Why Research Is at the Heart of Roswell Park’s Mission

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 7:48am
Deputy Director; Chair of Pharmacology and Therapeutics; Chair of Translational Research

Cancer research is really at the heart of everything we do at Roswell Park. Our mission—to understand, prevent and cure cancer—cannot move forward without it.

Although we focus on research each and every day at Roswell Park, I want to highlight its role this month for National Cancer Research Month and help explain a little about how cancer research works.

When you hear about patients being treated with chemotherapy, or cancer drugs, those drugs were discovered using cancer research. When you hear about novel therapies using a new kind of radiation or by stimulating a patient’s immune system, those techniques were all discovered and tested using cancer research. Even new ways to diagnose and prevent cancer had their beginnings in a new idea found by research.

But just like the complex group of diseases it seeks to understand, cancer research is multi-faceted, involving many disciplines. There are many types of cancer research, all working in concert toward a shared goal.

Basic Science

At Roswell Park, we have multidisciplinary teams of scientists and physicians who conduct research. Part of those teams are researchers who focus on what we refer to as basic science, or science done in the laboratory to look at the basic mechanisms of cancer.

These research departments include:   

Translational Research

Our basic scientists work closely with our physicians and clinical scientists who actually see patients in the clinics. It’s really this marriage between the laboratory and the clinical setting that moves cancer discoveries forward. This is known as translational research, or translating basic science observations into clinical applications where they are eventually put to use to the benefit of cancer patients. 

Translational research is truly a team effort. Each team is made up of the various specialists who focus on each particular type of cancer – medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, basic scientists, pathologists, and even the nurses who care for the patients and administer the chemotherapy.

At Roswell Park we have more than 250 investigators, basic scientists and physicians that are all a part of this big, collaborative research team.

Clinical Research Studies

Clinical research is different than basic research because it, for the most part, involves patients.

When a basic discovery in the laboratory has been rigorously researched and developed into a promising new treatment, its final journey in the research process is a clinical research study. There are multiple phases of each clinical research study. Each is designed to answer different questions about the new treatment in a safe, reliable manner. Making the progression from one phase to the next is dependent on the success and results of each previous phase.

When clinical trials identify new and effective treatments, these treatments will eventually become the new standard of care that will be offered to future patients. Today’s standard treatments were researched and proven by clinical research studies done in the past.

To learn more about cancer research at Roswell Park, visit the research section on our website.