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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 cells 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 immunotherapies are showing promise in some cancer patients, including some breast cancer patients. For most breast cancer patients, however immunotherapy has been unsuccessful. Research is showing that combination approaches that both stimulate the tumor-fighting immune cells while blocking those that promote tumor growth will advance the use of immunotherapy for breast cancer patients. Dr. Rugo has developed tools to study the effects of immunotherapy on immune cells to identify new strategies to improve response to these treatments.

Full Research Summary

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive breast cancer subtype with high risk of metastasis and poor long-term survival, thus emphasizing the need for improved treatment options. New cancer immunotherapies that harness the patient’s own immune system to kill tumor cells have been effective in some cancers, including some TNBC, but most TNBC patients do not benefit from immunotherapy. 

Dr. Rugo's team is conducting studies to improve response to existing immunotherapies by targeting critical molecules that regulate immune cells.  They have developed new tools to study how immune cells respond to immunotherapy and discovered a critical interaction between tumor and fat cells that helps drive breast cancer growth. 

Over the next year, they will initiate a series of laboratory studies to further their efforts to improve responses to immunotherapy. These include studies to understand how the immune system influences key tumor promoting pathways, identify biomarkers to select TNBC patients for immune-based treatments, and identify new targets for potential drug development.


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.

Researcher Headshot - Rugo H

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Ulta Beauty Award