T32 Program: A Story of Success
by Moira Stoval
Congratulations are in order for Jeffrey Kim (’08). Jeff is a dual- degree student who has earned his DDS and is continuing toward the PhD as a trainee in the UCLA Dentist-Scientist and Oral Health Scientist Training Program (T32) in the laboratory of Dr. David Wong.
He also is the first UCLA T32 trainee to do what the program is designed to accomplish: win an independent research award. Jeff recently received news of an Individual National Research Service Award Predoctoral Dental Scientist Fellowship (F30) from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
In concert with the advancement of epigenetic science, there has been significant improvement in the field of cancer research, yet the matter of epigenetic regulation in oral cancer remains largely unresolved. This past year, 31,000 individuals were diagnosed with oral cancer in the US alone, of which more than 50% were in the advanced stages at the time of detection. One out of four patients with oral cancer dies due to delayed diagnosis. More detailed molecular mechanisms in the pathogenesis of oral cancer should be elucidated to ensure early detection and to reduce morbidity and mortality.
Dr. Kim’s objective is to understand the role of abrogated epigenetic regulation in oral carcinogenesis. Specifically, he wants to elucidate the molecular mechanism behind CDK2AP1-mediated DNA methylation.
The outcome of this research will potentially be used to develop diagnostic tools to detect oral cancer at the onset of the disease development (our current scientific knowledge is not sufficient to make an early diagnosis for oral cancer patients). Dr. Kim hopes to bridge the gap between the present assessment of oral cancer and the prognosis of the patient by studying the fundamental biology underlying the disease.