• Module Specifics

    The Cancer Problem

    • The worldwide cancer problem
    • Introduction to clinical cancer problems
    • Neoplasia and the pathology of cancer
    • Introduction to cancer epidemiology
    • Introduction to cancer therapy
    • The 10 most important cancer research papers published in the past year
    • Hallmarks of cancer, a central paradigm of cancer biology

    Characteristic Biology of Tumors and Cancer Cells

    • Cell proliferation and cell cycle control
    • Oncogenes and signal transduction
    • Inherited predisposition
    • p53 and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Epigenetics
    • Programmed cell death
    • Mitochondria and metabolism
    • Tumor microenvironment
    • Invasion and metastasis (epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT))
    • Protein homeostasis and autophagy
    • Tumor heterogeneity and clonal evolution
    • Non-coding RNAs and cancer
    • Mutational signatures
    • RNA expression profiles

    Prevention and Risk Identification

    • Epidemiology and cancer risk identification
    • Environmental carcinogenesis
    • Diet, obesity and cancer
    • Global tobacco epidemic
    • Tobacco control strategies
    • HPV vaccine and how it works
    • Potential impact of the oncovirus vaccine across the globe

    State-of-the-Art Approaches to Cancer Study 

    • Animal models: from mouse to man
    • Zebrafish models of cancer
    • Cell Lines, NCI 60, CCLE and newly derived lines
    • Human tumor models

    Therapy and Drug Development

    • Cytotoxics
    • Surgical therapy
    • Radiation therapy
    • Pharmacodynamics
    • Pharmacokinetics
    • Small molecule discovery and chemical biology
    • Clinical trials: IRB and Phases I, II and III
    • Government oversight
    • Challenges and opportunities in development of molecularly defined basket trials
    • From -Omics to target identification
    • Drug discovery: nanotechnology, targeting and RNA therapeutics
    • Opportunities and challenges in developing first-in-class innovative agents
    • Development of biomarkers for precision cancer medicine
    • Antibody-based therapeutics in oncology
    • Innovation: new therapeutic strategies
    • Therapeutic targeting of ubiquitin ligase activity
    • Polymeric nanoparticles: tumor microenvironment variability and implications for new nanoparticle design and development
    • Role of venture capital in the creation of new oncology therapeutics companies
    • Case Studies:
      • The CML story
      • The BCL-2 inhibitor story
      • Proteasome inhibitors: discovery and development of Velcade


    • Immunology as a basis to understand immunotherapy
    • Immunogenomics: neoantigens to vaccines
    • Rational targeting of Hodgkin disease with immuno-oncology approaches
    • Clinical trials for immunotherapy
    • Mouse models for immunotherapeutics
    • Immuno-oncology aspects and function of myeloid cells
    • CAR-T cells
    • Discovery of novel targets for cancer immunotherapy
    • T cell exhaustion
    • Next-generation immunotherapy companies

    Infection from Carcinogenic Organisms

    • Infectious causes of cancer overview
    • Viral oncology: RNA viruses and oncogenes
    • Viral oncology: DNA viruses and tumor suppressor genes
    • EBV: the first human cancer virus
    • Hepatocellular cancer: the role of viruses and inflammation 

    Breast Cancer

    • Cellular and molecular heterogeneity in breast cancer
    • Clinical predispositions to breast and ovarian cancer
    • Breast cancer screening
    • Breast cancer triple negative
    • HER2-driven breast cancer
    • Hormone-responsive breast cancer
    • Breast cancer metastasis and metastatic niches
    • Disparities in breast cancer 

    Cervical Cancer

    • Cervical cancer: historical perspectives
    • Cervical cancer: clinical perspectives
    • Cervical cancer screening

    Lung Cancer

    • Introduction to lung cancer
    • Genomic approaches in lung cancer
    • Identifying and overcoming resistance to therapy in cancers
    • Lung cancer: resistance to targeted therapies and impact on therapeutic strategies
    • Combination therapies in lung cancer
    • RAS, lung cancer and the hunt for new therapeutic strategies

    Childhood Leukemia and Young Adult Solid Tumors

    • Childhood leukemia
    • Young adult cancers

    Leukemia and Lymphoma

    • Hematological malignancies
    • Hematological disorders
    • Transplantation therapies
    • Hematological stem cells
    • Leukemia-initiating cells
    • The leukemic niche
    • Targeted therapy: CML and Gleevec
    • Myeloid neoplasms (AML, MDS, Pmpns)
    • Role of genetics and clonal evolution
    • CLL
    • B-cell lymphomas (including Hodgkin lymphoma)
    • Plasma cell neoplasms 

    Colon Cancer

    • Clinical introduction to colon cancer
    • Progression and tumor evolution
    • Screening for colon cancer


    • Melanoma
    • DNA damage and repair
    • BRAF therapy
    • Immunotherapy in melanoma
  • Choose Your Track

    All participants can customize their educational experience to align with their specific research interests and career goals. Participants choose from one of the following four tracks for more in-depth study and skills advancement. Each track is led by two Harvard faculty members—experts in these specific disciplines.

    Note: Participants may audit a second track with permission from the program directors.

    Cancer -Omics. This track is designed for individuals with interest in the deep characterization of tumors and their microenvironment for those who want to learn more about cutting-edge developments in technology that are now being applied to cancer diagnostics and therapy.

    It explores the biology and evolution of tumors and their microenvironment; use of high-throughput technology platforms for genetic, genomic, epigenetic, proteomic and RNA expression analysis; functional screens using RNAi and CRISPR; and protein detection and location using CyTOF and CycIF.

    Clinically Challenging Cancers. This track is designed for clinical researchers who would like to concentrate on new strategies for difficult-to-treat cancers or for basic or population researchers who may want to understand complicated clinical problems. This area of focus explores cancers that are difficult to treat, why these difficulties exist and what might be done to combat them.

    Risk and Prevention. This track is designed for scientists who are interested in the cutting-edge problems of risk identification and prevention or for those who want to apply their knowledge to tackle these difficult problems. This area of focus explores the identification of cancer risks, the etiology of risks and advances in prevention strategies, including behavior modification and cancer vaccines.

    Therapeutic Development. This area of focus explores the identification of unmet clinical needs, the latest advances in biological and small molecule therapeutic development, new types of clinical trials, and bringing personalized medicine to the commercial application.

  • Optional Electives

    This program offers two optional skills-advancement electives. Subject to availability, participants may enroll in either elective after acceptance into the program.


    In this optional elective, participants will gain writing experience through a series of special writing exercises that are assigned throughout the course. These include group writing assignments and individual papers.

    Some participants may additionally elect to hone their oral presentation skills. These individuals will receive one-on-one tutoring and participate in a 1.5 day workshop with senior leaders of the Harvard cancer research community. It culminates with an oral presentation of each participant's personalized capstone project.

    Leadership and Management Elective

    Starting midway between the first and second workshops, individuals who opt to participate in this elective workshop will begin a special series of lectures and discussion groups that present leadership and management best practices.

    Participants will then engage in a one-day, interactive workshop to gain experience with these practices.

    The following subjects will be covered:

    • Managing people
    • Diversity
    • Unconscious bias
    • Personality assessment
    • Giving feedback
    • Negotiation skills
    • Mentorship


    Workshop space is limited and assigned or reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. No additional fees are required to participate in either elective.

    If each participant opts to participate in either workshop, they must successfully complete the workshop requirements in order to pass the program and receive the program certificate.

  • Optional Capstone Project

    In the second half of the program, participants will have the option to write a paper—his or her capstone project for the program. 

    Examples of recent capstone projects include:

    • A grant proposal to a funding group of relevance to the participant’s research interest
    • A clinical protocol appropriate for the participant’s institution
    • The science section of a business plan designed to highlight a particular commercial opportunity
    • A critical review of an important recent paper or development in the cancer research community
    • A subject review suitable for submission and publication

    Other types of papers will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    The subject of this paper is chosen by the participant in collaboration with a faculty mentor. Mentors are chosen by the program directors based on the mentor’s expertise in the student’s general area of interest. Mentors will provide guidance including:

    • Counseling and providing assistance in choosing the subject for the project
    • Providing feedback on the paper’s outline
    • Reviewing the first and final drafts of the project and providing guidance to help optimize its value to each participant and/or their institution