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MD-PhD Student Wins Award for Best Translational Research

The CTRI recognized a graduating medical student for the first time this year, Dr. Justin Voog, a 2012 graduate of the UC San Diego MD-PhD Medical Scientist Training Program. Dr. Voog received a cash award of $500 in recognition of his promising future as a translational science investigator.

After completing his PhD in a basic research field, he became involved in clinical investigation, working under the direct mentorship of Arno J. Mundt, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences. The overall medical student research program in that department is headed by their Director of Clinical and Translational Research, Dr. Loren Mell. “After speaking with Justin and reviewing his CV, it was readily apparent that he was an exceptionally talented and promising young basic scientist,” said Dr. Mundt. “I suggested, instead of reviewing charts and publishing a retrospective clinical study like the typical applicant, he should consider drawing on his knowledge of basic science and help design a novel prospective clinical trial.”

The work that Justin performed with Dr. Mundt’s guidance resulted in the design of a proposed Phase I clinical trial, "Phase I Trial of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy and Sorafenib for Unresectable Hepatocellular Carcinoma." The design involves combining a novel radiotherapy approach (SBRT) with a novel targeted agent (Sorafenib) in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. “Justin brought much more to the table than the hard work of writing up the protocol, elegantly describing its rationale, and preparing it for IRB submission,” continued Dr. Mundt. “His review and understanding of the preclinical studies of both Sorafenib and of SBRT were instrumental in the ultimate design of the trial, particularly the timing of radiation and drug therapies.”

The protocol will soon be under IRB and regulatory review and will be performed in collaboration with Kelly Shimabukuro MD, a medical oncologist in the Department of Medicine who specializes in gastrointestinal tumors. The first patient will hopefully be treated by the end of this calendar year with anticipated completion in approximately two years. It is expected that the trial will result in publications on which Dr. Voog will be a coauthor. The CTRI intends to continue honoring junior investigators, such as Dr. Voog, who are passionate about translating advances in science into improvements in human health.

About UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute:

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) is part of a national Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium, led by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Established in 2010, ACTRI provides infrastructure and support for basic, translational and clinical research throughout the San Diego region to bring discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, and facilitates training and education of the next generation of researchers. ACTRI carries out its activities in collaboration with institutional and corporate partners and currently has more than 1,500 members.