Top Cancer Biology PhD Programs

May 15, 2019

Learn about cancer biology graduate programs that rank nationally among the top 20. To help you decide which program is right for you, this article details concentrations available, course topics, and degree requirements, as well as admissions information.

PhD programs in cancer biology are typically housed in universities' medical schools or bioscience departments. Accordingly, this article uses U.S. News & World Report's 2019 med school rankings for research and its 2018 graduate biological sciences rankings to profile top cancer biology programs; all schools are among the top 20.

Cancer Biology PhD Programs

PhD Program in Cancer Biology

This Chicago-area program is supported by numerous grants and private donors. Students are trained in the latest cancer research techniques, and they are prepared for leadership roles in several sectors. The faculty consists of more than 60 experts in the biological sciences. The core curriculum covers such topics as cancer's molecular mechanisms, the tumor lifecycle, genomics of cancer, and computational methods. Students may choose from a variety of concentrations, including cytogenetics, drug resistance, and chromosome damage and repair. The PhD requires a minimum of three years of graduate work, including nine courses, preliminary examination testing, a teaching assistantship, ethical training, dissertation, and final examination.

Molecular Cancer Biology PhD Program

This program, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), covers the basics of growth regulation through several disciplines, including biochemistry, genetics, pharmacology, and molecular biology. Twelve departments at the university are represented in this program. Several approaches are used by the researchers, including classical genetics and protein biochemistry. During the first semester, students will take both half-semester and full-semester courses; the combination is equivalent to two to three full courses. The second semester also includes both half- and full-semester courses, equivalent to two to two and a half courses. Some of the topics covered in these courses include toxicology, histology, and cell signaling. At least 30 units are required for the PhD degree. Students must take a research conduct course (18 hours) and complete three lab rotations. The final step is to complete a dissertation.

Cancer Biology PhD Program

This program, in California's Bay Area, is taught by over 60 faculty members from a wide range of specializations. During the first year, students will study several aspects of cancer, including the pathobiological and genetic origins of cancer. By the start of the second year, students will select a research adviser and begin their dissertation. There is an annual conference where students will present their findings. Students must complete seven cancer biology core courses plus 10 units of electives, either in the computational systems track or others of the student's choosing. Students must complete three lab rotations, a qualifying exam (grant proposal and oral exam), and present their dissertation.

Cancer Biology Graduate Program

In this Nashville-area PhD program, students will learn the latest research technologies, including proteomics, genomics, and CRISPR genome editing. The program requires 72 hours, including 24 hours of coursework. Students must also complete lab rotations. The core curriculum includes such topics as cancer systems, precision medicine, immunity, and tumor microenvironments, while electives include topics in biochemistry, biophysics, and pathology. Teaching assistantship is available, and it requires participation in a journal club. Also, participation in a weekly science seminar that focuses on cancer biology is required. To be considered for a PhD, students must pass a qualifying exam (written, oral, and general knowledge). A dissertation is required.

Program Admission Requirements

A bachelor's degree is required for entrance to cancer biology PhD programs. Universities will typically want your transcripts from your bachelor's degree and any graduate transcripts you may have as well. Some universities require GRE scores, a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. International students must submit TOEFL scores.

In conclusion, these programs are all housed in departments that rank in the top 20 of current U.S. News & World Report rankings. Although U.S. News does not specifically rank cancer biology graduate programs, students are likely receive a top-notch education in any of the profiled programs.

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