Prospective Students

The Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary gateway program that coordinates admissions and the first year of Ph.D. studies for 14 department programs, including Cancer Biology. PIBS offers you the flexibility and convenience of applying to any of our participating programs through one application. We invite you to thoroughly explore Cancer Biology and the other 13 programs before selecting your top preferences when you apply.

Program Overview

The Cancer Biology program spans many disciplines including cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, pathology, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and immunology, to name a few. It represents a unique set of training and educational activities that, taken collectively, expose the student to the full breadth of cancer biology while allowing immersion in a specific dissertation topic of the student’s choice.

Research Area(s): 

Faculty in the Program are interested in a number of topic areas:

  • Tumor immunology
  • Viral oncogenesis
  • Cell biology
  • Genetics
  • Epidemiology
  • Pathology
  • Bioinformatics

Projects range from fundamental studies of basic biological processes to translational research aiming to move basic findings into the clinic.

Program Requirements


Students are required to take Cancer Biology (554), one semester of Biostatistics/Bioinformatics (Bioinf 525 is recommended) and 2 of the 3 PIBS Core Courses (CDB 530, HG 541, Biochem 660). In addition, students will participate in the Research-in-Progress/Journal Club, Cancer Biology 800, every semester during their training, but only enroll formally enroll/register Years 1 & 2. 

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary exam tests the students' basic knowledge of cancer biology and their critical thinking skills.

Expected Length of Program

Students are expected to successfully defense their dissertation within five years of admission to PIBS.

Career Expectations

The impact of cancer on all our lives emphasizes the need to continue training individuals to pursue research into its cure and prevention. The ongoing investment of the National Cancer Institute and non-governmental funding organizations including the American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and others, means that research at universities and research institutes will remain a high priority, thereby providing jobs for cancer researchers with doctoral degrees. The complexity of cancer leads to the unfortunate realization that it will take many years to unlock all of its mysteries, resulting in a long-term need for persons trained in the field.

Besides the tremendous investment in basic cancer research at universities and non-profit organizations, the development of new therapeutic modalities for cancer represents a large percentage of pharmaceutical company expenditures. According to IMS Health, the global oncology market was growing at 6.8% overall in 2011, double that number in the pharmaceutical sector. In 2013, the worth of the market was approximately $75 billion just in the US. Given this huge investment in cancer research, the job market for individuals with doctoral degrees in cancer biology is very large and growing.