AFCRI faculty members participate in every aspect of clinical training, from formal lectures in a wide array of classes, to clinical teaching and conducting medical rounds.
AFCRI Activity in MS1 Courses
Medical students at Penn have typically received little formal training in emerging principles of cancer biology, apart from FRO 514. After multiple discussions with Dr. Neal Rubinstein, who directs Module 1, Dr. Brian Keith developed a strategy to improve and update cancer biology training for all first-year medical (MS1) students. They decided to emphasize cancer in existing courses where possible, rather than trying to add a new course, which would be unfeasible at present. Consequently, Dr. Keith developed two lectures on tissue renewal and cell cycle control, using cancer as the clinical connection, in the MS1 course Cell and Tissue Biology (CTB) in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, Dr. Keith added a third lecture focused on the use of targeted therapies to inhibit oncogenic signal transduction pathways in melanoma and lung cancer. These lectures were well received, and thus are continuing presently.
Until 2012, first-year students had been exposed to general concepts in cancer biology through three lectures taught in the course “Mechanisms of Disease and Therapeutic Intervention” (MDTI) which follows Module 1. These lectures were traditionally presented by faculty in the Department of Pathology, but following discussions with the MDTI director, Dr. Carolyn Cambor, it was agreed that faculty from the AFCRI and Department of Cancer Biology should revise and deliver these lectures. Dr Keith has completed a comprehensive overview of all cancer biology lectures in MOD1 and 2 with the intention to modernize these lectures by better connecting an up-to-date basic understanding of cancer with current and future strategies of cancer treatment in the form of precision medicine. In November 2015, Dr. Brian Keith designed and presented a new course called “Cancer Biology” as part of the first semester basic science curriculum for all first-year medical students. Dr. Keith, together with Drs. Lewis Chodosh, David Roth, Abigail Berman, and Lynn Schuchter, provided 11 new classes on the basic science behind current cancer diagnosis, analysis, and treatment. Lectures emphasized the mechanistic basis of exciting new therapeutic modalities, including targeted therapies and immunotherapy, and also presented overviews of cancer diagnosis using high-throughput DNA sequencing, as well as the scientific basis of chemo- and radiation therapy.
Distinguished Lectures in Cancer Research
AFCRI partners with The Wistar Institute, the Department of Hematology-Oncology, and the VET School Cancer Center to host a formal research seminar series known as Distinguished Lectures in Cancer Research, held weekly on Tuesdays at noon. This seminar series hosts presentations from pre‑eminent national and international scientists representing a broad scope of cancer-related research. The series provides an important mechanism by which the Institute, its faculty, and students remain firmly integrated into the larger research community at Penn and beyond. Seminar speakers typically meet with AFCRI faculty, and have an opportunity to interact with students and postdoctoral fellows during speaker luncheons. Drs. Irfan Asangani, Donita Brady, T.S. Karin Eisinger, and Terence Gade are organizing this year’s series, working in concert with Dr. Brian Keith at The Wistar Institute, Dr. Peter Klein in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, and Drs. Andres Blanco, Molly Church, and Rumela Chakrabarti at the VET Cancer Center.
The Penn Genome Integrity Group (PGIG) holds monthly seminars presented by either external speakers or postdocs and graduate students from participating laboratories, Mondays at 10:30 am. The group was founded in 2010 by four Penn faculty members (three of which are AFCRI investigators) and includes several labs from neighboring research Institutions such as The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The Wistar Institute, thus strengthening and growing the collaborative spirit that is so integral at the AFCRI.