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The Cancer Cell Biology Track


The Cancer Cell Biology Track was created as a multidisciplinary program to provide mentoring and a basic foundation of knowledge and skills necessary to successfully pursue a career in Cancer Cell Biology research. The Cancer Cell Biology Track is the driving force for promoting excellence in Cancer Research as part of a larger Cancer Initiative at UTMB.

The Cancer Cell Biology curriculum builds on the first year curriculum, the Basic Biomedical Science Curriculum. Students are admitted to the BBSC and complete all requirements of that curriculum. A student advisor is available (appointed) in the Sealy Center for Cancer Cell Biology to help students with selection of laboratories, choice of electives, etc. at any point that a student would like to commit to a career in cancer research.

The Cancer Cell Biology Track is designed to provide maximal flexibility to students so that their education and training prepares them for their ultimate career goal. Each student is required to select a graduate program following successful completion of the BBSC. The choice of graduate program is open. Several programs are appropriate for students researching cancer, including the Cell Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Pharmacology and Toxicology. Students will be required to fulfill the requirements of whichever program they choose, including required coursework, qualifying examinations, and dissertation proposal defense, etc.

Graduate students who choose the Cancer Cell Biology Track will be mentored by the principle investigator of the lab, their graduate program advisor and the Cancer Cell Biology Track advisor (which is currently Dr. Kathleen OíConnor). Each advisor is dedicated to the success of the students.


In addition to courses required by the individual programs, electives can be chosen to complement the studentsí programmatic requirements. In addition to completion of required coursework, there are several informal recommendations for students in this track (see below).

Recommended electives:

1. INDT 6205 Mechanisms of Cancer Progression
    Instructor: Mark Hellmich, Ph.D.
    2 credit hours

Description: Different concepts in cancer biology will be covered in a didactic lecture/discussion format over 14 lectures. Course content will be based mainly on current reviews covering basic topic related to tumor progression (such as angiogenesis, oncogenes/tumor suppressors, invasion, metastasis, risk factors).  Class will be held twice weekly (1.5 h per class).  The class room sessions will include a lecture by a faculty expert (approximate 1 h per session) supplemented with an interactive discussions focused on the development of a research proposal relevant to the topic presented (approximately 30 min per session).  The discussions will involve the identification of important unanswered questions (hypothesis) within the field and how to development an experimental plan to address those questions.

2.  HBCG 6222 Hormone Action and Cancer Cell Biology Ė 2 CREDIT HOURS
Instructor: E. Brad Thompson, M.D.
     Offered: Fall Semester, second 8-week session
     2 credit hours

Description: This course provides students a clear understanding of the issues current in several major areas of hormone action, especially as related to cancer cell biology. These areas include action of nuclear hormone receptors, G-protein associated receptors and the hormones that act through them, non-G-protein associated membrane receptors and the hormones that act through them, and signaling molecules that act by way of hormone-like systems, but not usually classified strictly as hormones. In the course of examining these major systems, we will include consideration of aspects of signaling pathways as well as ligand: receptor actions. The course will include 4-5 seminars from world renowned scientists in hormone signaling. Students will discuss several major papers and reviews from each speakerís lab both prior to the speakerís seminar and after the seminar with the speaker.

3.  INDT 6305 Advanced Signaling Mechanisms in Cancer
     Instructor: Kathleen OíConnor, Ph.D.
     Offered: Spring Semester
     3 credit hours

Description: Different signaling families (8-10) will be covered in lecture/discussions. Students will receive 2-4 papers and one review about each signaling family. In two sessions each week (one 1-hr, and one 2-hr blocks TBD), a knowledgeable faculty will discuss all aspects of the signaling pathways with the students. During the final weeks of the course, students will write a paper about a signaling pathway in cancer, and give an oral report on their topic. The grade will be 20% on the final report, 20% on the paper, and 60% class participation.

Additional electives:

CELL  6503

Cell Biology of Tissues

HBCG 6206

Bioinformatics on the World Wide Web (2 Credits)

HBCG 6209

DNA Repair, Mutagenesis, Replication and Environmental Toxicology (2 credits) Dr. L. Prakash

HBCG 6222

Hormone Action and Cancer Cell Biology (2 credits) Dr. Brad Thompson

HBCG 6223

Molecular, Cellular and Genetic Basis of Aging (2 credits) Dr. Papaconstantinou

HBCG 6214

Gene Therapy of Solid Tumors (2 credits) Dr. P. Singh

HBCG 6218

Drug Transport in Multi-Drug Resistance (2 Credits) Dr. Awasthi

HBCG 6260

Imaging in Biology (2 Credits)

HBCG 6315

DNA Protein Interaction (3 Credits) Dr. Mitra

HBCG 6360

Thermodynamics of Macromolecular Assembly (3 Credit Hours)

PHTO 6214

Molecular Toxicology (2 credits), Dr. Kees Elferink

PHTO 6219

New Drug Development (2 credits), Dr. Snodgrass

Additional Requirements:

1.  Seminar:

     a.  Students should regularly attend relevant seminars sponsored by Sealy Center for Cancer Cell Biology (Research in Progress Seminar Series), BMB, and Pharmacology and Toxicology.

     b.  Students should give one formal seminar each year. After students attain candidacy, this can be a part of their required annual committee meeting. A studentís Proposal seminar and final Dissertation seminar are included.

2.  Clinical Perspectives in Oncology

      This opportunity is currently arranged on an informal basis. A formal experience and/or course may be developed in the future for credit. The purpose of this experience is for each student to be exposed to clinical aspects of cancer. This experience may include (but should not be limited to):
      a.  clinical presentation of patient (history and physical examination)
      b.  treatment (observation of surgery and instruction in further treatment)
      c.  pathology (gross morphology of tissue as well as pathology on slides; and staining procedures)

      d.  areas where further study is needed

3.  Journal Club
     Students are required to participate in a journal club that meets on a regular basis and present in this journal club at least once a year. The Sealy Center for Cancer Cell Biology sponsors a journal club that discusses journal articles related to basic and clinical cancer research that meets monthly.
Visit the SCCCB Journal Club web site.

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Last Revised: September 28, 2007