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Vol. LIX, No. 13
June 29, 2007
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NCI's CURE Program Boosts Minority Careers

  On hand for a recent CURE program workshop were (from l) Traci Mitchel, Dr. Emmanuel Taylor, Dr. Kenneth Chu, Bobby Rosenfield, Dr. Leslie Cooper, Dr. Sanya Springfield (c), Tarsha McCrae, Dr. Brian Kimes, Dr. Peter Ogunbiyi, Dr. Nelson Aguila, Belinda Locke, Lashell Gaskins, Le Ann Bailey, Tricia Penalosa, Dr. Roland Garcia and Dr. Mary Ann Van Duyn.
On hand for a recent CURE program workshop were (from l) Traci Mitchel, Dr. Emmanuel Taylor, Dr. Kenneth Chu, Bobby Rosenfield, Dr. Leslie Cooper, Dr. Sanya Springfield (c), Tarsha McCrae, Dr. Brian Kimes, Dr. Peter Ogunbiyi, Dr. Nelson Aguila, Belinda Locke, Lashell Gaskins, Le Ann Bailey, Tricia Penalosa, Dr. Roland Garcia and Dr. Mary Ann Van Duyn.
NCI's Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) Program celebrated its 10th anniversary in May. For many researchers from diverse populations across the country, the program has served as a springboard for careers as independent competitive cancer investigators.

Dr. Maria Elena Martinez, now an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition and co-director of the prevention and control program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is a good example. Born in Mexico, she is currently principal investigator on an NCI research project grant (R01) focused on delineating the causes of advanced colon tumors after surgery and anticipates publishing current findings from these studies late this year. Martinez credits encouragement from NCI's Dr. Sanya Springfield and the CURE program's Mentored Career Development Award (K01)-which supported her early studies on mutagens in meat-with providing the basis for her current research.

Martinez had participated in CURE's annual professional development and peer review workshops. These provide opportunities to learn about the NCI grants process, network with NCI staff and other junior minority investigators from around the country and participate in a mock version of the NIH grants peer review process.

"Before CURE, being a young Hispanic junior scientist involved in the whole grants process and competing against some of the best scientists in the country was quite intimidating," Martinez said. "CURE not only supported my research, but also encouraged me to become an independent cancer investigator."

Dr. Natalie Eddington, now chair of the department of pharmaceutical sciences, University of Maryland in Baltimore, also credits the CURE program as contributing to her success.

Eddington, who grew up in an inner-city District of Columbia neighborhood, acknowledges an elderly elementary school teacher with encouraging her to go beyond her parents' dreams. After graduating summa cum laude from the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Howard University, she went on to receive her doctorate from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. In 2001, she received a K01 to study modulation of the blood brain barrier as a way to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the central nervous system. Building on these results, Eddington has gone on to become principal investigator on several research project grants and exploratory/developmental grants.

"We originally designed CURE to provide a continuum of research opportunities for students and investigators from diverse populations from high school through their first academic appointment," said NCI's Springfield, director of the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. "Students receive hands-on training in clinical, basic science and population-based cancer research."

Today, CURE supports students through their undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral programs in cancer using research supplements, fellowships and career development awards. Last year, $28.8 million was allocated to the CURE program.

Many CURE recipients are now established faculty and researchers at major academic institutions and cancer centers such as Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University and the University of California, San Diego.

Over the last decade, CURE has supported 1,119 underrepresented minority investigators. More than 130 gathered for a recent 2-day workshop marking the 10th anniversary. NIH Record Icon

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