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Cancer Biology

View PDF of Cancer Biology Checklist
Prospective students should use this checklist to obtain specific admissions requirements on how to apply to Graduate School.

View PDF version of the Cancer Biology catalog description


Rosa Serra, Ph.D.

Theresa Strong, Ph.D.


(205) 934-0842


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Web site:

Faculty – Note that individual faculty may participate in multiple programs, dependent upon their research interests. The given list is just a small representation of a larger faculty base. Please visit for a complete list of participating faculty.

Edward Acosta, Associate Professor (Clinical Pharmacology); multicenter clinical trials designed to assess the absorption and disposition of antiviral and antiretroviral drugs

Stephen Aller, Assistant Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); mechanism and function of integral membrane proteins involved in human disease and the means by which drug molecules and antibodies activate and inhibit function

Daniel Balkovetz, Associate Professor (Cell Biology, Medicine, Microbiology); Epithelial Cell Biology; Epithelial Cell Signal Regulation; Regulation of paracellular transport across epithelial cell tight junctions

Scott Ballinger, Associate Professor (Pathology); Environmental cardiology, free radical biology, mitochondrial function 

Stephen Barnes, Professor (Pharmacology & Toxicology), Site-directed mutagenesis of rodent liver bile acid CoA: amino acid N-acyltransferase (BAT) - this project involves a combination of molecular biology, enzymology and protein mass spectrometry; Molecular basis of prevention of eye cataract disease by polyphenol-containing dietary supplements; Site-specific modification of lens proteins by oxidants - this project involves protein mass spectrometry and other physical chemical techniques

Susan Bellis, Associate Professor (Physiology & Biophysics); The Role of Integrin Receptors in Human Biology and Disease 

Mark Bevensee, Associate Professor (Neurobiology, Physiology & Biophysics); Cellular and Molecular Physiology of Acid-base Transporters and pH Regulation 

Mary-Ann Bjornsti, Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); Cancer-based pharmacology and toxicology

Scott W. Blume, Assistant Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Medicine); Specific regulation of gene expression at the translational level - through sequence-specific RNA-binding proteins and complex 5'-untranslated RNA sequences; dysregulation of gene-specific translational control mechanisms in cancer

Steven Carroll, Professor (Cell Biology, Neurobiology, Pathology); The Role of Neuregulin-1 in Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasia 

Chenbei Chang, Assistant Professor (Cell Biology); Signaling Transduction in Development and Diseases 

Yabing Chen, Assistant Professor (Pathology); Gene Regulation in the Pathogenesis of Cardiovascular diseases, Osteoporosis and Cancer 

Gregory A. Clines, Assistant Professor (Endocrinology)

Randall S. Davis, Associate Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Medicine, Microbiology); Lymphocyte development and mechanisms of lymphomagenesis 

Qiang Ding, Assistant Professor (Medicine); Molecular mechanisms of organ fibrosis 

Isam-Eldin Eltoum, Professor (Pathology); Clinical research in diagnostic cytology and surgical pathology- Tumorogenesis of prostate cancer and chemoprevetion - HPV infection  

Isao Eto, Associate Professor, (Nutrition Sciences); Nutritional Biochemistry, Folate Metabolism and Interactions, Cancer Biology and Biochemistry

Maaike Everts, Assistant Professor (Pathology); Gene therapy and nanotechnology 

Charles Falany, Professor (Pharmacology & Toxicology); Biochemical and physiological properties of human cytosolic sulfotransferases 

Xu Feng, Associate Professor (Pathology); Cell Signaling and Gene Expression Regulation in Bone and Cancer Cells 

Stuart J. Frank, Professor (Cell Biology, Medicine, Physiology & Biophysics); Growth Hormone Action and GH Receptor Structure and Function 

Andra R. Frost, Associate Professor (Cell Biology, Pathology); Fibroblast-Epithelial Cell Interactions and Developmental Pathways in Breast Cancer 

Catherine Fuller, Associate Professor (Physiology & Biophysics); ENaC/ASIC Ion Channels 

Vithal Ghanta, Professor (Microbiology); Tumor immunology, immune system and aging, CNS immune system interactions 

Yancey G. Gillespie, Professor (Cell Biology, Microbiology); Molecular and Viral Therapy of Malignant Primary Brain Tumors 

William Grizzle, Professor (Pathology); Biomarkers in Early Detection, Prognosis, Risk and Therapeutic Outcome; Anatomic and Clinical Pathology; Tissue Resources to Support Biomedical Research; Immunomodulation of Cancer; Aging and Cancer; Post-transcriptional Processing of Genetic Info 

Robert Hardy, Associate Professor (Pathology); Cancer cell metastasis

Zdenek Hel, Assistant Professor (Microbiology, Pathology); HIV-1 pathogenesis and vaccine development. Design of novel strategies for immunotherapy of cancer

Douglas Hurst, Instructor (Pathology); Chromatin regulation of metastasis

Amjad Javed, Assistant Professor (Cell Biology, Pathology); Genetic and Molecular Signaling for Cellular Differentiation and Skeletogenesis 

Nirag Jhala, Professor (Pathology); Characterizing utility of endoscopic ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration cytology. Characterizing expression of molecular pathways involved in the development and progression of pancreatic, colorectal adenocarcinoma, hepatocellular caricnoma and cholangiocarcinoma

Kai Jiao, Assistant Professor (Genetics); Hypothalamic Control of Feeding Behavior 

Santosh Katiyar, Associate Professor (Dermatology); Prevention of skin cancer by dietary antioxidants

Bob Kesterson, Associate Professor (Genetics); Hypothalamic Control of Feeding Behavior 

Helen Kim, Associate Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Neurobiology, Pharmacology & Toxicology); Proteomics of neuroprotective and chemopreventive actions of dietary phytochemicals  

Jennifer King, Assistant Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); pharmacokinetics and pharmacogentics; multicenter clinical trials designed to assess the absorption and disposition of antiviral and antiretroviral drugs

Peter King, Professor (Physiology & Biophysics); Mechanisms of Growth Factor mRNA Stabilization in Cancer 

Christopher Klug, Associate Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Genetics, Medicine Microbiology, Pathology); Hematopoietic Stem Cell Biology and Acute Leukemias 

Bruce Korf, Professor and Chair (Genetics); Neurofibromatosis Type 1 

Rama N. Krishna, Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics); Structural Biology and Biomolecular NMR Spectroscopy 

Jack Lancaster, Professor (Physiology & Biophysics); The Biophysics and Biochemistry of Nitric Oxide 

Aimee Landar, Assistant Professor (Pathology); Cellular effects of post-translational modification of protein thiols by reactive species in cancer and cardiovascular disease

Yi-Ping Li, Professor (Pathology); Understanding the mechanisms of bone formation, bone resorption, skeletal development, craniofacial development and cancer bone metastasis; Developing effective new therapies for treating and preventing the related diseases.

Fang-Tsyr Lin, Assistant Professor (Cell Biology); Mechanisms of the LPA Receptor Actions 

Robin Lorenz, Professor (Microbiology, Pathology): Cellular and Molecular Immunology of the Gastrointestinal Tract 

Jin-Biao Ma, Assistant Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics); Structure and mechanism of proteins-RNA recognition in small RNA biogenesis and regulation 

Upender Manne, Associate Professor (Anatomic Pathology)

James Markert, Professor (Cell Biology, Physiology & Biophysics); Engineering Herpes Simplex Viruses for the Therapy of Cancer 

Michael A. Miller, Assistant Professor (Cell Biology); Function and evolution of intercellular communication mechanisms 

Joanne Murphy-Ullrich, Professor (Cell Biology, Pathology); Extracellular Matrix Control of Cell and Growth Factor Function 

Thomas T. Norton, Professor (Vision Sciences); Animal Models of Myopia - Retinal Control of Eye Size 

John Parant, Assistant Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); regulation as well as cause of genomic instability in cancer and other diseases

Boris Pasche, Professor and Director (Cell Biology, Medicine); The role of Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-beta) in cancer development and progression, The biological effects of amplitude-modulated electromagnetic fields, The role of variants of the adiponectin pathway in cancer development

Rakesh Patel, Associate Professor (Pathology); Modulation of Inflammation by Reactive Species 

Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Professor (Pathology); Adeno-associated virus gene therapy 

Meredith Preuss, Assistant Professor (Medicine)

Kevin P. Raisch, Assistant Professor (Radiation Oncology);

Matthew B. Renfrow, Assistant Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics);

Kevin Roth, Professor and Chair (Pathology); Molecular Regulation of Neuronal Cell Death 

Ralph D. Sanderson, Professor (Pathology); Role of Heparan Sulfate and Heparanase in Regulating the Tumor Microenvironment 

Rosa Serra, Professor (Cell Biology); Mechanism of TGF-ß Action in Developmental and Disease Processes 

Bingdong Sha, Professor (Cell Biology); Structural and functional studies of proteins involved in protein folding and translocations 

Anath Shalev, Professor (Medicine); Molecular biology of diabetes, beta cell biology, apoptosis, oxidative stress, transcriptional regulation of gene expression, diabetes complications

Sadeep Shrestha, Assistant Professor (Epidemiology); Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Genetic Epidemiology

Gene Siegal, Endowed Professor (Cell Biology, Pathology); Gene therapy of solid tumors 

Yuhua Song, Assistant Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics); Multiscale Modeling in Biology and Biomechanics

Theresa Strong, Associate Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Genetics, Medicine); Identification of Tumor Antigens and Development of Cancer Vaccines 

Jianming Tang, Associate Professor (Medicine, Microbiology); Genetic and Epigenetic Correlates of Infection and Immunity 

Jaideep V. Thottassery, Assistant Professor (Pathology)

Laura Timares, Assistant Professor (Cell Biology, Pathology); Engineering Dendritic Cells for Immunotherapy 

Robert van Waardenburg, Assistant Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); Drug interaction, cancer pharmacology     

Hengbin Wang, Assistant Professor (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics); Role of Histone Modification in Chromatin Function 

Hui Xu, Associate Professor (Dermatology, Pathology); contact hypersensitivity, mechanisms of elicitation 

Yang Yang, Assistant Professor (Pathology); Targeting heparan sulfate for myeloma therapy 

Karina Yoon, Assistant Professor (Pharmacology and Toxicology); Drug interaction, cancer pharmacology     

Nabiha Yusuf, Instructor (Dermatology)

Majd Zayzafoon, Assistant Professor (Pathology, Physiology & Biophysics); The Role of Calcium Signaling in the genetic and epigenetic pathogenesis of disease 

Theme Information

The goal of the Cancer Biology Program is to train the next generation of cancer biologists so that they will make significant contributions to basic and clinical research. Students will receive training over a broad base–integrating molecular, cellular, biochemical and biological experimental approaches. Combinations of courses, seminars, small group discussions and hands-on research provide each student with a customized dissertation experience. Students will have opportunities to work with outstanding investigators throughout the UAB campus in the areas of tumor microenvironment, metastasis, cancer genetics, stem cells, gene therapy of cancer, pharmacology/toxicology, signaling and tumor immunology. Successful graduates will have a firm foundation upon which they can build careers in academia, research institutions, industry or government.

Students are expected to complete the entire program in four or five years. During the first year, students will participate in the GBS core curriculum and will begin more specialized training by exploring potential laboratories in which they may do their dissertation research as well as courses representing the multiple disciplines involved in cancer research. A course focusing on "classic papers" in cancer research will set the stage for modern approaches to studying the disease. Following three laboratory rotations, each student will select a mentor for his/her dissertation research. Following the core curriculum, students will begin specialized cancer research electives.

During the second year, students will complete their specialized courses and will participate in journal clubs and special topics curricula. After the second year, cancer biology students will write a proposal for their dissertation research and presented to their graduate advisory committee for approval. The focus following advancement to candidacy is hands-on research, although students can elect to participate in other advanced courses that will round out their education or provide opportunities to expand the research.

Admission Requirements

A baccalaureate degree in the natural or physical sciences is required. Undergraduate level courses in organic and analytical chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry and genetics are strongly encouraged.  Undergraduate mathematics through calculus and physics are also recommended. See individual Program Admissions information for program-specific required or recommended courses.

The Graduate School recommends that entering students have a minimum grade point average (>GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and a minimum combined verbal/quantitative score on the Graduate Record Exam (>GRE) of 1100. As the scoring system changes with the implementation of the new GRE format, the Graduate School will make adjustments to reflect a minimum total score.

International students must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (>TOEFL) earned within the last two years.  Applicants with scores of 600 (paper-based) or 250 (computer-based) or higher will be considered.

Undergraduate or postgraduate >research experience is extremely helpful.

Applications are reviewed by the GBS Admissions Committee, representing all GBS thematic programs. >Acceptance will be based on a combination of factors including:

  • Undergraduate performance (both the curriculum and grade point average)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
  • A personal statement of research and career interests
  • Previous research experience
  • Personal interview, at program expense (international applicants may be interviewed by phone or video conference)

Admission to our Programs is very competitive and the number of positions is limited; thus not every qualified applicant can be offered a position.

Financial Support

All students accepted into GBS programs receive a competitive annual stipend and fully paid tuition and fees. Single coverage health insurance is also provided at no cost to the student through VIVA Health UAB.

The annual stipend for the 2011-2012 academic year is $26,000. The total annual award value, including stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance is $37,500. Stipends are reviewed and updated regularly.

First-year students are funded through the Cancer Biology Graduate Program by Graduate School Fellowships and occasionally by other national and University fellowships. In subsequent years, students are supported through their advisor's research grants, institutional funds or training grants. In addition, highly qualified students are encouraged to apply for individual fellowship awards, with the guidance of their advisors. See Fellowships and Awards for additional fellowship information and resources.

Additional Information

Deadline for Entry Term(s):

Consult Program Director for information

Deadline for All Application Materials to be in the Graduate School Office:

Domestic Applications: March 1, 2013

International Applications: January 15, 2013

Number of Evaluation Forms Required:


Entrance Tests (University Code: 1856)

GRE (TOEFL and TWE also required for international applicants whose native language is not English.)

For detailed information, contact:

Rosa Serra, Ph.D.
Director, UAB Cancer Biology Graduate Program
205.934.0842 (office)
205.975.5648 (fax)
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