Cancer Biology Program

The Cancer Biology Program, led by director Nathan A. Ellis, PhDserves as the primary basic science arm of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. The research done in the Cancer Biology Program has one primary focus: to discover and understand how cancer works at the most fundamental levels–how normal cells turn malignant or how tumor cells grow and spread–in order to put a stop to it.

>>Learn more about the Cancer Biology Program.

Understanding the biological mechanisms that govern normal and abnormal cellular processes allows our researchers to search for new tests for early detection, better diagnostic methods using biological markers and more effective, less toxic treatment and prevention strategies.

The Cancer Biology Program approaches discovery through disease-focused areas—such as the breast, ovary and prostate—in order to study the different ways cancer can develop and spread throughout the body.

>>Cancer Biology Membership.

Researchers also focus on cutting-edge studies to get us closer to the future of healthcare– personalized medicine–by identifying specific molecular and genetic targets. Cancer Biology Program members look for opportunities to translate laboratory discoveries into real-world strategies for cancer prevention and treatment through clinical trials.

Women's Cancers

Setsuko K. Chambers, MD, leads a multidisciplinary team of doctors and researchers directed toward the comprehensive care of all women’s cancers. The new division is composed of gynecologic oncologists, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, psychiatrists, and translational and basic researchers. This combination of expertise allows for novel ideas and innovative approaches.

Precision Medicine


Thanks to technological advances provided by the Ion Torrent Proton sequencing platform, Bernard Futscher, PhD, and George Watts, PhD, and their Genomics Core facility are sequencing whole exomes from patient specimens and experimental models to identify alterations in the coding sequence of the genome that may be responsible for disease. The Genomics Core is partnering with clinicians to offer precision medicine to patients.

Drug Discovery

Anne Cress, PhD, is among a team of doctors researching the role cell adhesion molecules (integrins) may play in driving the spread of prostate cancer. Through their research, they determined that HYD1—a D-amino acid peptide—may potentially be used as an anti-cancer agent and adhesion inhibitor without causing damage to the healthy cells surrounding the area.