Objectives
  • Cancer biology: to be able to conceptualise the most common alterations leading to cancer development

  • Molecular assays: to be able to describe the techniques, their potential uses and limitations

  • Biological sample collection: to understand the processes of sample collection and storage

  • Biomarkers: to be able to define the uses of biomarkers in clinical trials

  • Data analysis and public databases: to understand the importance of statistical planning and analyses of translational data; basic knowledge of access to databases for correlative studies

  • Transitioning results of translational research to clinical practice: to understand how translational oncology information can lead to pertinent clinical studies

Awareness
  • Cancer biology: awareness of the tumour heterogeneity within a single patient as well as the population heterogeneity of the same type of cancer

  • Molecular assays: recognition that translational research is mainly based on the application of molecular biology techniques to proteins, RNA, DNA as well as metabolites; awareness of the main methods as a prerequisite in orderto understand and interpret results (see for details under chapter 4.2.3 Laboratory medicine)

  • Biological sample collection: awareness of the complex regulatory environment of sample collection and the difficulties and opportunities of sample processing

  • Biomarkers: appreciation of the regulatory requirements in performing biomarker studies; reporting of biomarker studies (REMARK recommendations)

  • Data analysis and public databases: awareness, that is, in order to validate the hypothesis of translational studies, analysis of the data should be performed; awareness of the analysis options available as well of the databases that could be used to enrich translational research

Knowledge
  • Cancer biology: it is fundamental in translational oncology to understand and integrate the wealth of already-existing molecular oncology information, which in part was generated by translational oncology studies. The integration is challenging even for experts; hence integrative publications—reviews—which provide a critical overviews of the state of the art of the field are highly recommended. A good start is the Hallmarks of Cancer by Hanahan and Weinberg. This work not only conceptualises and integrates the wealth of cancer studies of the last 50 years but also provides a framework by which cancer can be viewed in all of its complexities. In addition, Hallmarks of Cancer can incentivise cancer therapy by laying the ground for rational treatments and treatment combinations. The extensive bibliography of Hallmarks of Cancer is a good starting point for newcomers in translational oncology

  • Molecular assays: knowledge about some of the basic techniques (PCR, western blot, cell culture techniques, histology)

  • Biological sample collection: the collection of good-quality biospecimens is critical for translational studies; knowledge about: (1) the types of sample that can be collected; (2) the need and process for gaining consent from the patient to collect specimens; (3) storage of samples, retrieving samples from biobanks

  • Biomarkers: biomarker studies connect clinical outcomes with a biological variable; knowledge about the type of biomarkers that can be studied: (1) prognostic versus predictive; (2) single versus multiplex biomarkers; (3) clinical trials of biomarkers (hypothesis-generating versus hypothesis-driven, observational, interventional)

  • Data analysis and public databases: knowledge of statistical analyses; knowledge of when to look for help in statistics and the need for statistical planning prior to initiation of translational studies; knowledge that scientific databases already exist and how to identify such databases and the basic methods of data mining

  • Transitioning results of translational research to clinical practice: knowledge about the necessity and basic methods of validating the findings/biomarkers/molecular targets in additional clinical trials

Skills
  • Ability to find useful information on biomedical research on the internet; the collection of sites provided herein is a good start for translational research

  • Ability to explain emerging laboratory technologies and molecular findings through the review of primary literature

  • Transitioning results of translational research to clinical practice: ability to plan novel, hypothesis-driven trials to test treatment schemes based on translational oncology results (especially phase I studies)