Division of BioMedical Sciences

Programs of Study - Cancer and Development

The Cancer Research Group offers a comprehensive graduate program leading to the MSc and PhD degrees. The group is made up of 12 core scientists from the Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine.

The research interests of the members are in the Molecular and Cell Biology of cancer and offer graduate students the opportunity to gain strong research skills and experience. Fundamental cell and molecular biological questions are addressed, with investigative approaches including viral oncogenesis, growth factors and oncogenes in developmental models, programmed cell death and drug resistance. Colleagues from the Division of Community Health and clinicians from the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation (NCTRF) and the St. John's HealthCare Corporation, bring a great deal of experience and interest in clinical trials, pediatric oncology, epidemiology and cancer imaging/screening and diagnosis and participate in courses offered by the Cancer research group.

Students must be accepted by a faculty supervisor in order to enter the program. The supervisory committee will be chosen in consultation with the supervisor. For each student, the supervisory committee meets on a regular basis to monitor research and academic progress. The specific topic for research is selected by the student in consultation with the supervisor and the supervisory committee. All students are required to attend, for credit, and participate in the Cancer Research Journal Club (Cancer Seminars, Medicine 6400-6403; 6410-6413) for a minimum of four semesters. One other graduate course is required for MSc students and recommended for PhD students. These are minimum requirements; other courses may be required in individual cases.

Normally, all students entering the PhD program must have completed MSc level course requirements. Upon admission to the PhD program a student must take the comprehensive examination before the end of the seventh semester according to the General Regulations governing graduate studies at Memorial. The comprehensive exam will consist of a written and an oral component. The specific areas to be examined will be chosen by an examination committee in consultation with the student's supervisor.


Candidates admitted to the Cancer Research Program must have, at least, a bachelor's degree with a second class standing. All the courses listed below have, as a prerequisite, successful completion of an advanced, upper-level biochemistry, biology or medical course, with an emphasis on molecular biology or medicine.

Medicine 6400, 6401, 6402, 6403 -- Cancer Seminars for MSc Students I-IV
Medicine 6410, 6411, 6412, 6413 -- Cancer Seminars for PhD Students I-IV

Medicine 6580 -- Molecular Biology of Cancer
The following areas are covered: Etiology of cancer, including oncogenes, viruses, cytogenetic aberrations, chemical and radiation carcinogenesis. Cancer biology, including tumor growth, properties of malignant cells, multi-drug resistance, hormones and cancer, metastasis, immunological aspects; molecular biology of cancer treatment, including molecular principles of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and gene therapy.

Medicine 6590 -- Molecular Biology I (cross-listed as Biochemistry 6590, Biology 6200)
Specific topics may vary from year to year, but generally include: The structure and organization of DNA and chromatin; genetics; the mechanism of DNA replication and repair; recombination; transcription; the structure/function of various cellular RNAs, recombinant DNA technology.

Medicine 6591 -- Molecular Biology II (cross-listed as Biochemistry 6591, Biology 6210)
Specific topics may vary from year to year, but generally include: Regulation of post-transcriptional RNA processing; ribosome structure; initiation, elongation and termination of protein synthesis; protein modification and subcellular targeting; growth factors and their receptors; signal transduction; transcriptional control, translational regulation; eukaryotic expression vectors.

Medicine 6340 and 6341 -- Research Topics in Cancer I and II
These are two courses where a student works under the direction of a faculty member generally other than his/her supervisor on a small research project not part of the student's degree program. The courses may be laboratory-oriented or may be based with a faculty member specializing in population and patient-based research. The aim is to provide the student with a broad background in research methods and to develop the capability for original and independent work in cancer or cancer-related research.

Medicine 6342 -- Basic Principle of the Pathology of Cancer
This course is designed to study common cancers with reference to:
i) nomenclature and general pathological characteristics of benign and malignant neoplasms; ii) epidemiology of the common cancers including incidence, environmental influences, hereditary and acquired pre-neoplastic disorders; iii) the molecular and cellular basis of cancer and its relevance to clinical practice; iv) characteristics of cancer growth in terms of the kinetics of tumor growth, tumor angiogenesis and mechanisms of local and distant spread; v) etiology of cancer including chemical carcinogenesis, radiation carcinogenesis and viral oncogenesis; vi) aspects of tumor immunology such as tumor antigens and immunosurveillance; vii) clinical features of cancer including the effects of tumor on the host, cancer cachexia, paraneoplastic syndromes and the laboratory diagnosis using histological, cytological and other methods.

Seminar Series

Program Seminars -- The Cancer Research Group hold a weekly seminar series during both fall and winter semesters. These sessions are devoted to, but not limited to, special topic presentation of current cancer-related literature, or ongoing research and technique workshops. Both faculty and graduate students will lead a discussion on issues of importance to any aspect of cancer research, and offer student both exposure to a broad selection of cancer and cancer research-related issues, and experience in oral presentations. Registration and participation in this course for four (4) semesters (i.e. students must register in each section in any order) is required of all students.

Visiting Speaker Series

Cancer Research Speaker Program -- Throughout the year, the Cancer Research Group invites notable researchers from Canada and elsewhere to describe their work in order to promote scientific exchange and to inform students and faculty of ongoing work in other institutions. This forum may, from time to time, be included in Cancer Seminars (Medicine 6400-6413).


University Fellowships -- University fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis to outstanding students by the School of Graduate Studies upon the recommendation of the Faculty of Medicine. Currently, MSc fellowships are valued at $12,500 and PhD fellowships are valued at $14,000 per annum.

Colman Graduate Student Award -- This award, valued at $1,000, is made annually to the graduate student in the Faculty of Medicine deemed to have excelled in all aspects of his/her program of study. Applications are accepted by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (Medicine) and should be accompanied by a letter of support from the student's supervisor.

Burness Graduate Student Award -- This prize, valued at up to $5,000, is awarded annually to the MSc student in the Faculty of Medicine deemed to have excelled in all aspects of his/her program of study. Applications are accepted by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (Medicine) and should be accompanied by a letter of support from the student's supervisor.

Mary Pater Award for excellence in Cancer Research -- Awarded to the graduate student who gives the best presentation judged in an annual research forum held at the end of the Winter semester. The participants of the forum are judged both on their research results and quality of their presentation. The award is presented by the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies upon the recommendation of the program coordinator.

Graduate Program 

Inquiries concerning the Cancer and Development Program may be directed to:
Melissa Dalton, Academic Program Assistant
Phone:  (709) 864-4963; Email:  m.dalton@mun.ca
Fax (709) 864-6007 

Participating Faculty

  • Church, J., PhD (Toronto): Mechanisms of EGF-medicated signal transduction; EGF-mediated growth inhibition; Breast cancer and communications research.
  • Dore, Jules, Ph.D:  Regulation of Cell Growth.
  • Dorward, Ann M.  PhD:  Mouse models of reproductive disorders and cancer;  genetic and epigenetic regulation.
  • Esseltine, JL. PhD: Cell-cell communication in human stem cells; modelling NL genetic diseases using stem cells
  • Gendron, Robert, PhD: Regulation of blood vessels in development and disease.
  • Gillespie, L. PhD (Ottawa): Molecular mechanism of signal transduction during growth factor/oncogene-induced cell differentiation; Identification of early response genes to fibroblast growth factor.
  • Hirasawa, Kensuke, PhD (Tokyo): Interaction of cellular signalling pathways and viral replication.
  • Kao, Ken.R., PhD (Toronto): Development of the vertebrate embryo -- the role of the Rel proto-oncogene in the formation of the nervous system of amphibians.
  • Kovacs, Chris, M.D. Regulation of fetal-placental calcium and bone metabolism.    
  • Paterno, G. PhD (Ottawa): Role of growth factor-related oncogenes in development; Characterization of pattern formation genes.
  • Paradis, H., PhD: Mechanisms of cellular differentiation perturbed during cancer; role of a novel acetyltransferase in development and pediatric cancers.