The cancer biology area of research emphasis is oriented towards modern molecular and cellular biology, molecular genetics, cellular biochemistry, and immunology especially in those areas dealing with mechanisms controlling neoplastic transformation, cellular division, differentiation, apoptosis, invasion, and metastasis. Current research of more than fifty participating faculty members in cancer biology is very diverse and includes investigations in the fields of cancer immunology, DNA replication, transcription, chromatin remodeling, molecular genetics, signal transduction, chemical carcinogenesis and the regulation of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes.

The abilities of cancer biologists to elucidate basic mechanisms of cellular transformation and molecular events in tumor progression are being applied toward improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In addition, cancer biologists in our program are contributing toward the understanding of basic mechanisms of growth control and cellular differentiation that can be universally applied to other disciplines, such as developmental biology, virology, immunology, and genetics. Our graduate faculty members come from diverse disciplines and conduct basic, translational and clinical research.


Anne Strohecker, PhD and Deepa Sampath, PhD
Faculty Liaisons

Program Curriculum


Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the course requirement of the cancer biology area of research emphasis is diverse and flexible. Students select from the following list of recommended courses related to cancer biology. Students also attend appropriate seminars to meet the seminar requirement.  In addition to the core curriculum, to receive the transcript designation of cancer biology, a student must complete six credit hours from the following courses:

  • CBG 7010 - 100 Cellular and Molecular Immunology (3 units): Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immune response, cell recognition and communication, molecular biology of cell recognition structures, cytokines and effector mechanisms.
  • CBG 8270 - 10 Biochemical Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis (2 units): Provide students with an overview of fundamental mechanisms leading to cancer.  This will be done through review of current and classic literature.
  • MOLBIOC 5733 (2 units): The principles of human genetics covering mapping of disease genes, defects causing human disease, the cloning of disease genes, gene therapy, transgenes, and specific pathological disorders.
  • MOLBIOC 7823 - 10 Control of Cell Growth and Proliferation (2 units): Role of cell stress response, cytoplasmic signaling molecules, transcription factors and chromatin remodeling complexes in the regulation of cell growth, cell death, and in mechanisms causing cancer.
  • MOLBIOC 7807 - 10 Gene Expression: Post-Transcriptional Control (3 units): Intensive study of problems in the general area of post-transcriptional control of gene expression. The course consists of student presentations and class evaluations of recently published results in these fields.
  • MOLGEN 5300 Cancer Genetics: Students will learn about the genetic evolution of human cancer. Specifically, the hallmarks of cellular transformation and tumor progression will be discussed. Students will be introduced to modern approaches aimed at targeting genetic aberrations in cancer cells. Includes hands-on training in the use of online databases of cancer genetics.
  • MOLGEN 7741 - 0010 Molecular Biology and Pathogenesis of Viruses (5 units): An integrated study of the molecular mechanisms of virus replication and host-virus relationships that control virus pathogenesis or use as a therapeutic agent.
  • NGSY 8250 Biology of the tumor microenvironment (2 units): Cellular and molecular biology of the microenvironment in solid cancers. Signals and mechanisms that promote tumor initiation and progression.
  • PATHOL 6640 - 1100 Fundamentals of Oncology (4 units): Oriented towards graduate students in cancer-related programs and consists of a series of lectures covering a variety of aspects of experimental oncology.
  • PATHOL 6670 - 0010 Medical Cytogenetics (3 units): Overview of cytogenetics in medical diagnosis and evaluation, including laboratory techniques, nomenclature, structural and numerical chromosome abnormalities; prenatal, constitutional, molecular, and cancer cytogenetics. Recommended coursework in genetics and molecular cell biology.


Due to the interdisciplinary nature of cancer biology, students can meet their seminar requirement by taking the following courses. To receive this special graduate designation, students will be required to register for a total of four credit hours of seminars in molecular biology, genetics, immunology, or cancer related topics.