Photo credit: Rick Gaber


Background and History: Cancer biology is a major area of study for students in the DGP and IBiS graduate programs, as well as students in the MSTP program. Historically, the Cancer Biology curriculum has been one that extends beyond departmental boundaries and across campuses, having been initiated as an interdepartmental training program in the 1980’s.  Students throughout Northwestern have been active participants in journal clubs, research-in-progress meetings, mini-symposia and seminars sponsored by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. Every year in the fall, the Cancer Biology Cluster hosts an informational meeting and reception, to welcome new students on the Evanston and Chicago campuses interested in learning more about the cluster. The following curriculum and educational enrichment programs are key features of the Cancer Biology Cluster:

Curriculum: The Cancer Biology Training Program requires core knowledge of cell biology, molecular biology and genetics, and biochemistry. In addition to core courses in these areas, a foundation course in Tumor Cell Biology (TCB) should be taken in the first year. TCB formally introduces students to the principles of tumor pathology, such as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair, genomics, tumor invasion and metastasis, and tumor immunology.

Cancer Biology students are also required to complete an advanced readings course, “Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis.” This course provides training in critical evaluation of the literature, development of a grant proposal, and the fundamentals of the peer review system. Each student will work closely with a faculty mentor to write and defend a research proposal.   Students in Cancer Biology frequently complete additional elective advanced courses in areas such as Receptors and Effectors, Eukaryotic Cell Biology, Cytoskeleton, Immunology.   

Training Grants: Many students in the cancer biology cluster are supported by an NCI-funded T32 training grant. There are currently two training grants that support our students: “Carcinogenesis” (ongoing for over 30 years) and “Oncogenesis and Developmental Biology.” Students are nominated by their advisor in the summer preceeding their second year for appointment in fall of the following year. 

Chicago Cancer Baseball Charities Predoctoral Fellowship: Through the generous donation of the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, the Lurie Cancer Center has funding to support (tuition and stipend) one predoctoral student performing cancer-related research projects.

Fishel Family Fellowship Award: The Fishel family generously supports a Fishel Fellowship in Cancer Research award of $25,000 to outstanding cancer biology students.

Katten Muchin Travel Awards: Cancer biology students are eligible to apply for travel awards to support attendance at national or international meetings with a cancer focus.

Annual Symposium and Poster Session: Each June, selected graduate students and post-docs are invited to speak in the Annual Cancer Center Symposium. The annual poster session, aimed at allowing students to present their work to other students, post-docs and faculty associated with the Cancer Center, immediately follows the symposium. The best poster presentations will be selected for poster awards.

Journal Clubs and Seminars: All students are encouraged to attend the biweekly Oncogenesis Journal Club. Attendance is required for all trainees of the Carcinogenesis or Oncogenesis and Developmental Biology training grants. In addition, students are strongly encouraged to attend the weekly Cancer Center Basic Research Seminar Series, which showcases innovative cancer research from students, Northwestern faculty and invited speakers. Students are required to present a seminar in this lecture series once before graduation.  Finally, students are also required to attend cancer center mini-symposia and working group meetings that are relevant to the student’s research.

Cancer Biology Research Club: All students participate in a student run Cancer Biology Research Club where students present their work amongst other student peers. No faculty are present and this club is for students to share ideas and discuss their work in a relaxed and collegial environment.

Cancer Biology Cluster Directors

Cancer Biology Cluster Student Directors

  • Kevin (Su Hong) Park, DGP student class 2011
  • Emma Schuster, DGP student class 2022

Cancer Biology Cluster Faculty

Tumor Invasion, Metastasis and Angiogenesis

  • Daniel Brat, MD/PhD (DGP) Mechanisms of glioma progression, including the contributions of hypoxia, genetics, tumor microenvironment and stem cells
  • Robert Goldman, PhD (DGP) Structure and function of cytoskeletal intermediate filament
  • Cara Gottardi, PhD (DGP) Cell-cell adhesion and differentiation by the cadherin/catenin system
  • Kathleen Green, PhD (DGP) Intercellular adhesion in differentiation, cancer, skin and heart disease
  • Carole LaBonne, PhD (IBiS) Formation, migration and differentiation of neural crest cells
  • Joshua Leonard, PhD (IBiS) Tumor immunology and immunotherapy
  • William Muller, MD/PhD (DGP) Mechanisms of Tumor Cell Extravasation
  • Hidayatullah Munshi, MD, (DGP) Fibrosis-proteinase cross-talk and pancreatic cancer progression
  • Karen Ridge, PhD (DGP) Intermediate filaments in lung pathophysiology
  • Paul Schumacker, PhD (DGP) Oxygen Sensing in Embryonic Development, Tissue Responses to Hypoxia, and Tumor Angiogenesis
  • Ronen Sumagin, PhD (DGP) Immune cell-mediated inflammation in colorectal cancer development and progression
  • Ming Zhang, MD/PhD (DGP) Molecular Mechanisms of Tumorigenesis and Cancer Metastasis
  • Bin Zhang, MD/PhD (DGP) Cancer immunology and immunotherapy

Hormone Action and Signal Transduction

  • Sarki Abdulkadir, MD/PhD (DGP) Prostate cancer initiation, progression and recurrence
  • Joseph Bass, MD/PhD (DGP) Circadian and metabolic gene networks in the development of diabetes and obesity
  • Issam Ben-Sahra, PhD (DGP) Connections between signaling and metabolic networks
  • Orin Bloch, MD (DGP) Mechanisms of tumor-induced immunosuppression in malignant brain tumors
  • Irina Budunova, MD/PhD (DGP) Alteration of cell signaling during tumorigenesis
  • Serdar Bulun, MD (DGP) Estrogen metabolism in breast cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids
  • Debabrata Chakravarti, PhD (DGP) Regulations of Cancer cell function, hormone signaling and chromatin modifications
  • Shi-Yuan Cheng, PhD (DGP) Oncogenic Signaling in human Glioblastomas and Cancer Stem cells
  • David Gius, MD/PhD (DGP) Sirtuins in aging, cellular and/or mitochondrial metabolism, and carcinogenesis
  • Curt Horvath, PhD (IBiS) Signal transduction and gene regulation in innate immune responses to cancer and viruses
  • Julie Kim, PhD (DGP) Hormone Action in diseases of the Uterus and Breast
  • Hiroaki Kiyokawa, MD/PhD (DGP) Cell cycle regulatory proteins in differentiation, senescence and tumorigenesis
  • Jing Liu, PhD (DGP) Signaling of JNK and NFkB in cell death, inflammation, and tumorigenesis
  • Leon Platanias, MD/PhD (DGP) Signal Transduction For Interferons And Other Cytokines In Malignant Cells
  • Derek Wainwright, PhD (DGP) Brain tumor immunology
  • Yong Wan, PhD (DGP) Role of posttranslational modifications in genome stability, cell division, hormone signaling, apoptosis and tumorigenesis
  • Teresa Woodruff, PhD (DGP) Regulation of Ovarian Follicle Growth during the Mammalian Reproductive Cycles

Cancer Genes & Molecular Targeting

  • Erik Andersen, PhD (IBiS) Identifying genes that vary within populations to cause differences in disease susceptibilities
  • Xiaomin Bao, PhD (IBiS) Epigenetic regulation of human epithelial tissue differentiation.
  • Oren Becher, PhD (DGP) Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an incurable brain cancer that arises in children
  • Rosemary Braun, PhD (IBiS) computational modeling molecular interaction networks in cancer
  • Richard Carthew, PhD (IBiS) RNAi and Gene Regulation
  • Jaehyuk Choi, MD/PhD (DGP) Genetic basis of inherited and acquired immunological disorders and cancer
  • John Crispino, PhD (DGP) Transcriptional regulation of normal and malignant blood cell development
  • Ramana Davuluri, PhD (DGP) Developing statistical machine learning based algorithms and informatics solutions for knowledge extraction in biology and medicine
  • Kyle Eagen, PhD (DGP) DNA folding within interphase nuclei and mitotic chromosomes
  • Elizabeth Eklund MD (DGP) Molecular biology of late myeloid differentiation
  • William Funk, PhD (DGP) Cancer biomarker discovery
  • Yuan He, PhD (IBiS) DNA damage and repair
  • Dai Horiuchi, PhD (DGP) Mechanisms of tumor development and maintenance in breast cancer
  • Lifang Hou, PhD (DGP) Genetic, epigenetic, and environmental risk factors for disease
  • Zhe Ji, PhD (DGP) Computational genomics and tumor microenvironment
  • Neil Kelleher, PhD (IBiS) Nuclear Signaling and Natural Products
  • Dong-Hyun Kim, PhD (DGP) Micro/Nanoparticles as vectors for drug delivery, hyperthermia, cell therapy, immunotherapy and as molecular imaging agents of MRI, CT, ultrasound and fluorescents
  • Nikia Laurie, PhD (DGP) Elucidating the Molecular Mechanisms of Retinoblastoma Progression
  • Huiping Liu, PhD (DGP) Targeting cancer stem cells and exosomes in metastasis
  • Richard Longnecker, PhD (DGP) Epstein-Barr virus transformation, latency, and entry
  • Daniela Matei, MD (DGP) Mechanisms of ovarian cancer metasis and novel therapeutics for ovarian cancer
  • Thomas Meade, PhD (IBiS) Molecular imaging of in vivo gene expression and intracellular messengers
  • Panagiotis Ntziachristos, PhD (DGP) Molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis in acute leukemia
  • Ishwar Radhakrishnan, PhD (IBiS) Structure, function, dynamics and informatics of macromolecular complexes
  • Karl Scheidt, PhD (IBiS) Drug discovery, bioorganic chemistry and small molecule driven chemical biology
  • Evan Scott, PhD (IBiS) Targeted modulation of immune cells within the tumor microenvironment”
  • Ali Shilatifard, PhD (DGP) Molecular machinery for histone modification
  • Alex Stegh, PhD (DGP) Genetic basis of the malignant brain cancer Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Chyung-Ru Wang, PhD (DGP) immune function of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class Ib molecules in normal and diseased states
  • Gayle Woloschak, PhD (DGP) Nanocomposites; Genes controlling radiosensitivity and motor neuron dysfunction
  • Jindan Yu, MD/PhD (DGP) Genetic and epigenetic pathways to prostate cancer
  • Wei Zhang, PhD (DGP) Genetics and epigenetics of complex traits

Cancer Cell Biology

  • Hossein Ardehali, MD/PhD (DGP) Role of mitochondria and metabolic processes in cancer growth
  • Bochner Bruce, MD (DGP) Eosinophil and malignant mast cell biology
  • Navdeep Chandel, PhD (DGP) Mitochondria as a signlaing organelle
  • Daniel Foltz, PhD (DGP) Epigenetic control of centromere assembly and chromosome segregation
  • Eva Gottwein, PhD (DGP) Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated herpesvirus oncogenesis
  • Alan Hauser, MD/PhD (DGP) Bacterial pathogens that frequently infect cancer patients
  • Robert Holmgren, PhD (IBiS) Cell-fate specification during development
  • Sui Huang, PhD (DGP) The Perinucleolar Compartment and Malignant Transformation
  • Steven Kosak, PhD (DGP) The Relationship between Nuclear Form and Function during Cellular Differentiation and Disease
  • Laura Lackner, PhD (IBiS) Mitochondrial structure and positioning 
  • Laimins Laimonis, PhD (DGP) Papillomaviruses in cervical cancer
  • Liming Li, PhD (DGP) Initiation and propagation processes of prionogenesis
  • Marc Mendillo, PhD (DGP) Cellular stress response systems in malignancies
  • Brian Mitchell, PhD (DGP) Developmental models for invasive cell behavior and transdifferentiation
  • Richard Morimoto, PhD (IBiS) Chaperone Networks and Mechanisms of Protein Conformational Disease
  • Marcus Peter, PhD (DGP) Signaling of the death receptor CD95 and function of miRNAs in tumor progression
  • Beatriz Sosa-Pineda, PhD (DGP) Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Pancreas Tumorigenesis
  • Marie-Pier Tetreault, PhD (DGP) Molecular mechanisms of esophageal diseases
  • Dileep Varma, PhD (DGP) Accurate chromosome segregation
  • Athanassios Vassilopoulos, PhD (DGP) Posttranslational modifications directed by sirtuins in aging and cancer
  • Yong Wan, PhD (DGP) Molecular mechanisms of breast tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis to identify novel targets for therapeutic development.