Research Activities

After more than 30 years as a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center – the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer in the region (awarded in 2001) – continues to offer a wide array of services unmatched in the area.

Research areas of focus

Moores Cancer Center’s major research focus is on the discovery and testing of new agents for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Studies span a broad range of categories, including:

  • Fundamental and translational cancer research
  • Population studies of cancer incidence
  • Community education about cancer prevention and risk reduction

Moores Cancer Center has wide-ranging strengths in basic research into the nature and development of cancer. Basic scientists continue to make advances in areas ranging from the roles of stem cells in cancer to the genetics of often-fatal brain tumors called glioblastomas to the role of inflammation in cancer development.

Research accomplishments

  • In a novel NCI-backed cancer center program jointly run by the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, oncologists, pathologists and others work beside biologists and engineers to explore the potential uses of nanotechnology in detecting, imaging and treating cancer.
  • More recently, Moores Cancer Center clinicians and scientists joined with Canadian partners in a $40 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to study the behavior of and develop new drugs against leukemia stem cells.

Physician-scientists at Moores Cancer Center continue to make substantial accomplishments in clinical research.

  • Moores Cancer Center oncologists are hoping to keep advanced lung cancer at bay by treating patients with a novel kind of cancer vaccine.
  • Leukemia researchers are examining the use of gene therapy for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  • Scientists are hoping the herpes virus will help them devise new strategies against melanoma.

A multidisciplinary approach to research

The Moores Cancer Center is by definition multidisciplinary, home to some 350 member scientists and physicians from 17 university departments. It is ranked 19th in the nation in NCI funding, and members include a Nobel laureate, 14 members of the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow and a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Industry collaborations

Because of the strong emphasis on translational oncology and drug development, cancer center researchers and physicians have fostered relationships and partnerships with local and regional biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Collaborations with companies such as Pfizer, Celgene, Biogen Idec and Novartis, have enabled researchers to  get the newest, most effective therapies out of the laboratory and to the bedside.

San Diego’s three National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers—UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Cancer Center at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the Salk Institute Cancer Center—are part of a collaboration known as the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council (C3). This council was formed to facilitate scientific and academic interactions—clinical, translational (from bench to bedside), basic-science and educational—and to leverage each cancer center’s distinct strengths, resources and talents. C3 aims to accelerate scientific discovery and translation of innovative treatments for cancer patients in San Diego and beyond.