The UK Markey Cancer Center continues to expand its national and international research partnerships, with more than 40 percent of its publications involving collaborations with investigators around the world. One group of researchers in particular is concentrating its global outreach efforts in India, collaborating across oceans to benefit American and Indian cancer patients.
Markey researchers have partnered with researchers at premier Indian institutions such as Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Manipal on a series of important oncology initiatives. The collaboration is spearheaded by Dr. Vivek M. Rangnekar, associate director for strategic relations at Markey and co-leader of the Cancer Cell Biology and Signaling Research Program.
“Through our research partnership, we are enabling the development of cutting-edge research concepts and techniques, for a better understanding of cancer in India,” said Rangnekar, who has been involved in international research collaboration with Indian cancer institutions since the late 1990s. “This partnership with India is consistent with our global outreach and engagement objectives at Markey and will promote cancer research to ultimately enhance patient treatment and care at the participating institutions.”
Rangnekar and his team organized and participated in a breast cancer symposium, held at Manipal and Tata, which focused on basic cancer research, cancer epidemiology, precision medicine, and cancer education and training. The respective institutions are also collaborating on research projects. Those include a joint Markey-Manipal study of the use of liquid biopsies as a diagnostic tool, as well as a molecular epidemiology project between Markey and Tata examining gene signatures in lung cancer survivors.
As a result of their collaborations, the teams have managed to secure research funding, including a precision medicine-focused research training grant funded by CRDF Global and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to be used as part of these global outreach efforts with Tata and Manipal.
“This partnership with India is consistent with our global outreach and engagement objectives at Markey and will promote cancer research to ultimately enhance patient treatment and care at the participating institutions.”
Dr. Vivek M. Rangnekar
“Precision medicine really hasn’t been implemented at all in India,” said grant recipient Dr. Jill Kolesar, a professor in the UK College of Pharmacy and administrative director of Markey’s Precision Medicine clinic, “so we’re hoping we can use this funding to help [Tata and Manipal] set up their precision medicine programs. And going forward, they’ll be really important research collaborators for Markey.”
Although the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic forced the rescheduling of the Indian researchers’ planned spring 2020 trip to UK, the teams have continued creating plans for future research. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, they’ve even applied for a D43 NCI Global Cancer Research and Training grant along with Tata, Manipal, and Saroj Gupta Cancer Centre & Research Institute in Kolkata, India.
“We have scheduled a virtual retreat for participating oncology faculty at Markey, Mayo Clinic and the three institutions in India later this year to plan our next steps,” Rangnekar said. “Moving forward, we hope to strengthen our partnership in cancer research and training and expand collaborations with the faculty in this consortium.”