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Joshua Gruber, MD, PhD

Medical Oncology Fellow
Stanford University
Stanford, California
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO

Current Research

  • Seeking preventive strategies for high-risk individuals harboring a BRCA gene mutation.

  • Laboratory studies are conducted to characterize the interactions between BRCA-mutant breast cells and immune cells to identify new targets for prevention of BRCA-driven breast cancer.

  • This study could identify an alternative strategy for early prevention that utilizes the body’s natural cancer fighting system. 

The most common genes that predispose to breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Errors in BRCA1 or BRCA2 predispose to breast cancer by increasing the amount of mutations in breast cells. These mutations slowly accrue over time, creating a window of opportunity for intervention.

The goal of Dr. Gruber’s project is to exploit this opportunity to prevent tumor formation by discovering new ways to prime the immune system to destroy cells before they become cancers.

Dr. Gruber has identified a potential mechanism to activate the immune system to attack BRCA2-mutant breast cells. He will further characterize the interaction between breast cells with BRCA2 mutations and cancer-killing immune cells called T-cells to understand how the immune system recognizes abnormal breast cells.  

This novel study may lay the groundwork for the development of alternative approaches to breast cancer prevention in BRCA-mutation carriers.


Dr. Joshua Gruber received his Bachelors in biochemistry and physics followed by MD/PhD training at the University of Pennsylvania. His graduate research in cancer biology, under the mentorship of Craig Thompson and Gideon Dreyfuss, led to the discovery of a new RNA-protein complex important for microRNA biogenesis and cell division. He continued his medical training at Stanford University Medical Center as an intern, then resident in Internal Medicine. He then joined the Medical Oncology fellowship program at Stanford to further develop his interest in the molecular genetics of cancer.

He pursued specialized clinical training in the management of breast cancer, with an emphasis on genetic disorders of breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer. At Stanford, he was a founding member of the Stanford Molecular Tumor Board. He is a co-investigator on clinical trials for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer including the use of PARP inhibitors outside of patients with BRCA1/2 mutations.

He is conducting post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Michael Snyder in the Department of Genetics at Stanford. His research interests include cancer epigenetics, hereditary cancer syndromes, cancer immunology and the role of insulin resistance in cancer onset.

BCRF Investigator Since