T32: Interdisciplinary Research Training in Cancer Biology

This T32 grant from the National Cancer Institute (T32 CA165990) is led by co-directors/co-PIs Kathleen O'Connor, PhD, and B. Mark Evers, MD, and associate director/co-PI Christine Brainson, PhD.

About our program

This multi-disciplinary program focuses on training pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows in cancer biology so that they can effectively decipher important research questions associated with human cancer. Our program integrates the already established and successful programs in Signal Transduction and Mechanisms of Cancer Cell Survival, Cancer Progression and Metastasis, Tumor Microenvironment, Metabolomics, and Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage with clinical exposure into one cohesive program. Trainees will receive both didactic and non-didactic instruction, including laboratory-based basic science research, exposure to cutting edge clinical applications, and career development opportunities.

A unique feature of this program is the interdisciplinary training opportunity that will emphasize bench to bedside research topics to provide a bridge between the fundamental biology of cancer and clinical cancer. Our goal is to develop a cadre of future scientists who can become leaders in integrative team approaches to better understand the complex issue of cancer as it relates to prevention and treatment strategies.

The University of Kentucky places a significant emphasis on training of minority students, post-doctoral researchers and physicians. This program will ensure the inclusion of individuals with under-represented racial and ethnic background to better serve our diverse society.

Training grant faculty

In addition to the mentors listed below, mentees may choose mentors who are not included on the T32 but work on cancer-related topics at the University of Kentucky.

Theme 1: Mechanisms of Cancer Cell Proliferation and Tumorigenesis 

B. Mark Evers, Surgery

Tianyan Gao, Biochemistry

Qing-Bai She, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

Vivek Rangnekar, Radiation Medicine

Theme 2:  Cancer Epigenetics

Kathleen O’Connor, Biochemistry

Binhua P. Zhou, Biochemistry

Christine Brainson, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Theme 3: Role of Oxidative Stress in Tumor Progression

Daret St. Clair, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Luksana Chaiswing, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Qiou Wei, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Theme 4: Cancer Microenvironment and Metastasis

Rina Plattner, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

Xiaoqi Liu, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Ren Xu, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

Theme 5. Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy

Subbarao Bondada, Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics

Jill Kolesar, Pharmacy Practice & Science

Samuel Awuah, Chemistry

Theme 6: DNA Damage and Repair

John D’Orazio, Pediatrics

Eva Goellner, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Theme 7:  Cancer Stem Cells

Jessica Blackburn, Biochemistry

Theme 8: Cancer Metabolomics

Teresa Fan, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

Young-Sam Lee, Biochemistry 

Applicant eligibility

Pre and post-doctoral applicants must be involved in cancer research projects at UK and should possess interest in pursuing a career in a cancer-related field. Potential applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

Pre-doctoral applicants should have completed at least one year in a PhD program. All trainees will have completed the foundation courses in graduate level Genetics, Biochemistry, Immunology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Biostatistics.

Number of positions

  • 3 Pre-doctoral
  • 2 Post-doctoral

The Interdisciplinary Research Training in Cancer Biology T32 supports one pre-doctoral and three post-doctoral trainees during a two-year research fellowship.  

Program requirements

  • Trainees are expected to complete an ethics course as well as a Cancer Biology and Therapy course, which emphasizes cancer in the context of human disease.
  • Trainees will participate in the Markey Cancer Center weekly seminar series as well as participate in a variety of seminars, workshops and symposia at UK over the course of their training.
  • Each trainee is required to shadow a clinician and include one physician-scientist on their mentoring committee.

Stipend support

All trainee stipends are fixed by the National Institutes of Health, and postdoctoral stipends may vary based on years of experience following doctoral degree. Trainees are eligible for health insurance, tuition support, and travel money when appropriate for advancing the training experience. 

How to apply

Please submit the following application materials via email to Erin Oakley.

1. An application letter from the potential trainee (1-2 pages) articulating their previous research experience, commitment to a career in cancer biology or cancer-related research, and a brief research proposal. The applicant should indicate how their thesis research and/or career will benefit from cross-disciplinary training in oncologic research.

2. A current Curriculum Vitae and transcripts of the applicant.

3. A letter of support from the mentor(s) recommending the candidate and outlining the research plan for the trainee.

4. Names and contact information for two additional references that may be contacted by the Executive Steering Committee.

The Executive Steering Committee will select the top candidates and interview them before making a final decision. Please contact Erin Oakley if you have any questions.

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.