Clinical application of advanced cellular therapies is rapidly growing trend in modern medicine. Hospital staff physicians, medical technologists and pharmacists are trained very well for handling “conventional hematopoietic stem cell transplantation” or/ and drug treatments, because it is a standard of care. However, arrival of new advanced cellular therapies (manufactured as drugs by companies or produced in hospital-based GMP facilities) in medical practice will require additional unique training. As cell therapy clinical trials are progressing right now, demand for such training is forming. Many professionals think that there is a gap between increasing number of advanced cell therapies applications in clinic (demand) and availability of trained qualified personnel. So, it is a good time for discussion about cell therapy training for physicians and for implementation of proposals. Last year, stem cell scientists Paul Knoepfler wrote a proposal for fellowship programs development in stem cell-based regenerative medicine:
To address the education and training gaps in this new area of medicine, I propose the development of academic medical fellowship programs in stem cell-based regenerative and cellular medicine. The 1-year fellowship programs could, in terms of a training timeline for physicians, follow any number of residency training programs including surgery, internal medicine or hematology/oncology.
The first step, of course is defining necessity for physician training. If your institution is a big academic hospital, supporting cell therapy clinical trials or even having cell manufacturing facility, the demand for such training could be obvious. The next step is to establish a training program with curriculum. 1-2 years fellowship program for some physician specialties seem like a good option. Hematology, oncology, surgery, cardiology are the first specialties-candidates, where cell therapy fellowship programs could be establish and implemented. To me, one of the most attractive options is to have 1-year fellowship as extension of transfusion medicine program. I’m pretty sure, that leadership of some institutions are already thinking about cell therapy fellowship programs or even implementing it now. Recently, the first report about results of implementation cell therapy training program, was published in Regenerative Medicine journal.
The report overviews the mission, structure and first results of cardiovascular cell-based therapy training program. It is an initiative of CCTRN network (part of NIH) and the University of Florida. The program is currently fully supporting 2 scholars per year, but 2 additional part-time candidates could get in with other resources. The mission of the program:
…to empower young physician–scientists with the knowledge and skills necessary for conducting preclinical research and early-phase clinical trials in regenerative CV medicine through a structured training program.
Program has defined requirements for applicants, trainees and faculty members. Curriculum includes variety of basic stem cell biology courses, participation in relevant research and clinical trials, exposure to cell manufacturing facilities. As a result, since 2008, eight fellows have been recruited to the program. 5 fellows, which completed training, got academic appointments (as Assistant Professors) and continue cardiac cell therapy activities with CCTRN. About half of all graduated fellow are contributing to the field by designing cardiac cell therapy trials. Another measure of success – multiple presentations, publications, grant applications of cell therapy fellows.
This report sets an example of how cell therapy fellowship could be established and function in academic institution. If you are participating in cell therapy training/ fellowship program (as trainee or faculty), please share your experience! You can also recommend your program here to your peers.