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Robert L. Ferris M.D., Ph.D.

  • Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Hillman Professor of Oncology
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research
  • Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center
  • Professor of Otolaryngology, of Immunology, and of Radiation Oncology
  • PMI Graduate Faculty

    Education & Training

  • Ph.D. - Johns Hopkins Medical School (1998)
  • M.D. - Johns Hopkins Medical School (1995)
  • B.A. - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1990)
Representative Publications

Leibowitz MS, Andrade Filho PA, Ferrone S, Ferris RL. Deficiency of activated STAT1 in head and neck cancer cells mediates TAP1-dependent escape from cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2011 Apr;60(4):525-35

Mburu YK, Egloff AM, Walker WH, Wang L, Seethala RR, Van Waes C, Ferris RL. 2.    Chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) gene expression is regulated by NF-κB and AP1 in metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). J Biol Chem. 2011 Dec 12.

Lopez-Albaitero A, Nayak JV, Ogino T, Machandia A, Gooding W, Deleo AB, Ferrone S, Ferris RL. Role of Antigen-Processing Machinery in the In Vitro Resistance of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck Cells to Recognition by CTL. J Immunol. 2006 Mar 15;176(6):3402-9

Linkov, F., Lisovich, A, Yurkovetsky, Z, Velikokhatnaya, L, Winans, M, Bigbee, W, Siegfried, JM, Lokshin, A, and RL Ferris. Early Detection of Head and Neck Cancer: A Novel Screening Tool Using Multiplexed Immunobead-Based Biomarker Profiling. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Jan;16(1):102-7. (PMID: 17220337)

Wang, J, Seethala, RR, Singh, N, Zhang Q, Lokshin, A, Gooding, W, Shurin MR, van Waes C, Hasegawa, H, and Ferris, RL. Autocrine and Paracrine Chemokine Receptor 7 (CCR7) Activation in Head and Neck Cancer: Implications for therapy. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Apr 2;100(7):502-12. (PMID: 18364504)

López-Albaitero, A, P Andrade, T Hackman, WE Gooding, Ferrone S, P Kalinski, and Ferris RL. Maturation pathways of DC determine TAP1 and TAP2 levels and cross-presenting function J Immunotherapy, 2009 Jun; 32(5): 465-73.

Andrade Filho, PA, López-Albaitero, A Gooding, WE, and Ferris, RL Novel immunogenic HLA-A*0201-restricted Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) specific T cell epitope in head and neck cancer patients. J Immunotherapy, 2010 Jan;33(1):83-91.

View Complete Publications Listing

Research Interests
  • Cancer immunology and immunotherapy
  • Tumor antigen specific monoclonal antibodies
  • Antigen processing and presentation to T cells
  • Role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in head and neck cancer
  • Strategies of immune evasion by cancer cells

Dr. Ferris's research is focused on cellular immune mechanisms of natural killer (NK) cell, dendritic cells (DC) and T lymphocyte activation against head and neck cancer (HNC) tumor antigens. In addition his group pioneered studies demonstrating innate and adaptive immune responses induced by EGFR-specific mAb, cetuximab in cancer patients. His laboratory also investigates the role of immunosuppressive molecules, such as immune checkpoint receptors, including PD-1, CTLA-4, TIM-3, and LAG-3. His laboratory is funded by NCI R01 and SPORE grants. He is PI for multiple phase I, II, and III immunotherapeutic trials, and the Ferris laboratory is analyzing peripheral blood and tumor infiltrating lymphocyte specimens to identify biomarkers of response in treated patients.  The laboratory is also focused on mechanisms of tumor antigen processing and immunologic evasion used by head and neck cancer cells, themselves. New trials are testing combination immunotherapies, through 1-month, "window of opportunity" neoadjuvant clinical trials, providing novel and unique pre- and post-treatment specimens to interrogate the tumor microenvironment (TME) for factors that drive personalized cancer immunotherapy.