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Research Programs at Upstate Cancer Center

SUNY Upstate Cancer Center currently has three Research Programs that support a wide range of investigations on cancer, ranging from molecular mechanisms and novel experimental drugs to studies on patient survivorship and cancer health disparities.

Each program focuses on a different thematic area (genetics and cell biology; experimental therapeutics; cancer prevention and population health) but Cancer Center members actively participate in and collaborate across several programs. Collaborations are also promoted with investigators at neighboring institutions, which can access the programs as affiliate members.

The Research Programs are supported by state-of-the art research facilities, an institutional tumor bank, a streamlined pipeline for patient accrual for clinical trials, and several funding mechanisms for basic-science and clinical investigators. Together, the Research Programs at SUNY Upstate Cancer Center advance our knowledge of cancer to improve patient care and reach long-term, cancer-free, patient outcomes.

Current Research Programs

Program on Cancer Genetics and Cell Biology

This Research Program brings together investigators with interests on the basic biology of cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment. The Program supports research on cancer cell biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, genetics and immunology. The Program also promotes research on bioengineering and the development of materials and devices to study cancer cells.

Mission: To foster research on the basic biology of cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment, towards finding new avenues for cancer treatment and improved patient outcomes.

Vision: The vision of this program is to leverage and translate knowledge gained from mechanistic studies of cancer cells to improve cancer prevention, treatments, and outcomes.


  • Investigate mechanisms of cancer initiation: These studies are focused on driver mutations, malignant transformation of epithelial precursors, epigenetic regulation of oncogenic mechanisms, and contribution of the tumor microenvironment to the survival of tumor-initiating cells.
  • Investigate mechanisms of cancer progression and metastasis: These studies are focused on mechanisms of cancer growth, tumor stemness, tumor invasion, tumor vascularization, remodeling of the tumor microenvironment, and alteration of immune responses in cancer.
  • Investigate and target mechanisms of cancer resistance: These studies are focused on mechanisms of chemo- and radio-resistance, immune escape, tumor heterogeneity, and strategies to disrupt or prevent resistance mechanisms in the tumor cells or tumor microenvironment.

Program on Cancer Therapeutics

This Research Program fosters research on novel therapeutic strategies and experimental treatments against cancer and cancer-associated diseases. The Program supports multidisciplinary research in medicinal chemistry, chemo-and radiotherapy, immunotherapies, toxicology, pre-clinical studies, investigational new drugs and devices, and early-stage clinical trials.

Program on Cancer Prevention, Survivorship, and Population Health

This Research Program brings together researchers, clinicians, and experts in populational health to promote multidisciplinary studies on the different causes, treatments, and sequelae of cancer. The Program promotes collaborations to study cancer incidence, risk factors, preventative measures, chemo- and radioprotection, clinical trials, patient monitoring, quality of life, and health disparities.

Mission: To explore the connections between society, health behavior, and cancer, in order to prevent new instances of disease, lower rates within the population, and improve outcomes.

Vision: The Program on Cancer Prevention, Survivorship, and Population Health ties together the fields of health behavior, policy studies, the medical social sciences, epidemiology, biostatistics, community-engaged research, and all of the other subdisciplines represented within Public Health, to study and advance cancer research at the level of the community, the health system, and society.


  • Investigate methods to improve and advance cancer prevention, screening, and survivorship: These studies focus on tools and approaches that impact health behavior, both on the part of community members and clinicians, which lead to the prevention or cessation of risky behaviors, the initiation of screening, and the processes that lead to thriving, post-diagnosis
  • Investigate policy-, system-, and population-level changes that impact whole communities or populations: Such studies include (but are not limited to) those that explore improvement in primary care screening rates and referral pathways; policies that promote healthier lifestyles, such as the implementation of tobacco control policy, or the improvement of accessibility to healthy food; the enhancement of reimbursement for screening and treatment; and engagement with communities that have been historically disadvantaged or excluded.
  • Explore and surveil the rates of neoplastic illness, and of risk factors for cancers: These studies include a wide range of epidemiological techniques and include not only the tracking of cancer rates, but the identification of cancer clusters, disparities in incidence, prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes, but also the study of extended risks, such as environmental, economic, and social determinants of health
  • Support the advancement of new treatments through study design, biostatistical methods, and community-based improvement in study implementation: The program will also house scientists capable of employing a strong skill set to improve the design, analysis, and implementation of clinical trials, secondary data analysis, quality improvement efforts, and community engagement.