Masters in Oncology/Cancer Biology in USA: Research Topics and Universities

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and a major health issue. In the USA, the approximate cancer death rate is 158.3 per 100,000 men and women per year. Cancer Biology is the study of this global threat. In this article, we will look at the trending research topics and top universities for Masters in Oncology and Cancer Biology in USA.

Speaking of cancer, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of the book

“The Emperor of all Maladies” wrote:

“If we, as a species, are the ultimate product of Darwinian selection, then so, too, is this incredible disease that lurks inside us.”   

What is Oncology and Cancer Biology?      

Cancer biology is the science of studying the phenomenon by which normal cells of our body multiply to unusual numbers and grow to abnormal dimensions, barring all checkpoints.

Cancer research is the interdisciplinary approach aimed to probe the underlying principles of this anomaly in an attempt to target them for better disease prognosis. It can be broadly classified under two main heads: basic and applied.

The bigger picture here is to answer four very fundamental questions and devise a quasi-universal therapy for cent percent cure.

  • Why (and how) is a cancer cell different from a normal one (etiologymechanisms)?
  • What triggers a normal cell to transform?
  • Why do cancerous lesions (tumours) spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body?
  • What causes relapse post years of treatment?

What makes Cancer Biology so intriguing?

Going by textbook definitions, there can be various causes of cancer: from genetic predispositions to lifestyle choices to previous exposure to radiation and foreign substances.

However, none of these can unambiguously account for its occurrence, progression, and subsequent recurrence following remission and recovery.

The disease remains a partly-solved mystery that biomedical researchers and medical doctors all across the world are still working on. The main reasons are its asymptomatic nature (in its early stage) making timely detection difficult and promiscuousness (spreading to places other than its origin) surpassing basic principles of biology.

Why are Cancer Treatments not always successfull?

In spite of therapy, relapse results in a poor prognosis and/or a drastic drop in the quality of life after treatment, statistically speaking. From a biomedical perspective, organ specificity (hence treatment sophistication) of cancer aggravates this malady, making it one of the biggest global healthcare challenges of recent times.

Treatment approaches (invasive yet selective) are essentially different when treating a lung cancer patient from a liver cancer patient, for instance. Targeted therapy although apparently successful results in non-specific detrimental side effects to which patients succumb occasionally (sooner or later).

How to kill a cancer cell and only a group of them without harming the normal ones?

This raises the need for breakthrough (collaborative) research that would help the medical community deal better with this nonconforming disease and ameliorate its effects on health and welfare.

One of the most cutting-edge specializations of the 21st century, cancer research is therefore backed by funding from various sectors starting from the National Institute of Health, USA to Cancer Research, the UK with the ultimate goal of cancer prevention, cure, and awareness through multidisciplinary research.

How to Prepare for Masters in Cancer Biology in USA?

Undergraduate Education

Any undergraduate pursuing bachelors in any stream of basic biology or chemistry can aspire for an MS in cancer biology. It is mandatory to have hands-on expertise if you want to opt for an MS in basic and/or applied cancer research abroad.

Cancer Biology Internships in India

Institutes offering internships to bachelor students in India are:

  • Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), Mumbai
  • National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) Bangalore
  •  Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore
  • Indian institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) Bangalore
  • Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) Bangalore
  • National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) Pune
  • National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS) Pune
  • Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Institute (CNCI) Kolkata
  • Bose Institute Kolkata
  • Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) Kolkata

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Masters (MS) in Cancer Biology in USA

Why Pursue Cancer Biology in USA?

USA is a hub for cancer research in biomedical sciences. Cancer research is funded by various sources with allocations to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of around US$ 7 billion. The cancer industry’s worth is approximately US$ 100 billion.

Projected Revenue for Drugs for Cancer Biology in USA
Source: Statista

Trending Cancer Biology Research Topics in USA

  • Cancer Genomics and Gene Therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Nanotechnology and Drug Delivery
  • Translational Medicine
  • Drug Resistance and Relapse
  • Cell-based Therapy
  • Computational and Systems Oncology
  • Prevention and Palliative Medicine

Top Research Universities for Cancer Biology in USA

The US is the mecca of Cancer Research. As per, top universities for MS or MS-PhD in cancer research are the following:

  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Cornell University
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • University of California –San Francisco
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Michigan Ann- Arbor
  • Stanford University
  • Duke University
  • Yale University
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago

Other Top Universities for Masters (MS) in Cancer Biology in USA:

  • Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
  • University of Utah College of Medicine
  • Drexel University School of Medicine
  • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • University of Arizona College of Medicine

MS Cancer Biology in USA Eligibility

The eligibility criteria comprise-

  • Overall good grades – more than 70% or corresponding CGPA
  • Some US universities have specifications on the duration of bachelors curriculum – 3 years vs 4 years. It is important to check on the admissions requirements of each university
  • Additionally, you will also require TOEFL/IELTS scores and GRE scores (GRE is mandatory for selective universities)

Related Article: Top MS Biotechnology / Biomedical Programs in USA without GRE

Job Market in Cancer Biology in USA

The world of cancer therapeutics is a subject and industry of its own, blooming by the minute. The “All or none” principle fails in treating this pathological condition, cancer cells employ cleverer survival strategies than man can.

Academic, clinical, and industrial collaborations have narrowed the gap between them opening a plethora of career opportunities for scientists from various disciplines. Deductive research by academia is essentially complemented by translational medicine in the prevention of cancer.

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Cancer Biology Salary after MS in USA

There are many options to choose from- one is to pursue a PhD and two is to enter into the oncology vertical within the pharmaceuticals industry. The average starting salary ranges from US$ 60-80K or higher per annum depending on academic or private sectors.

Cancer treatment is exorbitantly expensive because of the drugs used for its treatment. The cancer therapy market is thus supported by global turnovers of a billion US dollars and is expected to rise in the coming years. Leading pharmaceutical companies get most of their revenues from the cancer therapeutics repertoire.

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