Cancer Affinity Group Brings Together Basic Researchers and Physicians

By Mika Ono

San Diego scientists and physicians gather at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) once a month to hear a talk on a cancer-related topic—for instance, the genetics of human leukemias, the cancer-chromatin connection, or new paradigms for drug development. The ongoing lecture series is sponsored by TSRI's Cancer Affinity Group, which promotes intellectual enrichment, scientific discussion, and exchange of ideas among the region's scientists and clinicians.

"The Cancer Affinity Group is a loose organization of people who are interested in cancer—cancer research that is basic as well as applied," says Professor Peter Vogt, who organizes the group. "The distinction [from the other affinity groups at TSRI] is we try to reach out to the clinic and bring in clinicians to our program."

Cancer Affinity Group lectures are held at 5 PM or later in an effort to accommodate physicians' schedules. So far, the group has attracted over 100 members from TSRI, Scripps Clinic/Green Hospital, the other four hospitals in the Scripps Hospital system (Scripps Chula Vista, Scripps Encinitas, Scripps La Jolla, and Scripps Mercy), Southwest Cancer Care Medical Group, and Children's Hospital and Health Center.

Vogt notes that both basic researchers and clinicians benefit from the exchange. Basic researchers have the opportunity to increase their understanding of clinically relevant problems. And physicians have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of current and future therapies for their patients. Vogt sees the Cancer Affinity Group lectures as a first step to encouraging interaction among the region's basic researchers and clinicians.

While the affinity group is funded by TSRI, the creation of the group in April 2000 was spurred in large part by the founding six months earlier of the multi-institutional Scripps Cancer Center, for which Vogt is associate director of basic research. The center promotes bench-to-bedside research by uniting the resources of TSRI and the Scripps Health and Scripps Clinic systems—a mission that dovetails neatly with that of the affinity group.

Alan Saven, director of the Scripps Cancer Center, comments: "Collaborations between basic researchers and physicians will ultimately benefit the patient. I want all scientists at TSRI to be aware that there are physicians who want to collaborate with them on their research."

Saven notes that basic researchers benefit from collaborations with clinicians when the researchers are in the process of developing new agents, when they need clinical information, or when their research could be enriched with patient samples. The 40 to 50 cancer physicians within the five hospitals in the Scripps network represent one third of all cancer care providers in the region.

For more information on the Cancer Affinity Group, see the group's web page or call x4-8079. For more information on the Scripps Cancer Center, call (858) 554-8388.

In addition to the Cancer Affinity Group, affinity groups at TSRI include: the Pathogenesis Affinity Group, the Structure and Chemistry Affinity Group, the Immunology Affinity Group, the Vascular Biology Affinity Group, and the Molecular and Cell Biology Affinity Group.





TSRI Professor Peter Vogt, who is also associate director for basic cancer research at the Scripps Cancer Center, organizes the Cancer Affinity Group.