|NCCN Cancer Answers: What is translational research and why is it important?|
Translational Research: Moving Discoveries From the Lab to the Clinic
Duke oncologist Neil Spector, MD, is co-director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI). He is recognized internationally for his leadership in the development of cancer drugs such as Tykerb. Spector came to Duke in 2006 from GlaxoSmithKline to direct the DCI’s efforts to translate basic science discoveries in the laboratory into advanced care for our cancer patients.
What is translational research?
Translational research is taking knowledge developed and insight gained in the laboratory, and applying it in the clinic in order to enhance detection, treatment, prediction of outcomes, and prevention of disease in people. Essentially, it is bridging the gap between the science being done in the lab, and the clinic where patients are treated.
Who does this type of research, and why is it important?
You never know where the next big advances in cancer treatment are going to come from. The key is to have people who are thinking: “How does that discovery potentially apply to patient care?”
Traditionally there have been excellent basic scientists hard at work in university and corporate laboratories, and then there have been excellent physicians working in hospitals and clinics, but it was difficult to bridge that gap. It’s essential that we can think in both worlds—so we can understand the science and say, “Well, maybe that discovery in Alzheimer’s disease has some bearing on bladder cancer,” or vice versa. And increasingly, through physician-scientist training programs and through the addition of translational research training in medical schools and doctoral programs, we are gaining more people from both the medical and science worlds who have that mindset and that ability to bridge the divide.
This content was originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of Duke Cancer Institute Notes.
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