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The mission of the Department of Cancer Biology is to conduct cutting-edge and innovative research in the basic mechanisms of cancer at molecular, cellular, genetic, and genomic levels; to promote collaboration with clinical investigators and translate basic discovery into novel diagnosis and therapies in the clinic; and to provide outstanding education to the next generation of cancer researchers.


Our vision is to be a national leader in the effort to reduce cancer patient suffering and mortality through outstanding research that establishes foundations for new therapeutics.


We value dedication, innovation, collaboration, and excellence in all our research, educational, and service endeavors.


The Department of Cancer Biology traces its roots to the Department of Anatomy in the early days of the College of Medicine, almost 100 years ago. The Department of Anatomy at the College of Medicine was originally established to provide the medical students with their basic training in Anatomy. Moving forward, Roger Crafts was recruited as director of the Department of Anatomy in the early 1950's. He was well known nationally as an expert in gross anatomy and he built the department around teachers of gross anatomy.  He also authored one of the most used textbooks in gross anatomy.

In the 1970's, Dr. Robert Daniels, a visionary dean, embarked upon strengthening the research endeavors at the College of Medicine and recruited strong chairs for the basic science departments, including the Department of Anatomy. Thus, in 1979, Dr. Robert Cardell, an eminent cell biologist and a protégé of Dr. Keith Porter, took over the chairmanship of the department from Dr. Crafts.

In quick succession, Dr. Cardell recruited several faculty members with interests in cell and molecular biology and soon the department acquired a new name, the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. In the ensuing years, several neurobiology investigators were recruited which strengthened the research focus in neurobiology as well as cell biology–the department underwent another name change (Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy), which better reflected its strengths in research and teaching.

During this period, a vibrant graduate program was developed, which became an important component of the research endeavors. In a relatively short time, the department had achieved such heights in both research and education that nationally it was in the company of the top anatomy and cell biology departments.

In 1994, Dr. Peter Stambrook became the acting chair of the department and assumed the chairmanship two years later. Soon after that, a critical decision was made to build a state-of-the-art research building on the medical campus to boost research using contemporary molecular approaches. 

The University of Cincinnati leadership recruited the highly acclaimed modern architect, Frank Gehry, to build the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies. Dr. Stambrook played a pivotal role in getting space for the department as its principal occupant. In the following years, Dr. Stambrook recruited several talented faculty members with interests in cancer and cell biology and kept the department in the path of cutting-edge research. 

Reflecting its new research focus, the department’s name was changed to the Department of Cancer and Cell Biology.

In 2002, the department was honored to welcome Dr. Elwood Jensen as a professor. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and discoverer of estrogen receptor, Dr. Jensen’s recruitment to UC College of Medicine added to its national prominence. While at UC, Dr. Jensen won the Inaugural Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research in 2002, Komen’s Brinker International Award for Breast Cancer Research in 2002 and Lasker Award (the American Nobel) in 2004. He remained on the department faculty roster as a University Distinguished Professor until his passing in 2012.

In 2007, a group of cancer researchers working at what was then the Genome Research Institute (now the Reading Campus) and several others from the Department of Surgery were relocated to the Vontz and incorporated into the Cancer and Cell Biology Department.

Dr. Jorge Moscat led the department briefly and upon his departure, Dr. Jerry Lingrel, a longtime successful leader at the UC College of Medicine and former chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, served as interim chair of the department for several years.

Dr. Jun-Lin Guan served as chair of the department from 2013 until 2023. During this time, Dr. Guan doubled the amount of research funding and improved the department’s ranking by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. In 2020, the department formed the Breast Cancer Research Program to advance the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease and the development of next-generation diagnostics and therapeutics. A year later, the department successfully implemented a new master’s program in Cancer and Cell Biology.

Dr. Michael Lieberman, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, became interim chair of the department Sept. 1, 2023.

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Department of Cancer Biology

Vontz Center for Molecular Studies
3125 Eden Avenue
PO Box 670521
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0521

Mail Location: 0521
Phone: 513-558-5323
Fax: 513-558-1190
Email: Cancer Biology