Translational Oncology Program

Translational Oncology Program

The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Translational Oncology Program (TOP) uses paradigm-shifting ‘team science’ to bring together world-class scientists and physicians with diverse interests across the spectrum of cancer research. TOP’s collaborative model expedites the process of transforming lab concepts into novel products, procedures and treatments that benefit cancer patients.
“The focus of the Translational Oncology Program at NCRC is singular: how to treat cancer better,” says TOP Director Diane Simeone, M.D. “To make this happen we adopt a comprehensive approach–on one hand researching the disease from different angles by drawing on the vast and world-class expertise of our basic scientists, clinicians and experimental therapeutics researchers, and on the other, focusing on drug development and commercialization processes in order to reach patients faster. I am tremendously excited to develop this vision at NCRC.”I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

  • “I am tremendously excited to develop this vision at NCRC.”
    Dr. Diane Simeone, TOP Director

Under Dr. Simeone’s leadership, TOP’s innovative research approach has attracted generous philanthropic support.  That seed money has, in turn, resulted in TOP members securing a significantly higher level of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Currently, TOP’s areas of study include cancers of the breast, bladder, ovaries, and prostate gland, along with lymphomas, neuroblastomas, and sarcomas. Their discoveries are also applied to other cancers every day–TOP epitomizes the breadth and depth of expertise across the university, consisting of 30 highly accomplished investigators who represent 10 U-M schools and institutes, most of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally (including the Medical School, the College of Engineering, the School of Dentistry, and the College of Pharmacy).


TOP’s location at NCRC means immediate access to core facilities that help facilitate the biomedical research process, including robust pre-clinical model systems that mimic the patient environment. TOP also leverages its close association with industry partners to facilitate drug development, and expand innovative clinical trials which allow investigators to align patients to specific therapies and monitor their responses in real time. TOP-affiliated scientists and engineers also work with the Ross School of Business to patent new technologies and establish biomedical companies, invigorating the economy and, more importantly, ensuring that patients gain access to the treatments that will help them overcome their disease.


The opportunity that NCRC provides interdisciplinary innovators to collaborate and tackle the complex problem of cancer–with a laser-sharp focus on saving lives–is unparalleled. By pooling ideas and knowledge, and looking at cancer from different angles, TOP will substantially accelerate discovery, and impact the way many types of cancer are treated within our lifetime.

Diane Simeone, M.D.

Diane Simeone, M.D, Director Translational Oncology Program

The future of translational research

The following initiatives exemplify TOP’s collaborative, results-driven approach:

  • Portfolio of cancer drugs: develop 5-10 new drugs within 5 years at U-M to treat  various cancers.
  • Conquer metastatic disease: support efforts of a dedicated team focused on developing new treatments to prevent and cure metastatic disease — the number one killer of patients with cancer.
  • Single-cell analysis core: purchase the latest single-cell genomic analysis system, for use across the Cancer Center. This will enable researchers to develop blueprints of the complex genomic mutations that occur within a single cell, helping us develop highly personalized treatments that halt cancer at its roots.
  • Early detection blood test: accelerate the use of state-of-the-art technology to develop a simple, non-invasive blood test to detect all cancers at their earliest stages.
  • Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC) detection core: purchase equipment for use across the Cancer Center to automate the process of capturing and culturing CTCs for the early detection of cancer.
  • Personalized CTC therapeutics: take samples of cancer patients’ blood through an algorithm to test precision medicine — recommend the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.
  • Cancer research education: conduct community outreach to bring awareness to TOP’s efforts, ultimately generating additional funding for paradigm-shifting research.
  • TOP scholars program: establish a program to cultivate future leaders in clinical research trained in research methodology and able to work collaboratively and creatively with their interdisciplinary colleagues to translate knowledge into real-world solutions.
  • Venture accelerator fund: establish a mechanism to regularly churn out bold, innovative ideas that would not be supported by traditional means.

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