Program Overview

The Cancer Pathology and Prevention Program is part of the Roswell Park Division of the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) and is located at the midtown campus of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the world’s oldest National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated comprehensive cancer research centers with concurrent patient care, research and education.

Master and doctoral degrees are offered and focus on research areas such as molecular genetics of cancer, control of normal and abnormal gene expression, role of the cytoskeleton in tumor progression, molecular markers of tumor progression, flow cytometric applications in cancer, biomarkers for prevention, mechanism of chemoprevention, intervention trials, cancer epidemiology and molecular genetics of tobacco addiction. The emphasis is on translation of these research areas into clinical usefulness in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In addition, the program has a strong emphasis on the epidemiologic study of patterns, determinants, consequences and control of tobacco use.  This work has a behavioral component, involving the development and evaluation of programs and policies to prevent initiation, promote quitting and protect nonsmokers from environmental tobacco smoke, as well as work on the genetic basis for nicotine addiction. The program is designed to prepare highly qualified individuals to be future leaders in academic and industrial biomedical research.

The Cancer Pathology and Prevention Program is designed for non-medical and medical graduates who want to continue their academic advancement and earn a master’s or doctorate degree. Students may also pursue a combined PHD/MD degree program offered through the UB School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Courses leading to the master and doctoral degrees in this department focus on aspects of the normal state of cells and tissues and basic pathologic processes, which cover biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, immunology, cancer pathology, oncology, cancer pharmacology, cancer epidemiology, and cancer control and prevention. Courses on health behavior and the public health practice of tobacco control are also offered.

Students receive broad and deep formal education in biomedical sciences during the first year by completing core courses in Biochemistry, Oncology for Scientists and Cancer Epidemiology. Hands-on work in a research laboratory begins immediately in the first semester. Three laboratory rotations are completed concurrently with core courses during the first year. These rotations provide laboratory experience in various experimental systems. By the end of the first year, students choose a thesis research mentor and a laboratory to initiate their thesis research. Students may choose to pursue cancer pathology, cancer prevention or molecular epidemiology academic track.

During the second year, core courses in cancer pathology, immunology, pharmacology, techniques in pathology, statistics and cancer control and prevention are selectively taken. This completes the formal course requirements of the department. A written preliminary examination, based on materials learned in the required didactic courses, constitute the first part of the doctoral degree qualifying examination. This is not required of the Master degree candidates. Successful oral defense of a thesis project proposal, written in the format of an NIH research grant application completes the qualifying examination requirement for both Master and doctoral degree candidates. The remaining years (1-2 for Master, 2-4 for doctorate degree candidates) are spent performing independent research (leading to a written dissertation), completing elective courses and participating in the numerous interactive research seminars of the department and Institute. Participation in the Recent Advances Seminar of the department where students practice presentation of their thesis projects and discuss cutting edge, recently published, research papers are mandatory during each semester of matriculation. In addition to oversight by the thesis research mentor, an individually chosen thesis advisory committee periodically reviews the progress of the student and offers guidance. Each candidate defends his or her thesis research at the end of the individualized training period in a formal thesis defense. Typically the entire program is completed in (2-3 years for Masters, 4-6 years for doctorate).

The graduate program is designed to take advantage of the diversity of research interests, facilities, and expertise in Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the State University of New York at Buffalo. This interdisciplinary and translational emphasis is fostered by elective and required courses offered by faculty from a wide range of medical and basic science specialties. Departmental, interdepartmental, Institute wide and UB seminars by national and international research leaders provide many occasions for scientific exchange. Students also have the opportunity to develop close ties with a number of faculty members both at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and at UB as they perform their dissertation research.