Cancer Biology


MSc Coordinator of the Master in Cancer Biology

 Prof. Dr. Massimo Lopes (master.cancer *

Study Coordinator 

Dr. Karin Isler (studienkoordination *


The program involves leading experts in various aspects of Cancer Biology, ranging from basic research on genome stability and epigenetics, to cancer animal models and molecular investigations on the onset and therapy of specific cancers in a clinical setting. Laboratories hosting master students belong to three faculties (Faculty of Science, Faculty of Medicine and Vetsuisse Faculty) and are distributed in various Institutes at the Irchel Campus, at the Children’s Hospital and at the University Hospital Zurich. The program operates in close exchange with the programs in Molecular Life Sciences, Immunology and Biomedicine.

Cancer is a leading cause of human death and comprises a broad group of diseases involving unregulated cell growth in various organs. The causes of cancer are diverse and only partially understood, representing a complex biological question that requires a multidisciplinary, "holistic" approach. Similarly to cancer etiology, both early diagnosis and effective therapy of most cancers await identification of specific biomarkers and molecular targets, differentiating cancer cells from normal cells in different tissues. As a consequence, the improvement of therapeutic regimens for different cancers strictly depends on deep mechanistic understanding from the earliest molecular events underlying cancer onset to its later stages of progression and invasion. Improving our mechanistic understanding of cancer and potentiating our therapeutic portfolio will thus require training of a new generation of cancer biologists, capable of orienting clinical researchers towards new diagnostic and therapeutic tools, based on mechanistic insight and unbiased molecular investigations.

Students choosing this Master program are interested in understanding basic molecular pathways that regulate genome instability events underlying cellular transformation, crucial characteristics of cancer initiating cells, their interaction with tumor microenvironment and their molecular characteristics that offer therapeutic opportunities. Each student attends a selected subset of interactive lectures, addressing different aspects of basic cancer research, and focusing on specific cancer types to deduce general concepts in cancer onset and therapy. Choosing among a diversified set of block courses, students learn how to grow cancer cells and/or analyze tumor‐relevant samples, applying a broad range of molecular tools, spanning from in‐silico approaches to in‐vitro biochemistry, single‐molecule analysis, in‐vivo immunostainings, analysis of tissue microenvironments and therapeutic responses in animal cancer models. In doing so, they will be confronted with the analysis and interpretation of the data in the light of molecular, cell biological and medical relevance. In addition, students will use chemical and genetic perturbations to modulate onset and therapy of specific cancers. By the end of the program, each student is expected to have developed a solid foundation leading to a mechanistic understanding of cancer at the molecular level, and is capable of addressing new biological questions inherent to the onset or therapy of specific cancer types.

Students must acquire a minimum of 4 ECTS from the courses below. However, students are strongly encouraged to collect as many ECTS as possible from these courses and to attend some of these courses already during the BSc program:

BIO 242 03 ECTS Translational Cancer Research: New Technologies, Mouse Models and Clinical Approaches
BIO 244 06 ECTS Signal Transduction and Cancer
BIO 251 03 ECTS Cancer and the Immune System
BIO 257 03 ECTS DNA Metabolism and Cancer
BIO 433 02 ECTS Biology of Cancer Treatment: Old and Novel Therapeutic Approaches

Additional 4 ECTS can be acquired from any UZH / ETHZ modules. However, choice is recommended from this additional list of modules, which cover important aspects of cancer research or transferable skills: 

BIO 243 03 ECTS Epigenetics



During the Master’s program, a minimum of 12 ECTS have to be acquired from two of the block courses listed below: 

BIO 230 06 ECTS Cancer Stem/Propagating Cells and their Microenvironment
BIO 246 06 ECTS Genome Instability and Molecular Cancer Research: Cell Biology
BIO 247 06 ECTS Cellular Response to Genotoxic Stress
BIO 250 06 ECTS Drug Efficacy and Pathway Assessment in Pediatric Brain Cancer Models
BIO 258 06 ECTS Cancer, Immunotherapy and Inflammation Research
BIO 319 06 ECTS Targeting Cell Migration Control in Invasive Brain Tumors
BIO 431 06 ECTS Cell Death, Inflammation and Immunity
BME 312 06 ECTS Epigenetics and Disease
BME 328 06 ECTS Prostate Cancer: from Bench to Bedside
BME 360 06 ECTS The regulation of gene expression in cancer
ETH 551-1513-00L 06 ECTS Cancer Cell Signaling: Mechanisms, Targets and Therapeutic Approaches


Master’s thesis in Cancer Biology: Module BIO 516.

General instructions - Final Exams BIO520/BIO516 (PDF, 85 KB)


Additional groups are possible upon request, providing there is direct significant contribution to teaching activities within the Master’s program.

Prof. Dr. Altmeyer Matthias
Prof. Dr. Basler Konrad
Prof. Dr. Baumgartner Martin
Prof. Dr. Becher Burkhard
Prof. Dr. Bodenmiller Bernd
PD Dr. Bornhauser Beat
Prof. Dr. Borsig Lubor
Prof. Dr. Bourquin Jean-Pierre
Prof. Dr. Chahwan Richard
Prof. Dr. Grotzer Michael
Prof. Dr. Guerreiro Stücklin Ana
Prof. Dr. Hottiger Michael
Prof. Dr. Janscak Pavel
PD Dr. Krützfeld Jan
Prof. Dr. LeibundGut-Landmann Salomé
Prof. Dr. Levesque Mitchell
Prof. Dr. Lopes Massimo
Prof. Dr. Magnani Chiara
Prof. Dr. Manz Markus
Prof. Dr.  Markkanen Enni
Prof. Dr. Müller Anne
Prof. Dr. Münz Christian
Prof. Dr. Nägeli Hanspeter
Prof. Dr. Nazarian Javad
Prof. Dr. Nombela-Arrieta César
Prof. Dr. Penengo Lorenza
Prof. Dr. Pruschy Martin
Prof. Dr. Schäfer Beat
Prof. Dr. Scharl Michael
Prof. Dr.  Santoro Raffaella
Prof. Dr. Sartori Alessandro
Prof. Dr. Sommer Lukas
Prof. Dr. Stucki Manuel
Prof. Dr. Surdez Didier
PD Dr.  Theocharides Alexandre
Prof. Dr. Tugues Solsona Sonia
Prof. Dr. Van den Broek Maries
PD Dr. Wachtel Marco
Prof. Dr. Weber Achim
Prof. Dr. Weller Michael
Prof. Dr. Wong Lynn
Prof. Dr. Zenz Thorsten