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Hope S. Rugo, MD, FASCO

Director, Breast Oncology and Clinical Trials
UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Professor of Medicine
University of California
San Francisco, California

Current Research

  • Seeking to improve response to immunotherapy by understanding the mechanisms of resistance.

  • Laboratory studies are ongoing to develop combination approaches that target multiple immune suppressing in models of triple negative breast cancer.

  • Reactivating the body's own immune response offers the hope to develop more efficacious and potentially less toxic therapies.

New cancer immunotherapies that harness the patient’s own immune system to kill tumor cells have been effective in some cancers, including some triple negative breast cancer. To date, these approaches have had only modest success for treating metastatic breast cancers.

Dr. Rugo's team is conducting studies to improve response to existing immunotherapies by blocking the activity of suppressive immune cells within tumors or by blocking the metabolism of cancer cells. Such combination treatments may improve the effectiveness of immunotherapies for breast cancer.

Immune cells, called CD8+ T cells, can recognize and kill tumor cells. Dr. Rugo previously reported that response to standard chemotherapy can be improved when combined with drugs that attract cytotoxic T cells. However, the killing function of cytotoxic T cells can be hindered by a protein called PD-L1 on another type of immune cell called a macrophage. This year, her team will block PD-L1 on macrophages to evaluate whether this improves the anti-tumor effects of chemotherapy. 


Hope S. Rugo, MD, is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of California San Francisco, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she directs Breast Cancer and Clinical Trial Education. Her research interests include novel therapies for advanced breast cancer, immune modulation to restore chemotherapy sensitivity, evaluation of circulating cells as novel markers of response and resistance to therapy, neoadjuvant therapy and supportive care.

Dr. Rugo is a member of the Breast Oncology Program at the UCSF Breast Cancer Center, an investigator in the national multi-center ISPY2 trial, and is the principal investigator of a number of clinical trials. She is one of three recipients of a Komen Promise Award, receives funding from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and serves on a number of steering committees for national and international trials. She is a member of the ALLIANCE Breast Core Committee and the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, is the UCSF representative to the NCCN Guidelines Committee, and serves on several committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She has published many peer-reviewed papers and has given presentations on a variety of cancer related topics.

With a summa cum laude degree from Tufts University. Dr. Rugo received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed both a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology and oncology at UCSF, and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at Stanford University. She received the Cancer Care physician-of-the-year award in 2010.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The ULTA Beauty Award