Dr. Colon-Otero (right) and the four summer cancer research students from the University of Puerto Rico.

Summer Students Come to Mayo to Consider Careers in Cancer Research

Four students got their starts in cancer research this summer, thanks to a new program offered at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine's campus in Jacksonville, Florida. The students, from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, took part in a research scholarship program funded by the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology.

Through the program, students have the opportunity to work with an established Mayo Clinic investigator, gaining valuable exposure to the full spectrum of cancer-related clinical and translational research. "I wanted to come to this program because all of my previous experiences had been in basic lab science," said participating student Lisa Velez Velez. "I wanted to see how I could pursue research in other settings."

"We hope this experience will inspire some of these students to pursue careers in cancer clinical research," said Gerardo Colon-Otero, M.D., dean of Mayo Clinic School of Medicine's Florida campus.

Maria Hawayek, who spent the summer studying lung metastatic cells, is already seeing the possibilities. "If we're able to isolate each part of a tumor and study the characteristics of different cells that compose each part, then we will be able to create better treatments and more individualized medicine."

Another important aim of the program is to increase the number of Hispanic scientists in cancer clinical research. "It's critical to have a diverse group of investigators tackling diseases like cancer," says Dr. Colon-Otero. "Diverse research teams lead to better science and faster translation. Right now, people in Hispanic communities are underrepresented in cancer clinical research. We hope to help change that."

The new summer cancer research program is an expansion of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine Research Award program, offered through the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCaTS).