Translational Cancer Research: building bridges

bridgesThe Translational Cancer Research Course, co-hosted by ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) and the Cancer Research Initiative (CRI), emphasised the need to develop an integrated approach to address the burden of cancer. During the week long course, which was held at the Protea Breakwater Lodge Hotel in Cape Town from 12-16 October 2015, participants gained a unique perspective and background knowledge of the disease from leading scientists in academia and industry, clinicians, and public health specialists.

During the course, I was particularly fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with emerging cancer researchers from South Africa, India, Iran, Kenya, Libya, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Zambia and Australia.

In my view, incentivising collaborative research will assist in bringing the gap between bench and bedside. Most of the participants I spoke to agree that institutions should do more to promote and incorporate translational research into the training of students.

The CRI has used seed funding to incentivize researchers to work together.  Essentially this is a competitive award that has been given to groups of researchers, where the research team includes researchers from more than one scientific domain (from basic, clinical or public health disciplines). It enables the team to collect pilot data for use in applying for larger interdisciplinary grants.

Any ideas on how else can we promote interdisciplinary translational research? What did you think of the course?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Vedantha Singh- Cancer Research Initiative


Delegates from the Translation Cancer Course 2015


“Rubbish in, rubbish out”

“Rubbish in, rubbish out”: Database management as a tool for research


When it comes to understanding an interpreting research data, the rule of thumb is “rubbish in, rubbish out.” This was the sentiment expressed by database manager Annemie Stewart from the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) at the recent Database management workshop hosted by the CRC and the Cancer PhD mentorship program. The workshop provided an outline of database planning, demonstrated the fundamentals of database design and provided a practical overview on using Microsoft Access to develop and manage research databases.

 Trained as a basic scientist, the management of data in my experience typically involved generating, processing and storing data for analysis. Developing into multidisciplinary scientist, I am now more aware than ever that the quality of research depends not only on the collection of data, but also on accurately maintaining data. Data is an invaluable resource which should be used for the benefit of a wider research community.

Effective data management is key to generating high-quality, statistically sound and reliable data. A well maintained database can be used to generate a plethora of novel research questions and provides opportunities of using existing data to inform new studies and collaborations. A number of software tools are available for data management, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It is up to the researcher to understand what the various software options offer, and choose the system best suited for their purposes. Regardless of the choice of software or scientific field, responsible data management is important in all phases of research, from planning and data collection to data analysis and dissemination.

I am interested to learn more about your experiences using databases in research to understand the strengths and pitfalls of the various software platforms available. Please feel free to contribute or leave a comment.