Virginia Tech has developed a university-wide effort to further the importance of quickly diagnosing, treating and curing cancer, known as oncology. The effort, announced October 16, aims to push the university’s research opportunities at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC), Virginia Tech’s medical school.
“Virginia Tech has dozens of dedicated, smart people working in research labs developing innovations for patients and families in their struggles with this disease, but we usually talk about their work on an individual level,” said Dr. Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president of health sciences and technology, to VT News. “By looking at the totality of Virginia Tech’s efforts, the optics reveal a broad, diverse landscape of faculty members and expertise across colleges, centers and institutes being applied to solve the health issues and social problems caused by cancer.”
The purpose of these new initiatives is to further experiential learning and to create a “comprehensive cancer center,” Friedlander said. Graduate and undergraduate students will have opportunities to conduct research and collaborate with other researchers across cities from Blacksburg to the Health Sciences and Technology building in Roanoke and National Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
“Virginia Tech and Children’s National have a long history of collaboration, including joint NIH (National Institutes of Health) research grants, shared intellectual property and shared scientific advisory efforts,” Friedlander said. “We fully expect to become more engaged in the rich innovation ecosystem in the Washington, D.C. area as we move forward.”
In its 10-year history, Virginia Tech’s medical school has received 22 combined NIH and National Cancer Institute (NCI) awards totaling between $4.5 and $5 million annually.
According to Friedlander, VTC wants to provide students opportunities to collaborate, while other initiatives will contribute to studying large-scale genetic scans and interacting with policy, pharmacy and biology issues. As of now, however, laboratories at Virginia Tech studying the effect of human cancers are in their interphase periods.
“With Carilion’s expansive plans for growth to improve health care in the region, along with the recent announcement regarding a new Carilion children’s facility for specialty services, Virginia Tech expects additional opportunities for collaborations and partnerships in children’s health will increase, including cancer research and care,” Friedlander said.
Outside of human cancer research, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will pursue research efforts of their own, broken into four categories: basic research for understanding fundamentals, clinical research for testing drugs and medical devices, population-based research to explore the causes of cancer, and translational research to collaborate laboratory research and practices in the clinic.
Virginia Tech announced the latest advancement for the college in October 2017 after unveiling the plans for the Comparative Oncology Research Center (CORC) in Roanoke. The complex, which the university hopes to open in spring 2020, has invested $3.28 million to offer a linear accelerator, a form of radiation therapy to identify and remove cancer cells, to contribute to the college’s main research program in neuro-oncology. Neuro-oncology involves sensing and identifying brain tumors in animals. Linear accelerators at CORC will be the only healing method of its kind available in Southwest Virginia.
“The college continues to do great work,” said Freidlander. “A part of this initiative will have more treatments in cancer treatments in pets in a program that collaborates and grows.”