Cancer Biology

Cancer Biology

Scientific Goals: To Understand Molecular Drivers of Cancer

The Cancer Biology program is the foundation of basic science research at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Researchers study the role of the tumor microenvironment in shaping cancer progression and therapeutic response.The Cancer Biology Program employs innovative approaches to discover critical genetic, molecular and cellular regulators of cancer initiation, progression and response to therapy. Members collaborate with other Knight Cancer Institute Programs to facilitate translation of novel discoveries to therapeutic opportunities toward personalized medicine, and concepts from our research to detect cancers destined to become lethal earlier, prevent progression of early cancers to a lethal stage and more durably control advanced cancers. The Program supports and facilitates research in three thematic areas:
  1. Signal Transduction: cellular signaling pathways and their relevance towards regulation of normal (diploid) and neoplastic cell survival, migration and response to therapy. 
  2. Carcinogenesis / Genetic Instability: cell cycle checkpoint control, DNA damage and repair pathways, and mechanisms of genetic (in)stability in cancer.  
  3. Tumor microenvironment: stromal, immune, and vascular cell interactions with neoplastic cells that direct proliferation/survival, tumor evolution, and drug resistance, and targets for therapy.  

Cancer Biology uses multiple mechanisms to stimulate and support research in thematic areas including:
  • Development and support of state-of-the-art in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models
  • Recruitment of a multidisciplinary faculty focused on preclinical translation
  • Organization of discipline-specific and multidisciplinary symposia, retreats, seminars and educational workshops 
  • Development of a Cancer Biology graduate curriculum
  • Support for pilot projects to advance methodologies to stimulate collaborations between Cancer Biology members and members of other research programs
  • Development of private sector collaborations that provide access to state-of-the-art technologies, reagents and methodologies and commercialization opportunities
  • Development of biomarkers to be vetted for early detection and prevention of recurrent disease
  • Collaboration with clinical scientists and those skilled in data acquisition, management and analysis to support the clinical programs


Cancer Biology Program Co-Leaders
Melissa Wong, Ph.D.         Lisa M. Coussens, Ph.D.
Melissa Wong Headshot                 Lisa Coussens Headshot