Extended family

Forty years ago, G. Timothy Bowden, PhD, was an idealistic biology researcher looking to make his mark on the world. Today, his impact reaches farther than he ever could have imagined.

This year, Tim and Diane Bowden announced that they will be making a planned multi-million dollar estate gift to the University of Arizona for the Tim and Diane Bowden Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program at the UA Cancer Center. Their gift will also support Parkinson’s disease research being conducted by Associate Professor Scott Sherman, MD, PhD, of the Neurology Department in the UA College of Medicine.

“We want to see the Cancer Biology program flourish. This gift will have a tremendous impact on the prevention of cancer and  the diagnosis and treatment for people with cancer,” Dr. Bowden said. “Our belief is that a graduate education in cancer biology will prepare future cancer researchers to take on the challenges of preventing and curing cancer.”

Dr. Bowden is a professor emeritus of cellular and molecular medicine and cellular biology, pharmacology and toxicology and radiation oncology at the University of Arizona. He has been a member of the UA Cancer Center since 1978. In 1988, Dr. Bowden and two other faculty members established the program.

Dr. Bowden served as the program’s director from 1992 to 2010.

“Dr. Bowden is one of the most influential and nationally renowned cancer biology researchers, and he will be involved in the process of selecting the most meritorious students for our program,” said Jesse D. Martinez, PhD, UACC Chief Scientific Officer and chair of the CBIO Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. “He started this program, along with Dr. (Eugene) Gerner, and continued to find funding for it because he believes deeply in its importance. We can’t thank him enough for this generous contribution.”

During his tenure at the UA Cancer Center, Dr. Bowden also served as Director of Education, Director of Basic Sciences, Chief Scientific Officer and the UA Cancer Center’s Deputy Director. He has mentored more than 25 postdoctoral students, 20 PhD students, including 12 from the CBIO program, five master’s degree students and several dozen undergraduate students. He served on PhD supervisory/dissertation committees for 87 students, including one current student.

“Diane and I do not have children, so we see these students and mentees as our extended family,” Dr. Bowden said.

Cancer has deeply affected the Bowdens personally, as many of their family members have suffered through the disease. This isn’t simply a field of study for Dr. Bowden. It is a lifelong mission to prevent and cure cancer.

“As with many people, cancer is a very personal issue for us. Having a program like this where you have the brightest minds studying cancer biology brings great hope for cancer research,” said Diane Bowden.

Dr. Bowden is a big believer in the power of mentorship. Roswell Boutwell, PhD, mentored Dr. Bowden when he was a young researcher studying for his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s.

Through the last four decades, they have been there for each other, both during times of great professional success and personal struggle. Dr. Bowden stays in contact with Dr. Boutwell, who, at 97 years old, is as eager as ever to chat.

When Dr. Bowden retired in 2010, Dr. Boutwell flew to Tucson to attend the ceremony. These are the kinds of relationships that form in these types of graduate programs — unwavering support, both in and out of the lab.

During his speech at Dr. Bowden’s retirement ceremony, Dr. Boutwell read a piece from his friend’s application letter. This line, in particular, explains the importance of the CBIO Graduate Interdisciplinary Program and why the Bowdens want to see it continue training the next generation of cancer researchers.

“I don’t know if I can make a difference in cancer research,” Dr. Bowden wrote, “but I want to try.”

Training ground: CBIO

The Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Arizona Cancer Center is one of the nation’s top training grounds for the next generation of cancer researchers.

The foundation for this program was built in 1978, when principal investigator Eugene Gerner, PhD, secured federal funding for the Cancer Biology Training Grant.

In 1985, Dr. Gerner teamed up with Dr. Bowden and Jeffrey Trent, PhD, FACMG, to organize the proposal for a new graduate program. They obtained a planning grant from the University of Arizona in 1988. Graduate Interdisciplinary Program Coordinator Anne Cione was also vital in administering the key features that went on to become the foundation for this program.

From this grant, the Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program was established in 1988. Dr. Gerner served as program chair from 1988-92. Dr. Bowden led the program for nearly two decades (1992-2011), and was instrumental in shaping the CBIO program into what it is today.

To date, the Cancer Biology Program has graduated 75 doctoral students, each of whom possesses a comprehensive awareness for the biological triggers and treatments for cancer.

Dr. Bowden’s impact on the UACC’s ability to train and educate the next generation of cancer researchers will be felt for generations to come.

-Nick Prevenas, June 2, 2014