Cancer Biology, PhD - Curriculum & Duration

The didactic program will be comprised of core courses that will provide essential background in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, and biotechnology, as well as advanced graduate courses focusing on the basic mechanisms of cancer biology and drug discovery. Together, the approach integrates a learning platform combining an up-to-date basic mechanistic understanding of cancer pathways with more translational, disease-relevant topics in cancer therapy and drug discovery. The curriculum is designed to equip students to succeed in a multidisciplinary environment as both hypothesis-driven academic cancer researchers and industrial or academic discoverers.

Core Courses:

Course Number Course Name Credits
BS761 Advanced Cell Biology 3 credits
BS763 Cell Biology Methods 3 credits
BS764 Biotechnology 3 credits
BS765 Biotechnology Laboratory 2 credits
BS898 Graduate Seminar 1 credit
CH728 Advanced Biochemistry 3 credits
  Advanced Courses (minimum of 29 credits) 29 credits
  Other courses as required by research advisor and/or advisory committee  

Total Cancer Biology, PhD Requirement

44 credits

Advanced Courses

Course Number Course Name Credits
CB785 Introduction to Research 2-4 credits
CB811 Cancer   1 credit
CB812 Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer 1 credit
CB813 Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 1 credit
CB880 Molecular Screening 2 credits
CB890 Journal Club 0 credits in all semesters except 2 credits in student’s terminal semester
CB899 Doctoral Research 1-9 credits per semester—minimum of 20 credits

Program Requirements

All or most of the didactic coursework is completed within the first two years.

Other Requirements

  • Predoctoral students must pass written and oral comprehensive exams.
  • Publication of research papers in peer-reviewed journals as well as presentations at scientific conferences is expected.
  • As part of the comprehensive exams, students are expected to write and defend grants written in NIH format.
  • Writing and successfully defending a dissertation.

For a detailed description of the requirements, please see the Path to Your PhD page on The Wistar Institute site.


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