Molecular & Cellular Oncology
Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D.
Department Chair ad interim
The mission of the Molecular and Cellular Oncology department is to enhance basic research excellence by establishing a strong research group focused on the molecular and cellular aspects of cancer research, particularly in molecular and cellular signaling pathways for tumor progression and metastasis; to enhance translational research for development of targeted cancer therapies; to enhance educational programs for next generation scientists; and to enhance collaboration with other MD Anderson department and thematic programs and interactions with other institutions locally, nationally and internationally; to facilitate MD Anderson cancer related laboratory science research to rise to the highest level in the nation.
There are currently 10 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Overall, the department is well funded, with multiple peer-reviewed grants -- including grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense -- and sponsored-research agreements with industry. The department receives approximately $8 million in extramural funding per year.
Faculty members use transdisciplinary state-of-the-art to dissect targetable molecular and cellular networks and their functional relevance to cancer initiation and progression. Research focus areas include cancer metabolism, DNA damage and repair, epigenetics and transcription, lipogenesis, RNA biology and structural biology. Other ongoing biological research includes immune surveillance, tumor micro-environment, microbiome-tumorapproaches interactions and preclinical studies in mouse models. Active investigations span diverse cancer types, e.g. brain, breast, colon, esophagus, head & neck, hematopoietic system, kidney, liver, lung, ovary, pancreas, prostate and skin cancers. Breakthrough mechanistic discoveries in recent years include a trans-histone regulatory mechanism of H3K4 methylation; PTEN self-regulation involved in tumor suppression stability; the role of oncogenic LncRNA in downregulation of cancer cell antigen presentation; downregulation of PTEN by astrocyte-derived exosomal miRNAs primes brain metastasis outgrowth; the role of primary tumor-induced, neutrophil chromatin extrusion in the establishment of pre-metastatic niche; a newly-identified chaperone function for LncRNA; the essential role of TLR4 in hepatocellular carcinoma development in fatty liver.
Ongoing collaborations with institutional clinical Departments and Centers enable MCO leadership in multiple thematic programs within our
institution as well as with other institutions locally, nationally and internationally. Importantly, MCO’s research has led to several ongoing
clinical trials, including a Phase II adjuvant therapy for secondary prevention and biomarker studies with targeted agents in women with estrogen receptor negative breast cancer; a Phase I/II trial for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma with a STAT3 inhibitor.
Faculty members are very active in training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Currently, 16 doctoral students and 31 postdoctoral fellows are being trained. Research discoveries within the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology will help us understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of cancer progression and ultimately increase our ability to detect, monitor and treat human cancer.
Cancer Biology Program
The Cancer Biology Program offers a graduate program of study and research leading to a Ph.D. degree from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The program provides training in all aspects of cancer biology, including tumor/host interactions, metastasis and invasion, tumor cell biology and biochemistry, tumor heterogeneity, cell surfaces, cancer genetics, retroviruses, regulation, and development.
In addition to the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary training approaches taught through formal courses, laboratory research experience and exposure to clinical problems, the CBP offers diverse educational activities and services to students, which include an annual scientific retreat, student seminar series, barbecue cookouts, new student orientation/welcome party, and opportunities to attend scientific conferences both nationally and locally.
More information about graduate programs and admission:
- Cancer Biology Program
- Virology and Gene Therapy Program
- Molecular Pathology Program
- Admissions Information
Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030