The goal of the Cancer Biology Program, led by Nathan Ellis, PhD, and Cynthia Miranti, PhD, is to identify etiologic mechanisms underlying cancer development. As the main basic-science-of-cancer platform for the University of Arizona Cancer Center, the Cancer Biology Program advances fundamental knowledge of the complex biological networks that are deranged in cancer and of interactions between these complex networks and the environment that promote cancer initiation and progression. The research done in the Cancer Biology Program has one primary focus: to discover and understand how cancer works at the most fundamental levels in order to devise approaches to cure and prevent it.

Understanding the foundational biological mechanisms that govern normal cell and cancer cell processes is critical for identification of targets against which new chemotherapeutic compounds could be developed, the creation of new tests for early detection of cancer, and the discovery of biological markers for diagnosis and prediction. The Cancer Biology Program is organized into three major themes based on the different pathologic features of cancer, including:

  • Elucidating the basic mechanisms that control tumor-relevant cell growth and proliferation
  • Identifying etiologic mechanisms in cancer initiation and progression
  • Determining how the tumor microenvironment influences progression, invasion, and metastasis