Sumanta Pal, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, recently was selected as one of four participants in SWOG’s 2011 Young Investigator Training Course.
As part of the recognition, Pal and the other three investigators attended a three-day workshop in Seattle in September for intensive training in how to design and conduct cancer clinical trials.
Sumanta Pal (Photo by Thomas Brown)
“It is an honor to have been selected as a Young Investigator and to have the ability to interact with SWOG on such a personalized level this early in my career,” said Pal.
SWOG, formerly known as the Southwest Oncology Group, is one of the largest cancer clinical trial cooperative groups in the nation. The group comprises more than 4,000 physician-researchers at more than 500 institutions. SWOG designs and conducts clinical trials to advance cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as improve the quality of life of cancer survivors.
The group has provided mentorship and career support for more than 60 physicians so far through its Young Investigator Training Course.
Course participants submit a proposal for an innovative clinical trial and develop it through the SWOG program. Pal’s research proposal focused on the “pre-metastatic niche,” a process in which cells in certain areas of the body help metastatic cancer cells to take hold and thrive.
Pal’s previous research had focused on prostate cancer and the role of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 (VEGFR1) in forming a pre-metastatic niche.
Lab studies at City of Hope have shown that in patients with high-risk prostate cancer, a rise in VEGFR1 levels in benign pelvic lymph nodes is linked to recurrence. Cells expressing VEGFR1 may form a pre-metastatic niche that give metastases a foothold. Pal was mentored in this project by Hua Yu, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology and co-leader of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Program at the comprehensive cancer center.
Pal said a more thorough understanding of the pre-metastatic niche may help physicians to identify and better treat aggressive cancers that are likely to metastasize to other areas of the body.
During the three-day course, attendees learned how to develop and manage clinical trials through cooperative group procedures that would be capable of enrolling thousands of patients at hundreds of treatment sites. Pal’s initial proposal for prostate cancer evolved into a study of the pre-metastatic niche in bladder cancer patients.
“The collaborations I have formed with the Department of Urology & Urologic Oncology and the Beckman Research Institute have been essential to my career so far,” said Pal. “Further collaboration with SWOG will allow us to assess the novel concepts we have pioneered here on a national level.”
Pal will lead a correlative study accompanying a SWOG clinical trial enrolling up to 600 bladder cancer patients. The study will investigate several potential markers of the pre-metastatic niche.