I think it depends on which kind of cancer you want to research. Most schools have fairly intensive cancer programs, but sometimes they are primarily focused on particular types. For instance, one school might have more money devoted to breast cancer, while another school might have more investigators focused on leukemia cancers.
Larger schools, for example Wash U, probably study many major types of cancer intensively.
Many schools have strong cancer research programs. You might want to look for individual researchers that you are interested in working with. The focus can be variable, depending on where you look and what type of research you are seeking. For example, some programs have excellent clinical cancer research and are less focused on the basic science. Other places have very strong cell cycle people that address basic questions that are related to cancer biology. So it would be good to look at a variety of programs and see what matches your particular interests.
While I agree that you should look for which school's program fits your interests best, I'll put in a plug for Stanford's Cancer Biology program. It gives you an enormous degree of flexibility, allowing you to work with almost anyone you please. So, if, as your name implies, you are interested in biophysics research, you could select a lab that concentrates more on biophysical approaches and study some aspect of cancer biology that is at least minorly interesting to the PI. It also is a program which facilitates many collaborations, so you can get your hands into several different types of projects if that pleases you.
I would concur that most medical schools are doing very good cancer research. With such a broad research interest, I'd personally let other factors guide my decision, such as the prestiege of the school clinically, location, cost of living, and stipend amount. I mean even schools like Finch with amazingly small number of researchers, are doing interesting cancer stuff.
Well, since spudster opened the door for plugs, I had better put one in for that school across the bay. The UCSF Cancer Center has been a world leader in groundbreaking research on cancer biology, diagnosis, and treatment. There is a great group of basic and clinical researchers that are people doing amazing work using a wide range of approaches. We have people like Liz Blackburn, Zena Werb, Joe Gray, Lisa Coussens, Doug Hanahan, Mark Israel, Thea Tlsty, Gerard Evan, and of course Nobel laureate Mike Bishop.
Of course I should be fair and mention some other good programs... like Dana Farber (Harvard-affilitate), Memorial-Sloan-Kettering (Cornell-affiliate), etc. Cancer is a big topic with many sub-areas of investigation. As others above mentioned, you might want to narrow it down a bit by thinking about it in terms of specific cancer types or by approaching cancer biology from a specific angle. In addition, as none mentioned, there are many other factors to take into consideration in choosing where to go.
I'm not exactly the cancer person, but I think (?) Texas' Anderson Cancer center is the biggest canter facility in the world right now--which UT campus is that?
Just to do what vadar did Univ of Chicago has a strong cancer program with the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research. The strength is pretty much all around. I know Janet Lowry (sp?) is famous in leukemia and this Nobel Prize dude Charles Higgins (who died a couple years back) invented hormonal treatment of prostate cancer.
Univ of Washington (not to be confused with Wash U) I'd imagine is also really strong, with that guy just recently awarded a Nobel for research in cell cycle.
MD Anderson is indeed a great place for cancer research. It is officially part of UT Houston, though you can do research there through Baylor's MSTP since many of the faculty have joint-appointments. The place is huge and still growing out of contrl, earning it the honor of being the tumor of the Texas Medical Center.
I guess the two really big names would have to be Dana Farber and Sloan-Kettering. But every school that has a strong enough research program to warrent an MSTP will undoubtedly have a strong cancer problem.
Here is the US News list of the top 50 cancer hospitals in the US. Not the best source, I know, but it is something to go by... Interestingly enough, Barnes-Jewish is 46th. Maybe WashU isn't such a strong cancer school??
UT Houston has an MD/PhD cancer track. Check out their website for more information - that particular program may be easier to get into than other MSTP's if you're really into doing research in cancer, but don't have the scores to back you up.
With everyone posting different cancer centers, I want to re-emphasize that you need to look at individual labs and how they publish to get a sense of how strong a particular school is in the field. I know brandonite put a disclaimer ahead of his statement <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" /> , but I did want to point out that US News is not a great way to get a sense of the basic research opportunities available, as their statistics take into account only clinical factors. Some of the best cancer researchers may be located at places that have very strong basic science research programs, which may or may not correlate with clinical prowess (as defined by US News) in cancer treatment.
Oh, I know it is probably not the best way to go about looking at cancer programs. I mean, I don't think a basic science researcher would care about the number of RN's per patient, say. <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" /> But it is something to consider. The schools at the top will have a higher reputation in the clinical world for cancer, and all of us intend to spend at least part of our time in that territory, so...
Does the NIH break down funding based on area of study? That would be another way, I suppose.
But I think every school in the top 10 or 20 will have an outstanding cancer research department, with several labs that are world leaders. Don't worry. If you wanted more specifics, like who is doing the best work with identifying genetic precursors to breast cancer, then maybe there might be a more definite answer...
sorry I should have been more specific. I am interested in neuro-oncology, specifically brain tumor biology and experimental therapies. But on a larger scale, I also wouldn't mind studying apoptosis induction in tumors.