Methods of Academic Course Planning for Cancer Biology PhD Students to Enhance Knowledge of Clinical Oncology

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Little is known about how clinical oncology concepts are taught to PhD students or the most effective methods of doing so. In this study, electronic surveys were sent to faculty and students at PhD training programs, assessing their institution’s methods of clinical oncology education and their perspective on optimal approaches to clinical oncology education. Only 40.0% of students reported any clinical oncology component to their institution’s training, and only 26.5% had a clinician on their graduate advisory committee. Forty-three percent of students believed that they had a good understanding for translating basic science research into clinical practice, and 77.2% of all participants believed dual degree MD/PhD students were superior to PhD students in this regard. Lectures on clinical oncology research topics were the most valuable type of experience for all participants and were also the most common type of experience utilized. Working with a clinician to develop a clinical trial with correlative endpoints was also highly valued, but was only utilized by approximately 10% of programs. Faculty rated the value of nearly all types of clinical oncology exposure significantly lower than did students. Inclusion of the approaches identified in this study is likely to enhance PhD training in oncology-related disciplines.