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Cancer Biology

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


In addition to general GSBS course requirements, the CB Program requires the following courses.  Please see below for information on when these courses are offered.

ALL PhD Students 

Joining a track is optional.

Required for students who opt in for the Cancer Discovery Track 

  • GS04 1093 The Biology of Cancer Metastasis

Required for students who opt in for the Clinical Translational Oncology Track 

  • GS21 1232 Translational Sciences: From Bedside to Bench and Back
  • GS12 1164 Option 1: Human Pathobiology 
  • GS21 1613 Option 2: Translational Cancer Research 

Program course requirements for MS students: 

GS04 1235 Basic and Translational Cancer Biology

Students who declare a Secondary Area of Concentration in Cancer Biology are required to take:

GS04 1235 Basic and Translational Cancer Biology

Course Days/Times:

GS04 1235 Basic and Translational Cancer Biology; spring; Mondays 5:00 – 7:00 pm; Fridays 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
GS04 1093 The Biology of Cancer Metastasis; fall; Mondays & Wednesdays 3:30 – 5:00 pm
GS21 1232 Translational Sciences: From Bedside to Bench and Back; fall; Wednesdays 5:00 – 7:00 pm
GS12 1164 Option 1: Human Pathobiology; spring; Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00 – 3:00 pm
GS21 1613 Option 2: Translational Cancer Research; spring; Tuesdays 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Course Descriptions

  • Basic and Translational Cancer Biology
    Course Detail

    GS04 1235 (5 credits)

    The Cancer Biology Core course will synthesize knowledge of critical aspects in human cancer biology for understanding disease development, multidimensional molecular signatures, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Auditing this is permitted with Course Directors' approval.     

    >> Curriculum Committee commended course for Academic Year 2020-2021 <<

  • Human Pathobiology
    Course Detail

    GS12 1164 (4 credits)

    This is a one-semester course designed to provide an introduction to human health and disease at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and system levels for each human organ system. Lectures will highlight the key elements routinely covered in medical school: histology, anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology courses with an emphasis on the understanding of the mechanisms of cell injury and death, inflammation and repair, immunopathology, vascular disturbances and carcinogenesis. The course will include two two-hour lectures each week, review of slides will be included in each lecture. Students will have opportunities to examine histological and pathologic specimens (using scanned slides), be introduced to human anatomy and physiology and spend time integrating knowledge into clinical scenarios. This is a required course for all students in the Clinical and Translational Oncology Track of the Cancer Biology Program.

  • The Biology of Cancer Metastasis
    Course Detail

    GS04 1093 (3 credits)

    A didactic introductory level course entirely dedicated to the study of the cellular biological processes that underpin cancer metastasis. This course will cover basic, translational, and clinical knowledge, with specific emphases on the metastatic cascade: seed and soil hypothesis, organ-specific metastasis, cell cycle and metastasis, multiple therapies for various metastatic cancers, and will address the process of taking basic research to the clinic (‘bench-to-bedside') for major metastatic human cancers. 

    This is a prerequisite course for cancer biology students in the cancer discovery track.

  • Translational Cancer Research
    Course Detail

    GS21 1613 (3 credits)

    This course will provide a primer for translational cancer research and will review concisely the current understanding of human cancer biology that is driving interest in targeted therapy and personalized management for prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Techniques used to characterize human cancers at a cellular and molecular level will be described. Concepts, examples and alternative strategies to achieve individualized targeted therapy will be presented. Processes for developing drugs and biomarkers will be reviewed. Translation from bench to bedside and back will be outlined for surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology and cancer imaging. Challenges for translation in cancer prevention will be considered. Infrastructure required for translational research will be reviewed, including tissue banks, biopsies, interventional radiology, molecular pathology, molecular imaging, bioinformatics, biostatistics, novel trial design and interactive databases. Objectives and paths for training and career development will be outlined as well as the sociology of team science. Interactions between Academe, Pharma, the NCI, FDA and Foundations will be explored. Finally, the course will analyze barriers to more rapid translation of cancer research to the clinic and community. This course consists of a two hour lecture and one hour seminar, weekly.

  • Translational Sciences: From Bedside to Bench and Back
    Course Detail

    GS21 1232 (2 credits)

    This is an integrated, multidisciplinary course designed to provide students the necessary tools to devise, fund, implement, and publish exemplary research involving patients or materials obtained from a human source. Students participating in this course will gain an understanding of the depth, complexity, and limitations of integrating laboratory and clinical research into investigations of human disease. After completion of the course, students will understand the importance of translational research: using laboratory findings to benefit human patients (bench to bedside) and investigating clinical observations in the laboratory (bedside to bench). This course is distinct from Human Protocol Research (GS211132); this course focuses on the interrelationship between laboratory-based and clinical research. A culture that fosters translational research of the highest quality requires laboratory and clinical investigators appreciate the scientific complexity of patient-oriented translational research. 

Candidacy Exam

Cancer Biology (CB) Program students are required to take an on-topic candidacy exam in which the research proposal is based on the student's intended dissertation project. The CB on-topic format follows the GSBS on-topic format except for the following features:

  • Examining Committee composition:
    • Two members should be selected from the faculty who are part of the Cancer Biology Program

  • Breadth of knowledge:
    • At least 6 weeks prior to the exam, the student will contact the Exam Committee Chair to discuss and agree on 3 "areas of breadth" that are distinct from their dissertation research
    • At least 4 weeks before the exam, the committee will provide the student with a question on each of these 3 areas
    • The student will select 1 question and write a 3-page answer that is provided to the committee along with the on-topic proposal 2 weeks prior to the exam date
    • During the last third of the oral exam, the committee will query the student regarding his/her knowledge of the breadth areas