In the circle of translational research—basic science, clinical research, and patient care—Trisha Wise-Draper, MD, PhD, is leading the charge on all three fronts. As a physician scientist specializing in head and neck cancers, Wise-Draper, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office, sees patients in her clinical practice and uses that information to inform her basic research and clinical trial efforts, and vice versa.
“I see patients with cancer, and I use my clinical practice treating patients to return to the bench in an attempt to understand why patients respond or do not respond to various treatments,” said Wise-Draper. “My research in the laboratory is focused on mechanisms, trying to take real patient tissue and blood samples and identifying activation or de-activation of different cancer pathways, as well as immune infiltration to understand why a patient's immune system may have helped fight the cancer versus not, and trying to manipulate those different processes to make better treatments.”
Wise-Draper is involved in multiple basic research initiatives to better understand specific cancers and how to treat them. According to Wise-Draper, the collaborative environment at the UC College of Medicine helps fuel innovative research like hers.
“Everyone is willing to share their data with the approach of ‘If we do this together, we'll get there faster,’” said Wise-Draper. “I have a lot of collaborators across the institution as well as at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and it makes it so much easier to be awarded grants and to perform valuable research. It's impossible to be an expert in everything and to learn all the necessary techniques.”
In addition to her lab research, Wise-Draper is the Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office.
“We're helping young investigators develop their own clinical trials, called investigator-initiated studies, which are really important because they bring unique science that is exclusively ours into clinical practice to potentially positively effect patient outcomes. We also help run national cooperative group studies as well as industry studies,” said Wise-Draper. “They're all important for different reasons, and it gives our patients different options beyond just standard-of-care treatment.”
Wise-Draper’s involvement in the Clinical Trials Office puts her front and center in the university’s efforts to become a National Cancer Institute-designated center. According to Wise-Draper, receiving NCI designation would help increase funding for cancer research, attract more talent to the university and provide new opportunities for cancer patients. In addition, NCI designated centers have been shown to benefit local economies, generating billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.