Cancer Biology PhD Program

The GW Cancer Biology PhD program is designed to equip the next generation of researchers with the knowledge, research training and leadership skills necessary to foster progress in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.

The establishment of the GW Cancer Center (GWCC) in late 2015 brought together cancer research, clinical cancer care, and cancer control/prevention and outreach initiatives at GW. Simultaneously with the formation of GWCC, the University opened a $275M state-of-the-art, 500,000 square foot Science and Engineering Hall, the top floor of which hosts many investigators in the GWCC.

The Cancer Biology PhD program provides research training areas reflecting GW faculty expertise, which includes the study of cancer genomics, cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis and metastasis, cancer signaling and genomics, cancer epigenetics & technology, tumor immunology, epigenetic changes, chemotherapy, signaling and checkpoint inhibitors, tumor microenvironment, cancer genetics and genomics. An important focus for the Cancer Center is to address prominent health disparities in breast, cervical, colorectal, pancreatic, liver and prostate cancers faced by communities in the District of Columbia.

PhD programs in the biomedical sciences are designed to meet key goals in contemporary graduate research education including 1) discipline-specific knowledge, 2) research skill development, 3) research communication skills, 4) research leadership and 5) research professionalism and prepare graduates for a variety of science careers. To apply, please visit IBS Admissions.

Students have access to cutting-edge core facilities for flow cytometry, imaging, and computational biology as well as the state of the art George Washington Biorepository resource of biospecimens and clinical data designed to help today's leading investigators facilitate their research on HIV/AIDS and cancer.

The PhD in Cancer Biology begins with interdisciplinary coursework in molecular, cellular, and systems biology in the first semester. In the second and third semester students take a comprehensive introduction to the conceptual and experimental underpinnings of Cancer Biology. Career development coursework in scientific writing, oral communication, and research ethics; and laboratory rotations offered through GW’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences curriculum. Following required laboratory rotations, students work with their research advisor and the Graduate Program Directors to complete remaining Cancer Biology degree requirements, including the dissertation.

IBS Core:
BMSC 8210: Genes to Cells
BMSC 8212: Systems Physiology
BMSC 8230: Molecular Basis of Human Disease
BMSC 8215: Laboratory Rotations (3)
BMSC 8216: Career Skills: Scientific Writing and Speaking
BMSC 8217: Career Skills: Ethics and Grantsmanship

One or more Foundation Course(s):
Basic Science of Cancer Biology
Infection and Immunity
Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics
Neural Cells and Circuits
Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine
BMSC 8219: Career Skills: Biomedical Science Careers
BMSC 8235: Applied Biostatistics for Basic Research
Complete grant-style qualifier examination, advance to candidacy

Cancer Biology Core:
CANC 8221: The Basic Science of Oncology
CANC 8222: Molecular Oncology and Epigenetics
CANC 8224: Clinical Oncology. Basic science behind the treatment of patients
CANC 8998: Advanced Reading and Research Seminar Course
CANC 8999: Dissertation Research

Some Suggested Electives:
GENO 6237: Proteomics & Biomarkers
CANC 8223: Cancer Immunology Cancer immunology, checkpoint inhibitors, CAR-T cell therapy, adoptive immunity
BIOC 6240: Next Gen Sequencing Basic principles of NGS technologies, data analysis and interpretation. Research and clinical applications and student-designed projects
HSCI 6263: Biostatistics Clinical Translational Scientific Research Basic concepts and methods of biostatistics applied to translational research. Topics include distributions, populations and sample selection, variables, interaction and confounding, hypothesis formulation, correlation, t-tests, ANOVA, regression (online)

Seminars/Journal Clubs:
The Cancer Biology seminar series held is held Thursday at 4 pm, and the monthly Tumor Board discussions held each Friday morning at 8 am. An annual Cancer Center Retreat is held in May. Faculty and trainees share interest groups (breast, prostate, ovarian cancer) as well as thematic meetings (Cancer Biology, Cancer Immunology, Cancer Engineering), to focus on common research interests.

Graduate Program Director:

Norman Lee, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology & Physiology
GWU; Ross Hall 601

Yanfen Hu, PhD
Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology
GWU; Ross Hall 551-B

How to apply to the IBS and Cancer Biology PhD program
For IBS Application Questions contact Colleen Kennedy, IBS Program Manager