they inform current therapeutic decision-making. Both advantages and challenges will be discussed.


Lecture 6. The anatomy of a drug

The session explains how a drug is propelled along the pipeline towards FDA approval. Both classical and novel approval mechanisms will be discussed. Opportunities for improving ‘Go-No go’ decisions will be emphasized.

Lecture 7. Conventional chemotherapies

This session will review the mechanisms and logic behind commonly used classes of chemotherapeutic drugs along with their common side effects. Unmet needs in toxicity monitoring will also be discussed.

Lecture 8. Targeted and immuno-therapies

This session will highlight the emerging role of targeted therapies and their use in the context of profiling strategies (see Lecture 5). Their unique pharmacodynamic readouts will be presented. Immuno-therapies, a class of drugs gaining significant traction, will also be discussed.

Lecture 9. Global Oncology

“Trickle down” science and technology does not commonly benefit resource-constrained areas yet their clinical oncology needs are similar, or even greater than their resource-rich counterparts. This session covers advances and remaining needs for low-cost and portable technologies that align with the social and geographic realities of many underserved regions throughout the world.

Lecture 10. Metrics of Innovation

Novel technologies often arise out of the preclinical space. Yet, “a good idea does not a successful patent necessarily make”. This session benefits from a guest speaker from Partners Innovation to discuss how potential inventions and discoveries are reviewed and propelled along the patent process.

Revised on 2015-07-23 21:00:56 UTC