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 PhD program provides research training in areas reflecting GW faculty expertise, which includes the study of cancer signaling and checkpoint inhibitors, cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis and metastasis, cancer genomics and epigenetics and the tumor microenvironment.

The GW Cancer Center (GWCC) brings together cancer research, clinical cancer care, and cancer control/prevention and outreach initiatives at GW, and offers students a range of exciting research programs, seminars and retreats. Researcher labs are located on the 8th floor of the contemporary Science and Engineering Hall, in Ross Hall and other locations. 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. Students have access to cutting-edge core facilities for flow cytometry, imaging, and computational biology as well as the Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy (CETI) lab, and state-of-the art GW Biorepository resource of biospecimens and clinical data to facilitate research on HIV/AIDS and cancer.

The GW Cancer Biology Training Program (supported by NIH T32 CA247756) is a prestigious dual basic/clinical mentorship program guided by expert cancer researchers and clinician investigators designed to prepare the next generation of outstanding cancer research scientists. The two-year program for predoctoral students and postdoctoral fellows includes courses and workshops as well as a discovery research project leading to an independent research career. Students apply for this program at the end of their first year, with their mentor and cancer-related research.

The PhD in Cancer Biology begins with the interdisciplinary coursework in molecular, cellular, and systems biology and research rotations offered through GW’s Integrated Biomedical Sciences curriculum. In the second and third semester students add a comprehensive introduction to the conceptual and experimental underpinnings of cancer biology. Further electives, career development coursework in scientific writing, oral communication, and research ethics and laboratory rotations are provided. Following required laboratory rotations, students complete a. grant-style qualifier and then work with their research advisor and the Graduate Program Directors to complete remaining Cancer Biology degree requirements, including the research dissertation.

Cancer Biology Courses:

CANC 8221: The Basic Science of Oncology

CANC 8222: Molecular Oncology and Epigenetics

CANC 8998: Advanced Reading and Research Seminar Course

CANC 8999: Dissertation Research

Some Suggested Electives:

GENO 6237: Proteomics & Biomarkers

CANC 8223: Cancer Immunology

BIOC 6240: Next Gen Sequencing

HSCI 6263: Biostatistics Clinical Translational Scientific Research (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.

Examples of Recent Cancer Biology PhD Dissertations:

Sulgi (John) Lee PhD. 2020, “Identification and Characterization of Tumor Specific Antigens in Pediatric Diffuse Midline Gliomas” Mentors: Javad Nazarian, Eric Villain. (Now Application Scientist at Namocell, Washington DC)

Eden Dejene, PhD 2020 “Regulation of Poly(A)-specific ribonuclease Activity by Reversible Lysine Acetylation”. Mentor: Edward Seto, Inducted into Bouchet Society, NCI supplement. (Now Associate Scientist, Abcam, United Kingdom)

Graduate Program Directors:

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 at