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Graduate Program in Cancer Biology

student group posing on the stairs
Dr. Joan Lewis-Wambi, Graduate Studies Director, poses for a group photo with the Cancer Biology graduate students.

The Graduate Program in Cancer Biology (CBIO) will be a University-wide interdisciplinary training program. The focus of the program will be at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC); although, use of technology allows the program to share local expertise as well as to integrate expertise on other campuses of the University. Thus, CBIO will draw upon clinical and basic scientist mentors from multiple divisions, departments and schools throughout KUMC, the University of Kansas Cancer Center (KUCC, including consortium partners at the Stowers Institute, Children's Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas Lawrence). 

The primary goal of Cancer Biology is to train future scientific leaders in cancer biology by providing a rigorous multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary education. The scientific focus is broadly defined - cancer research - but there will be student-identified areas of emphasis that include: cancer cell biology (including cellular signaling and response pathways that are altered and contribute to cancer etiology, progression and/or therapeutic resistance), cancer prevention, cancer therapeutics (including identification of novel diagnostics, cancer genetics and epigenetics, prognostic markers, therapeutic targets) and cancer care delivery. The program will be primarily basic research focused; but, translational, clinical and population-based research will also be included (and added as resources permit).

While sub-specialties exist within the cancer research rubric, it is crucial for every cancer researcher to be conversant in the other areas in order to most rapidly translate findings into clinical practice (and vice versa). Therefore, the CBIO Program will emphasize cross-disciplinary approaches encompassing new concepts and state-of-the-art techniques of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics, proteomics, structural biology, cell biology, pharmacology and molecular medicine. CBIO will strive to integrate students into the extensive and rapidly expanding clinical and translational research programs of the University of Kansas Cancer Center and the affiliated basic science programs.

Cancer Biology will utilize innovative training formats and pedagogy so that students receive mentoring and input from both physicians and basic science researchers. Doing so ensures that students will be exposed to clinical as well as molecular aspects of cancer diseases. Students who complete this training will be especially well qualified to bridge the disciplines of cancer biology and clinical oncology.

In recent years, biomedical Ph.D. programs have become so focused on molecular biology that studies in pathologic mechanisms and knowledge of disease processes have taken a back seat. As a result, too few Ph.D. graduates enter the workforce with sufficient knowledge of the underlying pathobiology to effectively translate molecular advances in cancer biology into clinical practice.  Essential to transdisciplinary training is to bridge gaps in language and pathobiological understanding that exist between most basic researchers and physicians. Integrated throughout are enrichment opportunities that provide exposure to patient-oriented, case-based topics; drug-development research; valid experimental design and statistics; and exposure to logistical and regulatory components of the drug development process. The enrichment activities will take advantage of the unique opportunities available by close association with KUMC and KUCC. Ultimately, students will enter the workforce with the experience in translational research to move discoveries more effectively from bench to bedside.

Cancer Biology Society

The Cancer Biology Society is a student run society sponsored by the Cancer Biology Department. This society provides students within the department support and guidance throughout their graduate career. Members of this society are involved in planning social events and community outreach events in the greater Kansas City Area.

Social events serve as a way for students to continue to get to know each other outside of a laboratory environment. The goal of these events is to develop strong relationships between students, to share advice and to promote encouragement. 

The members of the CBS value community outreach in the greater Kansas City Area. A tradition of the society is to volunteer at the Hope Lodge in Kansas City. The Hope Lodge is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and provides housing for current cancer patients and families receiving treatment in Kansas City. 

The CBS also recognizes the importance of personal and professional development of the students in the department. The society provides funding opportunities for members to submit abstracts and attend conferences.

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KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Cancer Biology
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS  66160