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Cancer Biology

The Cancer Biology Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) in Houston is dedicated to providing students with the highest quality of training in diverse areas of cancer biology research.

The Cancer Biology Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) in Houston is dedicated to providing students with the highest quality of training in diverse areas of cancer biology research.

Given the unique environment of the Texas Medical Center, the philosophy of the Cancer Biology Program is to supplement traditional graduate school training with both depth and breadth of knowledge in cancer biology. 

Students will follow the standard format of choosing a single mentor who will guide an independent research project. However, our students frequently use the resources and expertise of several laboratories in different departments during the development of their cancer-related dissertation projects. This training provides a rich experience that increases the expertise and competitiveness of our graduates. 

Currently, we have about 70 students and 120 faculty affiliated with the program. Our students have been among the most outstanding and productive of the GSBS. They also have been the recipients of many GSBS awards, as well as nationally competitive awards and fellowships. Like the faculty, the students bring wide-ranging perspectives and goals to their research. The program excels in accommodating these interests while fostering interactions among all of our students.

The program faculty are eager to train motivated students, and will gladly provide additional information with respect to their research programs and training opportunities in their laboratories.

This is an exciting new era in cancer research. A systematic training in cancer biology should allow our students to meet the challenge of Making Cancer History.

Cancer Biology Overview Photo

Program Activities & Opportunities

  • Activities

    Cancer Biology Program Invited Speaker Series
    Mauro Di Pilato, PhD - Dept. of Immunology - MD Anderson Cancer Center
    CXCR6 Positions Cytotoxic T Cells to Receive Critical Survival Signals in the Tumor Microenvironment
    Thursday, August 19, 2021; 12:00 - 1:00 pm
    Zoom

    Cancer Biology Program Invited Speaker Series
    Shabnam Shalapour, PhD - Dept. of Cancer Biology - MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Regulation of anti-tumor immunity by inflammation-induced systemic metabolic reprograming and epigenetic alterations
    Thursday, July 22, 2021; 12:00 - 1:00 pm
    Zoom

    Cancer Biology Student Club
    Maria Monberg 
    Leveraging single-cell technologies to understand PDAC heterogeneity
    Thursday, July 1, 2021; 12:00 - 1:00 pm
    Zoom

    Cancer Biology Spring Virtual Symposium
    Friday, March 26, 2021; 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
    Keynote Address: Dr. Drew Pardoll, MD, PhD, Director - Johns Hopkins - Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; 2:00 pm
    Dissecting immunotherapy resistance at the single cell level
    Zoom

    Cancer Biology Program Invited Speaker Series
    Philip Jones, PhD - Executive Director, Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) - MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Tuesday, March 3, 2020; 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
    South Campus Research Building 4 - 4SCR1.1110 - Auditorium

    2019 Cancer Biology Graduate Program Retreat
    October 11-12, 2019
    San Luis Resort & Spa, Galveston, Texas

    Cancer Biology Ice Cream Social
    August 7, 2019, 2:00 - 3:30 pm
    BSRB S3.8371 - GSBS Large Classroom

    2018 Cancer Biology Graduate Program Retreat
    October 5-6, 2018
    San Luis Resort & Spa, Galveston, Texas

  • Travel Awards

    Cancer Biology Program Travel Award Application

    PURPOSE
    The purpose of the Cancer Biology travel award is to help defray your expenses to attend a meeting or course. 

    GUIDELINES & ELEGIBILITY
    Cancer Biology Travel awards are $500.00 each. Each student can receive only one award per academic year. Cancer Biology students presenting results at a national or international meeting, or attending a course, are eligible to apply. All applications will be reviewed by the Cancer Biology Steering Committee and awarded based on merit. Please make sure to submit your application by the stated deadlines to allow review by the Steering Committee. Due dates will be: July 15, 2021, September 15, 2021, December 1, 2021, February 15, 2022 & May 1, 2022.  Students will be notified of their award status within two weeks after the due date. Students who attend 4 of the Student Speaker Series Sessions within the academic year are eligible for an additional $100.

    Travel Application Due Date:                               Travel Dates:

    7/15/21                                                                    9/1/21 - 11/14/21

    9/15/21                                                                    11/15/21 - 1/31/22

    12/1/21                                                                     2/1/22 - 4/14/22

    2/15/22                                                                     4/15/22 - 6/30/22

    5/1/22                                                                       7/1/22 - 8/31/22

    INSTRUCTIONS
    Please submit these items via email in a single PDF to Amy Carter: amy.e.carter@uth.tmc.edu

    • This completed form signed by you and your advisor
    • Copy of your meeting registration form or course registration form
    • Copy of your updated CV
    • Copy of your PI’s CV – including current lab funding information
    • Confirm if you have any fellowships that cover travel expenses
    • Copy of your abstract and abstract acceptance, if attending a meeting. If you have not received your abstract acceptance, or course acceptance, please list an approximate acceptance date below. The award will be contingent upon such acceptance.

    CB Travel Award Application FY22.pdf

  • CPRIT Grant

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

    CPRIT Training Grant

    The Future of Cancer Research: Training Program for Basic and Translational Scientists

    The CPRIT Training Grant at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a training program funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and provides a strong academic foundation to launch the careers of new cancer researchers by leveraging the outstanding faculty expertise and cancer research environment provided by MD Anderson and GSBS. The specific goals of the program for our predoctoral trainees are to: 

    1. Generate a strong basic science platform for studies in cancer-related disciplines. Each predoctoral trainee is expected to achieve a fundamental understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms or biophysical concepts related to cancer.
    2. Provide exposure to cancer research subspecialties, translational cancer research, cross-disciplinary training and stimulate critical thinking skills.
    3. Groom future leaders in cancer research through career development and ethical training.
    4. Provide high-quality mentoring by prominent cancer researchers.

    The CPRIT training grant has funding for nine predoctoral (7 supported by CPRIT and 2 supported by funds from MD Anderson) + five post-doctoral trainees + fifty undergraduate summer students (20 supported by CPRIT, 10 supported by GSBS, 10 supported by MD Anderson and 10 supported by the Cancer Center Core Grant).

    Eligibility for predoctoral trainees:

    • No citizenship requirement
    • Post-candidacy GSBS Ph.D. graduate program or M.D., Ph.D. program in good academic standing
    • GPA of 3.5 or better in all GSBS courses.
    • Completion of qualifying examination is required
    • Current thesis mentor is a faculty mentor of CPRIT grant

    Call for applications – Spring of 2018

    We expect to send out the next call for applications for predoctoral trainees with application guidelines in the Spring of 2018.

    For graduating students interested in a postdoctoral slot for the training program, or any other questions please contact the program director, Dr. Khandan Keyomarsi, or the program manager, Mr. Alex Gomez.

    Program Director

    Khandan Keyomarsi, PhD
    Hubert L. and Olive Stringer Professor in Medical Oncology
    Distinguished Teaching Professor
    Director, TRIUMPH post-doctoral program
    Director, Cancer Biology Graduate program
    Department of Experimental Oncology

    The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
    6565 MD Anderson Blvd. Unit 1052
    Houston, Texas 77030-4009

    kkeyomar@mdanderson.org

    Co-Director

    Stephanie Watowich, PhD
    Professor, Department of Immunology
    Co-Director, Center for Inflammation and Cancer

    UT MD Anderson Cancer Center
    P.O. Box 301402, Unit 902
    Houston, TX 77030-1904

    swatowic@mdanderson.org

  • T32 Grant

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
    T32 Training Grant in Cancer Biology

    The T32 Training Grant in Cancer Biology (TGCB) at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a training program funded by the National Cancer Institute that provides a two-year vigorous curriculum to cultivate next generation of cancer scientists. The program provides trainees with education and training opportunities that will allow them to assimilate multiple cutting-edge methodologies and technologies. The program has highly directed foci in signaling networks in cancers cells, tumor microenvironment, metastasis and interactions between cancer cells and how cells. . The breadth of diverse expertise of participating faculty represents a well-balanced training program to provide trainees of various interests in basic science, translational and clinical research and our program mentors have outstanding track records in both funding and publication in high-impact journals.

    The program has funding for three predoctoral (1 supported by the NIH and 2 supported by funds from MD Anderson) and three postdoctoral trainees. 

    Eligibility for predoctoral trainees:

    • US Citizen or Permanent Resident for NIH funded slot; Non US citizen candidates are allowed to compete for the two slots funded by MD Anderson
    • GSBS Ph.D. graduate program or M.D., Ph.D. program in good academic standing
    • GPA of 3.0 or better in all GSBS courses & Completion of GS04 1063 Cancer Biology is a prerequisite.
    • Completion of qualifying examination is required
    • Current thesis mentor is a faculty mentor of the T32 Training Program in Cancer Biology

    Call for applications – Fall 2018

    We expect to send out the next call for applications for predoctoral trainees with application guidelines in the fall of 2018.

    For graduating students interested in a postdoctoral slot for the training program, or any other questions please contact the program director, Dr. Mien-Chie Hung, or the program administrator, Dr. Stephanie Sellers.

    Program Director

    Mien-Chie Hung, PhD
    Vice President for Basic Research,
    Professor and Chair
    Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology
    Email:mhung@mdanderson.org

    Co-Director

    Raghu Kalluri, PhD
    Professor and Chair,
    Department of Cancer Biology
    Email: rkalluri@mdanderson.org

    Program Administrator

    Stephanie Sellers, PhD
    Project Director
    Molecular and Cellular Oncology
    Email: samiller@mdanderson.org

    Current T32 Training Grant in Cancer Biology Mentor List

    Menashe Bar Eli, PhD
    Professor, Cancer Biology

    Junjie Chen, PhD
    Professor and Chair, Experimental Radiation Oncology

    Paul Chiao, PhD
    Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncology

    Ronald DePinho, MD
    President

    Lee Ellis, MD
    Surgical Oncology

    Gary Gallick, PhD
    Genitourinary Med Oncology

    Peng Huang MD, PhD
    Translational Molecular Pathology

    Mien-Chie Hung, PhD
    Professor and Chair, Molecular and Cellular Oncology

    Raghu Kalluri, MD, PhD
    Professor and Chair, Cancer Biology

    Min Gyu Lee, PhD
    Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncology

    Shiaw-Yih Lin, PhD
    Professor Systems Biology

    Gabriel Berestein Lopez, MD
    Professor, Experimental Therapeutics

    Zhimin Lu, MD, PhD
    Professor, Neuro-Oncology

    Li Ma, PhD
    Associate Professor, Experimental Radiation Oncology

    Sendurai Mani, PhD
    Associate Professor, Translational Molecular Pathology

    Florencia McAllister, MD
    Assistant Professor, Clinical Cancer Prevention

    Gordon Mills, MD, PhD
    Professor and Chair, Systems Biology

    Jeffrey Myers, MD, PhD
    Professor, Head & Neck Surgery

    Honami Naora, PhD
    Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncology

    Helen Piwnica-Worms, PhD
    Vice Provost Science

    Anil Sood, MD
    Professor, Gyn Onc & Reproductive Medicine

    Shao-Cong Sun, PhD
    Professor, Immunology

    John Weinstein, MD, PhD
    Professor and Chair, Bioinformatics & Comp Biology

    Dihua Yu, MD, PhD
    Professor and Deputy Chair, Molecular and Cellular Oncology

  • Susan G. Komen Training Grant in Health Disparities

    MD Anderson Training Program to Reduce Breast Cancer Disparities
    in Black and Hispanic Women

    Through generous funding from a Susan G. Komen Graduate Training in Disparities Research Grant, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Training Program to Reduce Breast Cancer Disparities in Black and Hispanic Women seeks to develop the next cadre of leaders in breast cancer disparities research, who will be equipped to develop novel strategies to improve the lives of black and Hispanic women with and at risk for breast cancer.

    The overall goal of our training program is to recruit highly-qualified graduate students (masters and doctoral) and launch them into research careers focused on reducing breast cancer disparities. Trainees will achieve this goal through the following program activities:

    1) Individually-tailored, mentored research projects in breast cancer disparities;

    2) Interactive, community-based and clinical breast cancer experiences;

    3) Didactic coursework and seminars in breast cancer disparities; and

    4) Breast cancer disparities symposium

    Our program will support three graduate students each year for one-year appointments, and will provide full support to trainees including a mentoring team consisting of a faculty and community mentor, tuition, stipend, and supplies.

    Application Materials:

    1. Discover Application Form
    2. Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume
    3. Three (3) letters of recommendation
    4. Personal statement describing your professional goals, research interests, and commitment to breast cancer disparities research
    5. Mentor letter of support (if already identified)
    6. Academic Transcripts

    Application Deadline: Spring, 2018 (date to be announced)

    Program Leaders:

    Lorna McNeill, PhD, MPH
    Associate Professor and Chair
    Department of Health Disparities Research
    Email: lmcneill@mdanderson.org
    Phone: 713-563-1103

    Kelly Hunt, MD
    Professor and Chair
    Department of Breast Surgical Oncology
    Email: khunt@mdanderson.org
    Phone: 713-792-7216

    For more information, please contact Crystal Roberson at clroberson@mdanderson.org or 713-794-1074.

Cancer Biology Awards & Publications

Cancer Biology Resources

  • Cancer Biology Bylaws

    Introduction and Mission

    The goal of the Cancer Biology Program is for our basic and clinical faculty to teach graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows concepts of cancer biology and its translation, enabling our trainees to become cancer biology scientists, who can conduct significant, cutting-edge, and hypothesis-driven basic, translational, and clinical research.

    Program Organization

    The administrative organization of the Cancer Biology Program is as follows:

    • The Cancer Biology Program is under the aegis of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, a shared graduate program of the UT Health Science Center in Houston and the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.
    • The Cancer Biology Program will be conducted by all members of the Program Faculty. It will elect a Program Director, through whom the Program will be administered in collaboration with the Steering Committee.
    • The Cancer Biology Program is comprised of two separate tracks:
      • Cancer Discovery Track
      • Clinical Translational Oncology Track

    Cancer Biology Program Director

    • The Director of the Program will be appointed to a two-year term by the Dean of the GSBS upon election by the Program Faculty. The Director will be allowed to be elected to serve a second, consecutive term.  The Director will be responsible to the Cancer Biology Graduate Program faculty and the Dean of the GSBS.  The Director will serve on the Program Directors Committee (PDC) of the GSBS.
    • The Director will oversee all administrative activities of the Program. These activities include:
      • Coordinate Activities of the Program Steering, and any other ad hoc Committees as needed.
      • Counsel students.
      • Assist in the coordination of laboratory rotations.
      • Grant an exception to Program course requirements for an individual student in response to a written request from the student.
      • Organize Program faculty meetings.
      • Present applications for membership in the Program.
      • Review Program faculty.

    Cancer Biology Program Co-Directors

    • The Program Co-Directors are appointed to a two-year term by the Dean of the GSBS upon election by the Program faculty.  Consecutive terms for Co-Directors will be allowed.  The Co-Directors must be members of the Cancer Biology Program faculty and are responsible to the Program faculty and the Dean of the GSBS. One Co-Director will be from the Cancer Discovery track, and one Co-Director will be from the Clinical Translational Oncology track.
    • The Co-Director(s) assists with the administrative activities of the Director and conducts business (e.g., approving student forms) in the Director’s absence.  The Co-Director also oversees the administrative activities related to the track that the Co-Director represents.

    Program Steering Committee

    The Director and Co-Director(s) will be advised by a Steering Committee comprised of the Director, Co-Director(s), and a minimum of five other elected faculty members and students.  The faculty members of the Steering Committee will be elected by Program Faculty and serve staggered terms.  Steering committee membership will be for two-year terms.  There is no limit to the number of terms a member may serve.

    The Steering Committee will meet at least semi-annually and there will be a Program-wide faculty meeting semi-annually at which the Steering Committee will present their report and Program business will be conducted with minutes recorded for public dissemination.  The Steering Committee will formulate policies related to the academic and administrative aspects of the Program and present them to the Program faculty for approval or modification.  The Steering Committee will empanel subcommittees to advise on Program matters.

    The Steering Committee is responsible for the following, with input from the Program faculty:

    • Appointing and reviewing Program faculty.
    • Approving changes to the Program curriculum.
    • Approving academic requirements.
    • Overseeing the recruitment, admissions, and academic progress of Cancer Biology Program students.
    • Appointing a Chair each year to coordinate the Annual Program Retreat.
    • Determining the allocation of Program funds.
    • Approving appointments to Program Committees.
    • Organizing ad hoc committees as needed,
    • Distributing a summary of meeting activities in a timely manner.

    Election Process of Program Leaders

    To preserve the integrity and anonymity of the election process, the Graduate School will conduct the elections for Program Director, Co-Directors and Steering Committee Members. GSBS will solicit nominations, including self-nominations, from the Program faculty at-large.  Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results of the election to the Program community.

    GSBS will also conduct the election of the two student members of the Steering Committee. GSBS will solicit volunteers from Program students.  To be eligible to serve, students must be in good academic standing, and it is recommended but not required that candidates have completed the candidacy exam.  Once the slate of volunteers has been approved by the Program Director and the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the Program community.

    Faculty Program Membership

    The Cancer Biology Program welcomes enthusiastic faculty who are dedicated to student education and have vigorous and well-funded research programs.  Program faculty must be members of the GSBS. Program faculty will include Regular Members, Associate Members and Distinguished Senior Lecturers as determined by the GSBS Membership Committee.

    Cancer Biology Program faculty will: 

    • Participate in the formulation of Program policies
    • Train and mentor students
    • Serve on student committees
    • Organize and lecture in Program courses
    • Make changes to these bylaws by majority vote. The faculty must receive notice of the proposed changes at least ten business days prior to the vote. The method of voting will follow GSBS guidelines
    • Participate in Program Retreats
    • Attend Program Faculty meetings to discuss issues relevant to the Cancer Biology Program

    Applications for membership in the Cancer Biology Program are submitted to the Program Coordinator and are reviewed by the Cancer Biology Program Steering Committee.  In addition to the applicant’s CV and NIH biosketch, applications should include a letter stating the applicant’s reasons for requesting to join the Program. This letter should identify what the applicant expects to gain from being a Program faculty and what the applicant can contribute to the Program.  This letter should clearly outline 1) current projects of interest in lab as they pertain to cancer biology; 2) teaching experience; 3) mentoring experience.

    Criteria for membership include, but are not limited to: 

    • Scientific independence
    • Active and funded research projects in an area relevant to the Cancer Biology Program mission
    • A willingness to participate in Program activities and assume the responsibilities of Program faculty as outlined above
    • Prefer tenure-track
    • Prefer at least one independent external course of peer-reviewed funding
    • Strong interest in cancer biology research, teaching and mentoring

    Faculty who apply for Program membership but are denied may appeal the decision to the GSBS Membership Committee, who will make a recommendation to the Deans.

    The Cancer Biology Program will notify GSBS Faculty Affairs of all new Program faculty members.

    Review of Current Faculty Members

    The Cancer Biology Program will review participation by individual faculty members once every five years in conjunction with the faculty member’s five-year review by the GSBS Membership Committee. 

    The five-year review by the Program will be done on a schedule determined by the Program. Scoring metrics shall be used to determine membership.  The criteria will be based on a faculty member’s evidence of engagement in graduate education using the GSBS Membership Committee criteria as a guideline.  Faculty participation reports will be provided by GSBS but should be augmented by reports/statements of the Program-specific activities.

    The Co-Directors may discuss ways to improve participation with any faculty members who are marginally involved with the Program’s activities.  The Program will send GSBS a list of faculty they suggest are inactive.  Inactive faculty will be notified that they are on probation for an additional year.  At the end of this time, if there is no increase in activity, the Program may terminate membership.  Faculty who are asked to leave the Program or who apply for Program membership in later years but are denied may appeal the decision to the GSBS Membership Committee, who will make a recommendation to the Deans.  Faculty determined to be disengaged are subject to not being reappointed to GSBS.  Being a Program faculty member should involve a significant investment of time and energy.  To avoid dilution of this effort, faculty members may affiliate with a maximum of two Programs.

    The Program will notify GSBS Faculty Affairs of any terminated faculty members.

  • Program Leadership

    Cancer Biology Program Leadership

    Program Director

    Dr. Menashe Bar-Eli

    Program Co-Directors

    Dr. Scott Kopetz
    Dr. Paul Chiao

    Steering Committee

    Dr. Menashe Bar-Eli
    Dr. Scott Kopetz
    Dr. Paul Chiao
    Dr. Robert Bast
    Dr. Dihua Yu
    Dr. Anil Sood
    Dr. Stephanie Watowich
    Dr. Cassian Yee
    Walaa Kattan (student member)
    Kyle LaBella (student member)

    Student Council (2021-2022)

    Kyle LaBella (student member of CB Program Steering Committee)
    Walaa Kattan (student member of CB Program Steering Committee)
    Emily Caggiano
    Susana Castro
    Jeson Li
    Swati Mohapatra
    Rutvi Shah
    Oscar Villarreal

Cancer Biology Spotlight

Students from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences selected Jian Hu, PhD, as the recipient of the 2019 John P. McGovern Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Hu is an assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. He has been a faculty member at the Graduate School since 2014 and he is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology and Neuroscience.

His current research focuses on glioblastoma, the most common type of brain tumor, and a regulatory protein called Quaking (QKI) as a glioma suppressor. Hu’s lab has been interested in a special type of glioblastoma cells called glioma stem cells, which possess an inexhaustible ability to self-renew and produce tumors that resemble the features of original tumors. His lab has recently discovered a new mechanism through which glioma stem cells maintain their stem cell features during invasion and migration. Targeting the genes involved in this mechanism may lead to novel therapeutic opportunities for this deadly disease.

"I am honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award recognized by our students,” said Hu. “Teaching and mentoring have always been my passion. To me, teaching is never about telling students facts; instead, it is about inspiring students to think independently, critically, and deeply. I always urge the students in my class and my lab to challenge and question what they have been told as dogmas. It is really encouraging to me that our students like my style of teaching."

He received this award at the GSBS Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 18.

cancer-biology-spotlight-photo

Cancer Biology Social Media

Cancer Biology Contact Us Photo

Contact Us

Bar-Eli_2019

Menashe Bar-Eli,PhD

Director, Graduate Program in Cancer Biology
Telephone: 713.794.4004
email: mbareli@mdanderson.org

chiao_paul

Paul J. Chiao, PhD

Co-Director, Graduate Program in Cancer Biology - Cancer Discovery Track
Telephone: 713.794.1030
email: pjchiao@mdanderson.org

Kopetz, Scott_2019

E. Scott Kopetz, MD, PhD

Co-Director, Graduate Program in Cancer Biology - Clinical Translational Oncology Track
Telephone: 713.792.2828
email: skopetz@mdanderson.org

Carter_Amy Amy Carter

Cancer Biology Program Coordinator
GSBS Office - BSRB S3.8328
Telephone: 713.745.0659
email: amy.e.carter@uth.tmc.edu