August 27, 1999

New grants buy clinical researchers more time

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Dr. David Carbone

New grants buy clinical researchers more time

Dr. Mace Rothenberg

Dr. Mace Rothenberg

Dr. Richard Shelton

Dr. Richard Shelton

A new type of NIH grant is giving four Vanderbilt University Medical Center physicians more time to devote to research.

The K24 grant — a midcareer investigator award in patient-oriented research — is part of an overall NIH initiative to increase support for clinical research.

It is hoped that the new awards will help reverse the decline in numbers of physician-scientists, often called an "endangered species" on the editorial and perspective pages of clinical journals.

The four VUMC grantees are Drs. David P. Carbone, Mace L. Rothenberg, Richard C. Shelton and C. Michael Stein.

The K24 award is intended to relieve established clinical investigators from patient care duties and administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more energy on patient-oriented research. Recipients must have independently funded research programs already in place, and they are expected to serve as mentors, promoting the NIH's goal of increasing the number of scientists trained to conduct high-quality clinical research.

"By supporting investigators who are in a position to mentor the next generation of clinical researchers, the K24 award is a very positive step by the NIH," said grantee Stein, assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology. Stein studies the genetic and non-genetic factors that determine variability in cardiovascular regulation and vascular response. He is interested in both individual and ethnic differences.

Another K24 grant recipient, Rothenberg, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and associate professor of Medicine, is establishing assays to measure the impact of cancer therapies. For example, he will determine the level and activity of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes in tumor tissue from patients in a clinical trial of a novel matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor. Other studies will evaluate the combination of cytotoxic chemotherapy and cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors for the treatment of established cancers.

"I see the K24 grant as a way of helping me expand interactions with basic researchers so that we can obtain the most useful information possible from early trials of new cancer therapies," said Rothenberg, who also directs the Phase I Drug Development Program at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Other first-ever K24 grant recipients are:

Carbone, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Medicine and Cell Biology. Carbone's research applies molecular biology to the treatment and analysis of cancer, with a particular emphasis on immunotherapeutics and gene therapy. As director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Experimental Therapeutics Program, he is involved in the clinical development of novel therapeutics and chemopreventive agents.

Shelton, associate professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology. Shelton's research focuses on the cellular factors that participate in major depression, a mental disorder affecting about 15 percent of the population. He is examining cellular regulation of the stress response system and differential gene expression in depressed and normal control patients. Shelton also conducts trials of novel therapies for treatment-resistant depression.