How the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology is Improving Cancer Research Through Collaboration

Collaboration in cancer research is key, as it joins together researchers, knowledge, and resources that make progress more efficient and effective. Without collaboration, cancer treatment wouldn’t be where it is today. 

At LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center, the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology (DIO), within LSU Health New Orleans, is designed to support researcher collaboration and interaction. According to the Head of the Department, Dr. Augusto Ochoa, this model better serves the needs of researchers dedicated almost exclusively to conducting cancer research and clinical trials.  

“As cancer research becomes more complex, it requires close collaboration among basic science, population, and clinical investigators. Therefore, it has become imperative for those individuals to facilitate ways in which they can work together, and to have an academic home base that is centered around cancer research,” he explains. This makes it easier to develop the necessary specialized core laboratories that can perform complex and expensive procedures such as genetic sequencing, immune cell analysis, and molecular microscopy. It also allows young trainees to work side by side and share their discoveries with others.  

Cancer research is at the core of LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center. The DIO upholds these efforts and brings together the brightest minds dedicated to advancing cancer research. 

The Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology and Collaboration Among Researchers  

When more people are dedicated to accomplishing the same task, productivity increases. This is true in patient care when multidisciplinary care teams involving various medical departments come together to provide advanced medical care to patients and improve their outcomes. 

The same is true in basic scientific research. The very rapid growth in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that cause cancer, and how the body through its “repair” mechanisms and its immune system works to prevent the growth of cancer, has made it essential that scientists with an intimate knowledge of each of these pathways work together to develop ever better ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. 

Bringing these investigators under one roof to provide them with the necessary tools to be collaborative and become successful is the main goal of the DIO. A reflection of this has been seen in the fact that the number of co-authors on published papers has increased over time. This rise in collaboration has improved scientific productivity and played a key role in findings. 

“In today's world of cancer, any project that makes an impact in cancer research is multidisciplinary. You have somebody who understands the basic genetics of the cells that are being studied, somebody who knows how to look at the markers of those cells, somebody who has the animal models, and a clinician who says this works very well with patients who have this type of cancer,” explains Dr. Ochoa. “When you have multi-disciplinary teams like that, it's much easier when you have them under one roof.” 

This is where the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology comes in as an embedded structure to support these very efforts. “It facilitates the development of collaborative research,” explains Dr. Ochoa. 

Collaboration is also helpful for academic promotion. When investigators are siloed in their own departments, information must be compiled second-hand from multiple department chairs, making academic promotion less efficient and more time-consuming. 

“​​The DIO makes it much easier to go through the process of academic promotion and academic growth for faculty because they collaborate with their colleagues. They work closely every day and are aware of their progress,” says Dr. Ochoa. “When one of them is evaluated for promotion, it's an easier and more logical process to compile their work and to know exactly what they've done and achieved. It provides a stimulating environment to produce at a very high level, and it is also a supportive environment for those who may need support.” 

The DIO and Access to Shared Resources

Resources are a key component of productive cancer research. The DIO provides researchers with increased access to other investigators as well as flexibility for funding. It also supports various activities, such as clinical trials and staffing. 

Just as importantly, the DIO oversees the Core Laboratories at the LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center. These shared resources, such as the Biostatistics Bioinformatics Core, Immunology Core, Molecular Histopathology and Analytical Microscopy Core, and Translational Genomics Core, are all vital to research and testing. 

“Our investigators need quick and easy access to the cores that house highly complex and expensive equipment run by individuals with unique training and expertise to conduct the necessary tests,” explains Dr. Ochoa. “For example, our investigators regularly run tumor samples or immune cells through a battery of tests that help them identify the type of tumor, the genetic changes that the tumor has undergone, and the immune cells surrounding the tumor that are trying to block its growth. These complex battery of tests can only be done in these cores with a high degree of accuracy. These cores hold multi-million dollar pieces of equipment that no single investigator can have.” 

Timely and convenient access to the cores, among other resources, means fewer hurdles researchers must navigate to progress cancer research and improve patient care. 

The DIO: Promoting Efficiency and Productivity in Cancer Research 

Cancer research takes time, resources, and skilled investigators. From lab research to clinical trials, every step of developing new cancer therapies is crucial — and so is every person involved. By improving the collaboration among everyone involved, patients will have access to life-saving care sooner. 

In one academic home, the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology is equipped to improve productivity and efficiency to advance cancer research together. 

CALL TO ACTION/COMMENT/SHARE: Do you have questions about the LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center’s Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology? Contact us to learn more about membership and research collaboration.


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