Cancer Biology

The objective of the Cancer Biology (CB) program is to improve cancer care through a better understanding of the basic biological processes that cause cancer development and progression.

Program Aims

As of June 2023

Characterize the genetic, epigenetic, and post-transcriptional events driving malignancy

Cancer Biology members are using state-of-the-art techniques in genomics, 3D chromatin structure, systems biology, and gene ontology to define how mutations and epigenetic events drive malignancy. These studies are generating a new understanding of how normal cells are transformed, progress toward malignancy, and become resistant to therapy.

Identify structural and functional determinants of cancer drivers

Empowered by nuclear magnetic resonance, electron paramagnetic resonance, X-ray crystallography, and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) technologies, Cancer Biology members are identifying the atomic-level structural and functional features of proteins that drive or influence tumorigenesis, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance. These studies provide novel insights into how driver proteins fold and interact with other proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids to form supra-molecular complexes, opening new possibilities for developing novel therapeutic strategies to target them.

Define and elucidate cancer regulatory mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment

Cancer Biology members are defining and understanding how metabolic and bioenergetic signatures in tumor cells and other cells in the tumor microenvironment, including immune cells, fibroblasts, and cells in the neural-tumor axis, contribute to cancer. This research delineates how events in the tumor microenvironment impact immune surveillance, tumor progression, and metastasis, and is being translated into novel therapeutic avenues to treat or control cancer.

Program Leaders


Wei Liu, PhD

Joseph F. Heil, Jr. Endowed Chair of Molecular Oncogenesis Associate Professor


Carol L. Williams, PhD

Joan K. Van Deuren Professor in Breast Cancer Research; Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology