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Fox Chase Cancer Center Welcomes Russian Students, First Group To Participate in New Research Program

PHILADELPHIA (February 25, 1999) -- Fox Chase Cancer Center has teamed up with the Russian State Medical University (RSMU) in Moscow to launch a collaborative research program that will benefit both organizations. The first group of students to participate in this East-meets-West effort has just arrived at Fox Chase for their first week of research.

The participants are top master's level students in their final year of study at RSMU. They will work in labs across Fox Chase's research divisions until May 2000. The students' participation in research at Fox Chase Cancer Center will constitute their first exposure to state-of-the-art laboratory work.

While RSMU is a top rank scientific institution in Russia, the economic situation of the country has directly threatened research programs by reducing available funding for equipment and supplies. It has become necessary for RSMU and other scientific organizations in Eastern European countries to engage in research initiatives with Western labs to help keep their scientific structure alive. At the same time, the university must work to avoid what is known as "brain drain", the permanent fleeing of talented scientists and students to other countries.

"The program has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Fox Chase faculty," said Erica Golemis, Ph.D., associate member in basic science. Dr. Golemis, who has played an instrumental role in developing this program, explained, "Fox Chase scientists are excited about the opportunity to welcome new talent to the Center's research community."

Concerns about postdoctoral applicants flooding the job market have influenced a trend in the United States toward capping the enrollment of graduate school programs in life sciences. In light of this trend, the development of new graduate schools is not a feasible option. Since Fox Chase does not have the advantage of its own graduate program from which to draw students, the Center's alliance with RSMU should prove fruitful.

"This is a win-win situation," said Anna Marie Skalka, Ph.D., senior vice president of Fox Chase's basic science division. "Fox Chase has a new way to attract high quality students and postdocs to our institution and RSMU is able to help build its research programs without risking the loss of future scientists."

The students have successfully completed the application process and are recommended by their faculty as excellent candidates for the program. Each student has received training in basic laboratory techniques and has demonstrated competency in English. They are also taking part in counterpart projects at home to insure a smooth transition both before and after their time in the United States.

A faculty committee has been formed at Fox Chase to help the students fulfill their academic requirements and to provide periodic performance reviews. The committee will also aid the students as they adjust socially and will help them establish ties with the Russian community in Philadelphia.

Fox Chase Cancer Center will assume the cost of bringing students to Fox Chase and the principal investigators will support their research during their stay. The Center will also provide subsidized housing for the students. Fox Chase scientists will seek grant money to help fund laboratories and research programs in Russia.

Upon completion of 18 months of research in the United States, the students will return to Russia where they will present their work to the State Attestation Committee and receive their degrees. Students who go on to enter doctoral programs may be eligible to return to Fox Chase laboratories to conduct additional research as they work towards earning their Ph.D.s.

Said Golemis, "We hope to eventually expand the program to offer research opportunities to senior postdocs and junior and mid-level faculty members who wish to do work in U.S. labs while their current positions are held at home. Fox Chase faculty will also have the chance to take sabbaticals to conduct research in Russia."

While Fox Chase has already established a formal joint scientific program with RSMU, the Center has also identified the Institute of Molecular Genetics (Prague, Czech Republic) as another top institution. Fox Chase scientists have met with representatives from the Institute and both organizations are pursuing future opportunities to work together.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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