Cancer Biology, PhD - Career Outcomes

Our cancer biology program is the only PhD-granting program in the region with the translational aspects of cancer biology in its curriculum, covering the latest on cancer prevention and therapy. This multidisciplinary approach provides a solid grounding in the basic mechanisms of cancer biology and a cellular, molecular, and biochemical understanding of the cancer cell. Intellectual property issues and the cancer drug discovery process are integrated into the overall curricular design.

Hands-on work at the Wistar-USciences Molecular Screening Facility provides an introduction to high-throughput approaches in therapeutic discovery and development of robust, well-validated bioassays. Students acquire the lab experience and skills to help ensure success in future research.

Students within the program will gain an understanding of how the cancer cell works compared to normal cells and the strategies to employ for new therapeutic regimens. These are the skills in high demand in today’s research workforce. Students will have opportunities to focus their studies toward cellular, molecular, or bioassay development directions, depending on the chosen advisor(s) and research interests.

Whether the research is more basic or applied in nature, students will receive thorough experience in experimental design, the rigorous and ethical conduct of research, and robust analytical approaches. Interactions with the dedicated mentors and internationally recognized researchers at both USciences and Wistar provide students with the perspectives and approaches of two institutions focused on the common goal of cancer understanding and research.

Career Outlook

In the global fight against cancer, the USciences-Wistar cancer biology graduate program prepares students for some of the fastest-growing positions. With employment of medical scientists expected to increase by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, PhD researchers will be highly desirable for postdoctoral, staff scientist, faculty, and similar positions.

In academia and industry, medical research is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise and a significant generator of high-quality job opportunities. In 2010, overall research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget supported an estimated 404,700 jobs.

For research universities conducting basic and translational research and pharmaceutical companies developing drugs, cancer research is an urgent need and priority. Consider that:

  • One out of three women and one out of two men in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetimes.
  • Cancer will claim the lives of 17 million people by 2030.
  • Even without including direct costs of treatment, cancer’s economic toll worldwide is $895 billion annually—20 percent higher than that from any other disease.

In short, there are tremendous opportunities for researchers working toward a fundamental understanding of cancer processes, more effective cancer diagnostics, and novel therapies. The USciences-Wistar cancer biology graduate program prepares students to seize these opportunities - as  researchers engaged in hypothesis-driven research; innovators in therapeutic strategy, treatment, and design; and a variety of other professional positions across the cancer research spectrum.

Graduates of the program will be well-prepared to launch rewarding careers in academic, government, and industrial laboratories.


Ashani Weeraratna, PhD
Ira Brind Associate Professor
Associate Professor and Program Leader, Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program
Member, The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center


Wistar Institute
3601 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104