OCRP Ovarian Cancer Academy Vignette
Title: Inspiring a New Generation of Ovarian Cancer Researchers
Investigators: Pat Modrow, PhD, OCRP Program Manager; Michael Seiden, MD, PhD, McKesson Specialty Health, OCRP Programmatic Panel Chair; Robert Alvarez, MD, University of Alabama at Birmingham, OCA Mentor; Nita J. Maihle, PhD, Georgia Regents University Cancer Center; Panagiotis Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD,
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Rugang Zhang, PhD, Wistar Institute; Erinn B. Rankin, PhD, Stanford University; Anirban K. Mitra, PhD, Indiana University; Jeremy Chien, PhD, University of Kansas; Yang Yang-Hartwich, PhD, Yale School of Medicine; Liz Poole, PhD, Brigham and Women's Hospital; Neil Johnson, PhD, Fox Chase Cancer Center; Karen McLean, MD, PhD, University of Michigan; and Douglas A. Levine, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
MODROW: The Ovarian Cancer Research Program isn't really a jobs program. We are really here to eradicate or eliminate the disease. But in 2009, the DoD actually had a 100% increase in appropriation. We went from 10 million dollars to 20 million dollars, and it gave us the opportunity to do something different. And, one of the things we knew we needed to do was to train not only dedicated scientists in ovarian cancer, but scientists who are passionate about helping to eliminate the disease.
SEIDEN: One of things that is always very challenging is the first 5 years of an independent investigator's career. Very difficult to get that first RO1 grant from the NCI or the NIH before the age of 40, and a lot of investigators don't have enough support and enough mentorship to reach what I would call a stable portion of the middle of their career.
ALVAREZ: The Ovarian Cancer Academy was really a great idea. We certainly needed to invest in the training of young scientists who have an interest in ovarian cancer and real scientific focus in ovarian cancer.
MODROW: So, when we first designed the concept for this Academy, we wanted to create a collaborative group of scientists. And we wanted to create a peer group for these junior faculty that would have a common interest, and we wanted this common interest to be ovarian cancer. And we also envisioned that because of their participation in this Academy, that these junior faculty would remain peers throughout their careers. But what we would also like is for everyone in the Academy to meet the "1:10:100 Rule." That is: identify one person who is watching out for them; identify 10 people who are willing to pay them, either in time or in money, for their research ideas; as well as identify 100 people who they can pick up the phone and talk to, and that could be a collaborator, a co-author, another Academy member, or even another Academy mentor.
ALVAREZ: The mentor role is really, I think, hopefully helpful to the mentees. We try to provide guidance about the scientific direction that the mentee is actually pursuing, to give them some encouragement with respect to the presentation of their results in both abstract forms, and help them with their publications, and trying to edit those publications.
MAIHLE: The Ovarian Cancer Academy recruits on an ongoing basis; it's been in place for about 5 years, under the leadership of Professor Donahoe at Harvard. Dr. Levine and I came on board in October of 2015, and we had 14 early pre-investigators at that time. So it's a 5-year program, so every year a few people rotate off, a few new people rotate on.
SEIDEN: I believe that it has served as a way of identifying what I believe will eventually be the "all-stars"-the sort of young professors-in the ovarian cancer community, say 10 years from now.
KONSTANTINOPOULOS: The Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Academy has been a tremendous opportunity for me. I had the opportunity to interact with several great co-investigators, as well as enjoy the mentorship of outstanding people, and that gave me the opportunity to advance my work, as well as make my work known to more people; identifying the collaborators to advance my work, and, essentially, be better as an investigator.
CHOWDHURY: The idea of promoting common resources, a lot of you have tissues, and we also have tissues, and maybe the PBX models; we could talk about how we could share these resources, particularly data is very easy to share within a small community, and that would really come to the second point of enhancing collaboration amongst the people in the academy.
ZHANG: Collaborating, in my personal opinion, is the key to the success of the future of cancer research. I really think that basically, this not only serves as a way for us to collaborate, or establish a mentorship through the program; more importantly, we kind of put all our passion together into these different disciplines of ovarian cancer, to eventually achieve the goal of eradicating this disease.
RANKIN: Going forward, I hope that we'll have opportunities to share and exchange reagents and resources, as well as scientific ideas to help promote all of our research programs.
MITRA: We want to excel in the field. It's a very competitive world, and we have to be as close to perfect as possible, so getting as much feedback and different angles of advice will be really, really helpful.
SEIDEN: Part of being successful in science is learning how to communicate powerfully, both in written word and orally.
MAIHLE: A large part of the program is focused on scientific writing, grantsmanship, as well as not only speaking for professionals but also speaking for the public.
CHIEN: I really appreciate the mentorship that is given through the OCA. Particularly, we get reviewed for our grants, and also sometimes we get assistance on manuscripts we give our mentors, and they give us the feedback.
YANG-HARTWICH: I want to advance our knowledge of ovarian cancer, and guidance, like how to manage my grant, how to manage my career; internationally, I want our voice to be heard.
MAIHLE: It's a virtual program, so we come together virtually once a month, although we stay in touch the rest of the time, through social media and email and so on. And then we also have a professional skill development component to those webinars.
POOLE: A couple of years ago we had-or last year we had Sandy Orsulic come present, and that was really helpful. She does cross-disciplinary research, and I think we all got something out of what she proposed, even if our research isn't directly related to what she does.
JOHNSON: For me, I wasn't particularly, necessarily, engaged in ovarian cancer research. Coming into this, I was coming in from a more DNA repair-type aspect, so to facilitate, introduce, and collaborate as an introduction to the people in the field, I think would be very helpful.
McLEAN: I share the passion and the goal to make a difference in patients with ovarian cancer, and even so optimistic to say perhaps that what we can discover in ovarian cancer can extend beyond that discipline to other cancers as well.
ALVAREZ: The Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program has wisely chosen to invest their money into development of new scientists who will take us forward as we try to develop new ways to prevent and treat this deadly disease.
LEVINE: This is a consortium, basically, of investigators, but team science is what we think is important to the future of our field, we think that there's lots of synergy in doing team science, there have been a few demonstration projects that seem to be successful. We don't want to work in a vacuum, and we all have skills, and people have other skills, and putting skills together should provide added value. Being in the field is really about developing professional friends. When I talk to some other people, whether it's for surgery or for research, I always say to them, you know, I can do this because I have friends. They're friends like Pat was talking about, the 1:10:100 Rule. I can call them up, and I've done something for them, and they'll do something for me. And from our point of view, the more people we have focused in on ovarian cancer, obviously, the more progress we'll make.
MAIHLE: I think Doug and I did a lot of brainstorming and preparation for writing the application that gave us the privilege of leading the Ovarian Cancer Academy, and we were excited and enthusiastic. We knew the early pre-investigators would be a special group of people, but I honestly don't think we appreciated just how special they would be.
Last updated Tuesday, January 4, 2022