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The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is now offering a new PhD program dedicated to clinically relevant research in cancer biology.

Cancer center launches new PhD program in translational cancer biology

a view of the buildings at iu school of medicine

IU School of Medicine Indianapolis Campus

INDIANAPOLIS— The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is now offering a new PhD program dedicated to clinically relevant research in cancer biology. In the PhD in Translational Cancer Biology program, students will complete research alongside faculty mentors who are leading researchers at the cancer center.

“The cancer center’s National Cancer Institute designation—particularly as a comprehensive center—means we excel not only at research, but also in helping build the next generation of cancer researchers,” said Harikrishna Nakshatri, PhD, associate director of education at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of the translational cancer research doctoral program. “We need to make sure there is a strong workforce available, and this PhD program will help us create the workforce needed for future research and drug discovery.”

The IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 53 cancer centers in the nation to hold the prestigious comprehensive cancer center designation by the NCI. The center earned that designation, in part, because of its outstanding educational offerings.

This is the first PhD program in Indiana to focus on the clinical translation of cancer biology. Students enrolled in this program will have the opportunity to participate in clinical training such as shadowing oncologists and physician-scientists and observing tumor board reviews—opportunities uniquely available due to the program’s proximity to clinical care with IU School of Medicine.

Students will complete coursework and research that will translate to clinical applications for patients, including topics such as:

  • Cancer prevention and control
  • Cancer genomics
  • Biomarkers of cancer progression
  • Developing novel therapies for specific cancers
  • The impact of cancer on quality of life
  • Improving the quality of life for survivors

“We know that research cures cancer, and this program will cultivate the brilliant minds we need in our labs to develop tomorrow’s cures,” said Kelvin Lee, MD, director of the cancer center. “This program will uniquely prepare investigators to understand how lab research translates to patient treatments and outcomes.”

The first cohort of students will begin the program in fall 2023. Students pursuing this degree will apply through the IU School of Medicine Indiana Biomedical Gateway (IBMG) Program, which provides a shared first-year experience for all IU School of Medicine biomedical science PhD program students. Following that first year of coursework, students can choose the translational cancer biology PhD program. Students who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree and are interested in pursuing cancer biology research can apply.

The 90-credit-hour program will take approximately five years to complete. Learn more about the program.


IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.