PERFORM Alliance Translates Important Research from Bench to Bedside – and Back

Successful research practices find solutions that translate from the bench to the bedside, and while that’s important, Vivek Rangnekar, PhD, underscores that it’s even more effective as a bidirectional and cyclical rather than a linear process.

“Generally, we talk about bench-to-bedside translation of ideas or research projects,” Dr. Rangnekar said. “On the other hand, with cancer, clinical observations – for example, how the patient is responding to treatment – is very important, and those insights are gained primarily in the clinic.”

Dr. Rangnekar, professor in the department of radiation medicine and associate director of the UK Markey Cancer Center, is principal investigator for the Prostate Expertise in Research For Overcoming Resistance and Mentoring (PERFORM) Alliance, a team within the College of Medicine’s Alliance Research Initiative combining expertise across colleges and departments to research cancer, specifically prostate cancer. The UK College of Medicine, along with UK HealthCare and the Office of the Vice President for Research, provides crucial funding that helps forge connections and enhance research.

Dr. Rangnekar’s team works toward solutions from bench to the bedside, bringing laboratory findings to the clinical setting. And part of the benefit of this Alliance Research Initiative is joining forces among research and clinical faculty who can help research move the other direction as well. 

“Having clinician-scientists on our Alliance is an asset as they are able to bring back the important insights they gain from the clinic, and that leads to new ideas and new projects that can be developed within basic science labs,” Dr. Rangnekar said.

The PERFORM Alliance has more than 30 faculty members from the Colleges of Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, Arts and Sciences, and Public Health. College of Medicine Dean Robert S. DiPaola, MD, also is a team member with an established career in prostate cancer research and treatment before serving his leadership role at UK. Dean DiPaola actually helped the team develop the concept of reverse translation.

The Alliance has already begun work on four pilot projects, with potential to build upon them. Each proposal for pilot funding is internally peer-reviewed, capitalizing on the ample expertise of the group for constructive critique that leads to more success.

Mentoring of junior faculty is an important objective of the Alliance. Luksana Chaiswing, PhD, assistant professor in the department of toxicology and cancer biology, mentored by several members of the PERFORM Alliance, was meritoriously awarded an R01 grant by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) beginning April 1, 2021. Zin Myint, MD, assistant professor of medicine, received mentoring from PERFORM Alliance members as well as the Markey Translational Oncology program leadership. She successfully submitted a letter of intent to the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN) that has been approved for the first prostate cancer radiopharmaceutical trial developed in the ETCTN portfolio. Her project will expand the portfolio of radiopharmaceuticals, a growing trend in cancer treatment.  

The concept of PERFORM began a year before the Alliance Research Initiative officially launched, but team members met more on an ad-hoc basis. With seminars and even informal small group meetings, Dr. Rangnekar recognized the interest in pursuing a more structured approach.

Now, the Alliance meets at least once a month, providing a chance for investigators to bridge connections between clinicians, scientists, and physician-scientists with whom they might not have interacted.

“That’s when there’s an exchange of information, and then offline, there are interactions that stem from those conversations,” Dr. Rangnekar said. “The big picture is to develop multiple projects rather than just one common project within the Alliance. Ideas exchanged during these meetings provide the incentive to build new projects.”

To ensure continued momentum through generations of researchers, PERFORM has implemented formal committees within the team that are dedicated to mentorship, especially promoting multi-investigator grants and clinical trials. Just as structure benefits the team as a whole, structured committees meet on a regular basis and provide accountability for success.

To learn more about PERFORM and other Alliance teams, visit www.med.uky.edu/alliance.

PERFORM Alliance Team Members:

  • Derek Allison, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Scott Berry, PhD, Associate Professor – College of Engineering
  • Therese Bocklage, MD, Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • April Bramel, College of Medicine – Senior Project Manager
  • Erin Burke, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Luksana Chaiswing, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Aman Chauhan, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Robert DiPaola, MD, Dean – College of Medicine
  • Eric Durbin, DrPH, Assistant Professor – Kentucky Cancer Registry
  • Riham El Khouli, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Radiology
  • Sally Ellingson, PhD, Assistant Professor – Kentucky Cancer Registry
  • Leigh Anne Faul, College of Medicine – Research Development Director
  • Edith Glazer, PhD, Associate Professor – College of Arts and Sciences
  • Tadahide Izumi, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology​
  • Andrew James, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Urology
  • Jill Kolesar, PharmD, Professor – College of Pharmacy
  • Markos Leggas, PhD, Professor – College of Pharmacy
  • Xiaoqi Liu, PhD, Chair and Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Zin Myint, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Kathleen O’Connor, PhD, Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
  • Vivek M. Rangnekar, PhD, Professor – Department of Radiation Medicine
  • Daret St. Clair, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • William St. Clair, MD, PhD, Professor – Department of Radiation Medicine
  • Stephen Strup, MD, Chair and Professor – Department of Urology
  • Ramon Sun, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry​
  • Chi Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor – College of Public Health
  • Peng Wang, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • David Watt, PhD, Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
  • Qiou Wei, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Heidi Weiss, PhD, Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Donglin Yan, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Jin-Ming Yang, MD, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Chang-Guo Zhan, PhD, Professor – College of Pharmacy
  • Shulin Zhang, MD, PhD, Professor – Department of  Pathology and Laboratory Medicine