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Graduate Program in Molecular Carcinogenesis

Cancer Research Training in a Unique Setting

The Graduate Program in Molecular Carcinogenesis is part of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Currently, 30 graduate students and 23 faculty members participate in this unique program. Our graduate students have access to a range of multidisciplinary, cutting-edge research programs focusing on diverse aspects of cancer biology, including molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis, epigenetics, cancer stem cells, and development of normal and neoplastic cells.

The Graduate Program in Molecular Carcinogenesis is located at MD Anderson’s Science Park research campus in Buescher State Park, only a short drive from Austin. The campus has its own dedicated research support services, which include core facilities for molecular biology and protein analysis, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, histology, bioinformatics and research animal services. In addition, our investigators have access to more than 35 facility cores at MD Anderson in Houston and to the Protein & Metabolite Analysis Facility at UT Austin. 


  • Science Park is located in the historic town of Smithville, only 45 miles from Austin, making the best of country and city life available. Science Park offers a world renowned, highly collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment. With nearly $30 million in research funding support and access to over 45 facility cores, a productive and successful doctoral experience is almost guaranteed.

  • Faculty members in the Molecular Carcinogenesis program have diverse research focus areas that include: Molecular Biology of Cancer; Genetics and Genomics; Epigenetics and Cancer; Cancer Stem Cells; Development and Cancer; Cancer Etiology; Environmental Health and Cancer.

  • Alexandra Espejo: I chose to attend the Molecular Carcinogenesis program largely due to the prestige of the faculty research programs here at Science Park. Additionally, Science Park is located in a natural surrounding, which provides the tranquility necessary for dedication to science, but is close to Austin. I have found that the quaint size and unique location of Science Park offers the opportunity to interact closely with faculty and postdocs, enriching my training experience tremendously.

  • Prosurvival mechanisms, particularly those in stem cells and cancer stem cells can predispose cells to tumorigenic transformation. Dr. Dean Tang is working to uncover the unique properties of prostate cancer stem cells, specifically the cellular basis and molecular determinants of prostate cancer cell heterogeneity and to design specific therapeutics to target prostate cancer stem cells.

  • The MD Anderson Cancer Center ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. MD Anderson invests more than $500 million a year in research, and ranks first in the number of grants awarded and total amount of grant dollars from the National Cancer Institute. More than 6,300 trainees take part in educational programs at MD Anderson each year.

  • A wide variety of environmental agents, including ultraviolet (UV) and ionizing radiation and chemicals from combustion and industrial sources, can damage DNA. In addition, endogenous reactive oxygen species and diversity mechanisms of the immune system can also cause DNA damage. A number of DNA repair mechanisms have evolved to respond to this constant attack. Identifying gene variants that alone, or in combination, alter susceptibility and progression of specific cancers is crucial.

  • Consistently ranked one of the best cities and places to live in America, the Austin area has it all. Whether you are looking to live a relaxing life in the country or to take in great music and food in the city, there is something for everyone here. The climate is mild, the people are friendly and there is always something to do.

  • Epigenetics refers to heritable changes in phenotypic characteristics that are not mediated by changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetic events influence the way DNA is organized or utilized in the cell nucleus, and they therefore influence all DNA mediated processes, including gene transcription, DNA replication, recombination, and repair. Emerging data now clearly link the deregulation of epigenetic processes with a variety of disease states, including cancer.

  • Matthew Yousefzadeh: I chose to come to Science Park for its stellar faculty, collegial work environment and outstanding facilities and resources. The close-knit and intimate campus allows for immediate access to renowned investigators, who actively take an interest in mentoring you throughout your tenure at Science Park. And let's face it: staring out the window at the beautiful park and wildlife rivals virtually any city view there is.

  • Cellular responses to environmental agents include apoptosis, senescence, autophagy and the induction of an inflammatory response. Each of these responses can contribute to tissue dysfunction and chronic diseases, such as cancer.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center