Unique Research Strengths
The MCC has well-recognized national expertise and critically important distinguishing assets in areas that differentiate the center from other cancer centers. We are capitalizing on those assets to build an exciting, transformative, and dynamic cancer research program.
- Transdisciplinary collaboration as a matrix center at a comprehensive research university. As the “flagship” institution of higher education for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, UK is one of only seven U.S. institutions having a major academic medical center with all six biomedical colleges as well as the Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, and Law on one central campus. UK has earned over 80 national rankings for academic and research excellence, and research and academic activity spans all 16 colleges and an array of interdisciplinary research centers that are critical to UK’s biomedical research enterprise. The MCC draws its members from the Colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Pharmacy, Engineering, Nursing, Arts and Sciences, and Communication and Information. The MCC is located in the epicenter of this unified university campus; the Chandler Hospital, the College of Medicine, and all other UK colleges surround the MCC. This constellation of disciplines and medical resources enables the MCC to catalyze transdisciplinary cancer research. MCC leaders have taken maximum advantage of campus strengths to build the cross-disciplinary, intra-collaborative research programs that are the hallmark of NCI-designated cancer centers. For example, the MCC Cancer Prevention and Control Program, in which seminal work has been done in the areas of culturally relevant behavioral and screening studies in Appalachian Kentucky, has program members from the Colleges of Public Health, Nursing, Medicine, and Communication and Information. Similarly, the Drug Discovery, Delivery and Translational Therapeutics Program exists as an integrated cooperative effort among prominent oncologists and basic researchers from the College of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy (consistently ranked in the top five pharmacy schools in the nation by US News and World Report), and the College of Engineering. The value of this transdisciplinary approach is nicely demonstrated by the fact that, over the last five years, six concepts, compounds, or devices developed by MCC investigators in the DT Program have entered either Phase I, II, or III clinical trials. We also successfully competed to obtain one of only six NCI-funded Cancer Nanotechnology Training Centers, which includes MCC investigators in the Colleges of Engineering, Pharmacy, Arts and Sciences, and Medicine and builds upon existing strengths in biomaterials/nanotechnology, pharmaceutical design, chemistry, and basic science investigation, respectively.
- Translational research focused on underrepresented rural populations. The MCC addresses the critical mission to reduce cancer mortality in Kentucky through a comprehensive program of cancer research, treatment, education, and community engagement with a particular focus on the underserved Appalachian population of Kentucky. The MCC is the only academic cancer center serving the central Appalachian population of eastern Kentucky and western West Virginia, a “distressed” region with significant health problems, including a cancer incidence that is the highest in the U.S. Major nationally recognized MCC initiatives include funded projects focused on cancer prevention and control and basic research with a focus on lung, colorectal, breast, and cervical cancers. These projects include community-based participatory programs specifically designed to study culturally relevant methods to reduce cancer mortality in challenging populations such as those in Appalachia. Programs in this area capitalize on a bold institutional/state initiative that created the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky, in the heart of central Appalachia. Located three hours from the main campus, this award-winning UK center is a two-decade long initiative to provide a critically important place-based infrastructure for research, education, and community engagement. The National Rural Health Association has repeatedly recognized the center’s programs and leadership, including a nationally recognized lay health “navigator” program that facilitates work in this remote mountainous region of the state. These health navigators actively collaborate with MCC researchers in implementing a large case-control study on lung cancer. MCC researchers from the Colleges of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing have studied the impact of cancer screening and the education/participation of engaged community stakeholders in concert with health professionals and behavioral researchers. Importantly, these projects have demonstrated the effectiveness of community-participatory programs in implementing cancer prevention and control programs in this underserved region. MCC’s leadership in these areas has also forged exceptionally strong alliances through the multi-state Appalachian Community Cancer Network (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia), which engages community stakeholders and translational researchers at universities with shared interests in cancer disparities in the whole of Appalachia.