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NIH Awards $1.15 Million Grant to Train Next Generation of Cancer Nanomedicine Scientists

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has received a five-​​year, $1.15 mil­lion grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health’s National Cancer Insti­tute to train the next gen­er­a­tion of cancer nanomed­i­cine sci­en­tists and clin­i­cians through a unique expe­ri­en­tial learning program.

Sri Sridhar, right, says the CaNCURE program will give students like biology major Kevin Gozzi, S'16, the chance to study and conduct cancer nanomedicine research under the supervision of of 35 leading scientists at Northeastern and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

The grant aligns with Northeastern’s focus on dis­cov­ering solu­tions to global chal­lenges in health, one of the university’s three pro­gram­matic pillars.

“Nan­otech­nology is leading to break­throughs in diag­nosis and therapy of many dis­eases, par­tic­u­larly cancer, leading to the new dis­ci­pline of cancer nanomed­i­cine,” said prin­cipal inves­ti­gator Srinivas Sridhar, Northeastern’s Arts and Sci­ence Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics, Bio­engi­neering, and Chem­ical Engi­neering, and the director of the university’s IGERT Nanomed­i­cine Sci­ence and Tech­nology pro­gram. “Advances in the field are begin­ning to have rev­o­lu­tionary impact on healthcare.”

The cen­ter­piece of the new pro­gram, which is called “CaN­CURE: Cancer Nanomed­i­cine Co-​​ops for Under­grad­uate Research Expe­ri­ences,” is a unique part­ner­ship between North­eastern and the Ini­tia­tive to Elim­i­nate Cancer Dis­par­i­ties at the Dana-​​Farber/​Harvard Cancer Center. DF/​HCC is the nation’s largest com­pre­hen­sive cancer center, bringing together the research efforts of its seven member insti­tu­tions, com­prising Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Center, Boston Children’s Hos­pital, Brigham and Women’s Hos­pital, Dana-​​Farber Cancer Insti­tute, Har­vard Med­ical School, the Har­vard School of Public Health, and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital. For more than a decade, the IECD—among the nation’s first inte­grated, inter-​​institutional pro­grams focused on elim­i­nating cancer dis­par­ities—has offered pro­gram­ming to address the com­plex­i­ties of cancer dis­par­i­ties, including training stu­dents, enhancing research, and facil­i­tating access to under­served populations.

Over the next five years, a total of 75 under­grad­uate stu­dents will receive training to study and con­duct cancer nanomed­i­cine research in the lab­o­ra­to­ries of 35 leading sci­en­tists at North­eastern and DF/​HCC. These six-​​month co-​​op expe­ri­ences, facil­i­tated through Northeastern’s co-​​op office, will pro­vide stu­dents in majors ranging from bio­med­ical physics to chem­ical engi­neering with hands-​​on research expe­ri­ence and one-​​on-​​one men­toring from the leading researchers in cancer nanomed­i­cine at these partner institutions.

“These men­tors rep­re­sent some of the world’s best sci­en­tists in cancer nanomed­i­cine research,” Sridhar explained, noting that the under­grad­uate researchers will also have the oppor­tu­nity to col­lab­o­rate with their post­docs and grad­uate stu­dents. “We are tap­ping into an unprece­dented resource of talent and exper­tise for teaching and the stu­dents’ learning envi­ron­ment is going to be absolutely outstanding.”

Sridhar, who expects to enroll the program’s ini­tial cohort of stu­dents this fall, has placed an emphasis on attracting young sci­en­tists from under­rep­re­sented minority groups. “Our goals are well aligned with that of NCI, which wants to ensure that seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion that are under­rep­re­sented in the sci­en­tific and health­care pro­fes­sions have access to oppor­tu­ni­ties in research and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment,” he said.

All enrollees will par­tic­i­pate in spe­cial­ized work­shops, con­fer­ences, and bi-​​monthly sem­i­nars fea­turing cancer nanomed­i­cine experts. At the con­clu­sion of the year­long pro­gram, each stu­dent will give a pre­sen­ta­tion of his or her work.

“We really want to moti­vate stu­dents to pursue careers in cancer research and clin­ical prac­tice,” Sridhar said.


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