Focus Area: Cancer

This is a promising time for cancer researchers, as recent molecular biological advances, such as decoding of diverse cancer genomes and identification of key signaling pathways, have enhanced our understanding of cancer cells, and opened the door for new therapies and diagnostic tools.

Students in the Cancer focus area will be interested in combating cancer through research. Coursework will take an integrative, translational approach to all aspects of neoplastic disease, from its basis in molecular cell biology (including genetics, stem cells, invasion and metastasis, immune surveillance) to its diagnosis and treatment (biomarkers, drug design, screening, personalized medicine, surgical approaches), as well as its social, psychological, and economic consequences.

The TBMH cancer faculty study a range of topics, including:

  • Cancer genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, and proteomics
  • Computational cell biology
  • Cell cycle control and apoptosis
  • Bioorganic and natural products chemistry
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Mechanisms of therapy-resistance
  • Novel biomarkers and therapeutic approaches to cancer
  • Imaging approaches for understanding cancer


Example faculty research:

Rafael V Davalos, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Martha Ann Bell

Dr. Rafael Davalos develops bioelectromechanical systems to provide minimally invasive cancer treatment.



Carla Finkielstein, BioSci

Dr. Willard Eyestone

Dr. Carla Finkielstein uses cellular and molecular techniques to investigate why some cancer cells are resistant to radiotherapy, and the potential involvement of circadian clock dysfunction.



Zhi Sheng, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Dr. Rosalyn Moran

Dr. Zhi Sheng uses a high-throughput screening approach to study the molecular mechanisms of cell death and therapeutic resistance in cancer stem cells of glioblastoma and chronic myeloid leukemia.



John Tyson, BIoSci; Univ Distinguished Professor.

Dr. Gregorio Valdez

Dr. John Tyson aims to understand cancer by building and studying mathematical models of cell growth, division, and death.


In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5024 - Fundamentals of Cancer (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study