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PhD Graduate Program Curriculum: Cancer Biology

The curriculum of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program is designed to provide maximum exposure to the cancer problem, while providing necessary biological and biochemical fundamentals.

Students need to register for courses with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester/summer.

 Learn More About the PhD Curriculum 

Course Requirements

Students enter the Cancer Biology training program through the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) track. During the first year, in addition to the MCB common curriculum, students considering the Cancer Biology training program should consider taking one or more of the following electives: MCB721 Carcinogenesis, DNA Damage and Repair, MCB722 Molecular Pathogenesis of Cancer, and MCB723 Topics in Cancer Biology. If not taken as electives in Year 1, students matriculating in the Cancer Biology training program will be required to complete these courses in subsequent years. Additional course work in subsequent years will include Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyStatistical Experimental DesignCancer Cell BiologyTutorials in Cancer Biology, and an elective course of the students' choice. Students also participate in the Cancer Biology seminar series.


First Year – MCB curriculum  
MCB core courseMCB 700, 701, 702
Elective Cancer Biology-specific block coursesMCB 721, 722, 723
Dissertation advisor and laboratory selectionMCB 703, 704, 705
Introduction to Professional DevelopmentGRAD 701
Scientific Professionalism: Scientific IntegrityGRAD 713, 714
Summer Session, First Year
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 723
Fall Semester, Second Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 701
Cancer Cell Biology (core course)CABI 705
Topics in Cancer Lecture SeriesCABI 707
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 711
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 723
Quantitative Methods in Behavioral SciencesIPP 741
Dissertations committee selection 
Spring Semester, Second Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 702
Topics in Cancer Lecture SeriesCABI 708
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 712
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 724
Optional Elective* 
Submit dissertation proposal outline-June 
Submit formal thesis proposal Mid-July 
Defend dissertation proposal to committee- August 
Admission to PhD degree candidacy 

Summer Session, Second Year


CABI 723

Fall Semester, Third Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 701
Topics in Cancer Lecture SeriesCABI 707
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 711
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 723
Optional Elective 
Spring Semester, Third Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 702
Topics in Cancer Lecture SeriesCABI 708
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 712
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 724
Optional Elective 
Summer Session, Third Year
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 723
Fall Semester, Fourth Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 701
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 711
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 723
Spring Semester, Fourth Year
Cancer Biology Seminar Series (RPR)CABI 702
Advanced Topics in Cancer BiologyCABI 712
Research in Cancer BiologyCABI 724  




MCB Track Electives

MCB721. Carcinogenesis, DNA Damage and Repair. (2) This course will cover the identification and reaction mechanisms of environmental carcinogens, DNA damage and mutagenesis by endogenous and exogenous agents, and the mechanisms of DNA repair. Offered fall.

MCB722. Molecular Pathogenesis of Cancer. (2) Fundamental molecular changes in cells and tissues that contribute to the malignant phenotype are discussed. Topics include alterations in genes and chromatin, signaling pathways, tumor cell metabolism, and the tumor microenvironment. Offered spring.

MCB723. Topics in Cancer Biology. (2) Teaches students how to evaluate and communicate scientifically in the area of cell biology and cancer. Examples are taken from all areas of cancer in this advanced course. Uses current peer-reviewed journal articles to teach fundamental concepts and act as a medium for allowing the students to communicate ideas with an emphasis on presentation skills. Offered spring.

MCB 703, 704, 705. Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research. (1) Molecular and Cellular Bioscience students will gain experience with the planning and execution of research, and the interpretation and presentation of experimental results. To put these principles into practice, they will carry out mentored research projects in the laboratories of three different Molecular and Cellular Biosciences faculty members.  

CABI Advanced Courses

701, 702. Cancer Biology Seminar Series (1)  The course will consist of weekly student and postdoctoral presentations to the Cancer Biology faculty and their peers based on their ongoing research projects. Required of all students who matriculate in Cancer Biology starting in their second years and continuing throughout their training period. Students and postdoctoral fellows will be expected to present at least once per year. Emphasis will be based on developing presentation skills and learning to critique colleagues in a professional manner.

705. Cancer Cell Biology. (3) This is an intensive treatment to learn how to critically review the literature and requires the writing of a proposal that is critically reviewed. The course covers apoptosis, cell-cycle, angiogenesis, cancer genomics, metastasis, cancer immunology, and tumor suppressor genes.  The translational aspects of research are emphasized.

707, 708. Topics in Cancer Lecture Series. (1) A weekly lecture series taken during the second year. Each week throughout the fall and spring semesters, a different topic in the clinical presentation, course, and treatment of human malignancies is presented. Designed to be a comprehensive overview of clinical oncology for clinical medical and radiation oncology fellows and cancer biology graduate students.

711, 712. Advanced Topics in Cancer Biology. (1) Focuses on new and important aspects of research in cancer biology with an emphasis on the current literature. Themes are chosen by the course director and the students. A topic is selected for presentation by each student; with the help of the course director, the student prepares a short lecture to introduce the topic, assigns two key papers for participants to read, and provides a supplemental reading list. The following week, the student leads a discussion of key experimental findings. Broad participation from faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students is encouraged. Pass/fail only.

713, 714. Cancer Biology Tutorials. (2) Focuses on specific topics related to cancer predisposition, development, progression, and treatment. Topics include, but are not limited to, DNA damage and repair, damage signaling, cell death response, cell cycle checkpoint control, animal models and cancer treatment. The purpose of the tutorial is to provide an opportunity to discuss one of the above-mentioned topics in more detail than is possible in an overview-based lecture. The topic for upcoming semesters will be determined by the faculty. The class is a combination of lectures providing background information and student presentations introducing specific topics and related research articles in the field, followed by group discussions. Attendance and at least one full length presentation are mandatory to obtain credit.

716. Special Topics: Teaching in the Small Group Setting. (2) Teaches students how to use a
problem-based interactive approach to facilitate student self-learning. Introduces students to general methods of teaching with a focus on teaching in the small group setting of a literature-based course. Topics covered include teaching skills for reading scientific papers, oral presentation techniques, and scientific writing. Each student facilitates two weeks (4 class sessions) of the course including in-class participation as well as assisting with the written evaluation portion of the class.

718. Introduction to Radiation Biology. (3) Focuses on the biological changes which follow the interaction of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation with living matter. Emphasis is on the role of ionizing radiation in the treatment of cancer, mechanisms of radiation-induced carcinogenesis, and changes in normal and tumor cells at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels.

723, 724. Research in Cancer Biology. Opportunities for investigation in a variety of the facets of cancer biology under the guidance of staff members. 


   Three Laboratory Rotations  

Each student works in at least 3 different laboratories during the first year; these rotations are mandatory. Working in at least 3 different laboratories provides students with opportunities to learn research techniques that are used in each lab and program.

A major goal of the laboratory rotations is for the students to obtain in-depth views of the laboratories in which they may wish to pursue their research. It is an opportunity for the student and faculty to evaluate whether they have mutual interests that would aid in the student's career development. Each laboratory rotation lasts for 12 weeks.

After orientation and with the beginning of classes, each student chooses potential laboratories in which to work during the first semester rotation and afterwards for the second and third rotation after consultation with the MCB Program Director and individual program. At the end of each lab rotation, the faculty member heading the laboratory will prepare an evaluation of the student’s overall performance, discuss it with the student, and send the evaluation to the Graduate and MCB Program Directors. Each laboratory rotation has to be finished with a satisfactory performance. Unsatisfactory behavior may factor into the recommendation for dismissal from the program.

After the rotations have been completed, students choose a laboratory in which to do their dissertation research, with the consent of the faculty member that heads the laboratory in consultation with the Graduate Program Director.

Seminars and Symposia     

Attendance at seminars is strongly encouraged to broaden the educational experience of graduate students. Beginning with their second year, students are expected to attend seminars sponsored, in whole or in part, by the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University. Each Cancer Biology graduate student will present his/her research once each year as a research progress report before the Department of Cancer Biology. View Cancer Presentations.

Curriculum Committee

A curriculum committee, consisting of course directors, two graduate students and the Program Director, meets quarterly to discuss suggestions made for the program and any problems that arise. Any concerns and suggestions can be made to the committee chair. The committee will discuss and vote on agenda items that become effective immediately after the meeting or when applicable.


The program directors have an “open door” policy and are available to the students at any time. A formal monthly lunch meeting with all students is held to discuss potential problems and latest news. All students are encouraged to discuss grievances with the program directors at any time.

After the first year, the student will be assigned, or can choose a temporary faculty advisor, who will assist the student in devising the initial coursework and help the student acclimate to the department and the graduate school. The continued tasks for this mentor will be the student’s career development. This advisor will assist the student in choosing a postdoctoral fellowship and a career path. The advisor will also advise the student concerning non-academic aspects of a scientific career, including such activities as networking, forming collaborations and obtaining research funding.

After the student selects a laboratory to conduct the dissertation research, the faculty supervisor becomes the student’s permanent advisor. The role of this advisor is to advise the student in academic matters, choosing the appropriate didactic coursework and providing advice for and monitoring the progress of the dissertation research. 

Quick Reference

Cancer Biology

Telephone 336-713-4763

Fax 336-716-0255

Graduate Program E-mail

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Last Updated: 07-19-2016
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