Jun 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, Ph.D.

College of Arts and Sciences  
Department: Molecular Biosciences

This Major shares core requirements with the Cancer Biology, Ph.D. Cancer Chemical Biology, Ph.D. ; and Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Ph.D.  


The Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy major consists of focused training in tumor immunology and cancer immunotherapy. Students will also receive interdisciplinary training in the broader field of cancer biology through coursework and immersion in the Moffitt Cancer Center’s research endeavors. The study of tumor immunology has led to major advances in the understanding of how tumors evade the immune system, resulting in multiple new immunotherapeutic modalities approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer patients. Students will have the opportunity to conduct innovative research at the molecular and cellular level to reveal opportunities to alter the course of tumor progression.

This Major will provide students a unique foundation of knowledge and practical experience in the rapidly advancing arena of cancer immunotherapy. Students will also train alongside individuals studying other areas of cancer biology, providing a broad base of understanding of cancer and increasing the potential for interdisciplinary research. Graduates of this major will be positioned to enter the technological workforce ready to discover and implement immunological advances that will have a key impact on cancer patient therapy.

The Major is a joint endeavor between the Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida. Moffitt Cancer Center is located on the campus of the University of South Florida and is a leading institution of basic research, clinical research, and patient treatment with a focused mission “to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.” The Moffitt Cancer Center is officially designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Major Research Areas

  • Research drives discoveries in cancer immunology through basic and translational research in five areas:
  • Tumor Immune Microenvironment (innate and adaptive regulatory mechanisms)
  • Immune Regulation in Cancer (metabolism, T cell checkpoints)
  • Vaccine-Based Therapies (Dendritic Cells, intralesional therapies)
  • Adoptive T Cell Therapy (TIL, CAR)
  • Hematological Diseases (MDS, graft-vs-host)

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements, as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

  • Extensive background in field of biology, immunology, or chemistry
  • GRE optional
  • Advanced coursework and research experience preferred

All Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Ph.D. students in good standing will receive a highly competitive stipend. All students also receive student health insurance coverage and direct payment in full of all required tuition and required fees. Please visit the Program’s website for current stipend levels.

Curriculum Requirements

All students are required to successfully complete all curriculum requirements of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy major. Dissertation Committees may require students to take additional course work if needed to correct deficiencies.  Students are required to achieve a minimum grade of B-minus in all Shared Core Requirements, Other Required Courses and the required elective course, and maintain an overall GPA of 3.00 (B) in order to remain in good standing.

Total Minimum Hours: 96 credit hours

  • Shared Core Requirements – 4 credit hours
  • Other Required Courses – 18 credit hours
  • Electives – 3 credit hours
  • Additional Requirements – 14 credit hours
  • Dissertation – 24 credit hours
  • Other Requirements – 33 credit hours

Shared Core Requirements (4 Credit Hours)

Other Required Courses (18 Credit Hours)

Electives* (3 Credit Hours)

*Graduate courses not on this list may be used with the approval of the Graduate Director.

Additional Requirements (14 Credit Hours)

Qualifying Exam

The required qualifying exam consists of a written research proposal and an oral defense of the proposal by the student.

Dissertation (24 Credit Hours)

Prior to the dissertation defense, students must have an original first-author research report accepted for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Other Requirements (33 Credit Hours)

Remaining credit hours required to meet the 96 hour minimum for graduation will consist of additional Dissertation hours (BSC 7980 Dissertation: Doctoral ), BSC 6939 Selected Topics in Cancer Biology , and/or Program approved electives.

During the first year, students will be required to complete laboratory rotations according to their interest. Laboratory rotations are 10 weeks each. Students doing rotations will need to enroll in the laboratory rotation course. If a student has not chosen a major professor after two semesters, they may enroll in an additional summer rotation. Rotations have several purposes. The foremost is to help the students choose a compatible major professor and an exciting research project. A second purpose is for students to develop necessary technical skills. Students will be evaluated by the host professor and the Graduate Advisor will assign a grade to each student at the end of the semester.