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Peter Kuhn, PhD

Professor of Biological Sciences
Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California

Current Research

  • Seeking to advance precision medicine with technologies to guide treatment decisions in real time.
  • Studies are ongoing that utilize liquid biopsy technology to identify new biomarkers to monitor response to new drugs in breast cancer patients.
  • This work is paving the way to real-time assessment of patient response to treatment and will be invaluable to the success of precision medicine.

Targeted therapies offer great promise for precise treatment of breast cancer, but to date, few have succeeded in the majority of patients. Knowing which drug is right for which patient is the next step to realizing the promise of these advanced drugs. Drs. Kuhn and Hicks use a liquid biology approach to identify markers in patients’ blood that can predict how a patient is likely to respond and can serve as a red flag when she or he stops responding.

Full Research Summary

The choice of breast cancer therapy is often made on the basis of biomarkers present in the primary tumor tissue. However, cancer can change quickly, making it resistant to therapy. Therefore, tracking the cancer cells in real time while a patient is undergoing therapy is critical for knowing how and when to redirect therapy.

A liquid biopsy derived from a simple blood test provides a minimally invasive means to capture cancer cells, their DNA, and other analytes in a format that can provide actionable data to physicians before, during, and after treatment. Recently, Dr. Kuhn and team discovered new mathematical ways to distinguish novel subtypes of breast cancer and to predict the probability that breast cancer cells will metastasize to specific tissues.

To make this process work in practice, new biomarkers for emerging treatments are needed. This need has become particularly acute with the advent of new immune-oncology treatments such as checkpoint inhibitors.

The collaborative effort supervised by Drs. Kuhn and Hicks aims to optimize and implement a comprehensive fluid biopsy for breast cancer. This year, the team is pursuing an analysis of the genetic events that accumulate during breast cancer evolution to discover biomarkers that will help guide treatment at the earliest stages of the disease.

They continue to search for therapeutic signposts through a combined analysis of both genetic markers in the DNA and the protein signals that drive the cancer cell’s ability to invade and survive in the body.

In a separate but related study, Dr. Kuhn's group is involved in a collaborative project with BCRF investigator Col. Craig Shriver, MD to develop a blood profile atlas for breast cancer. This work is integral to the success of precision medicine.


Dr. Kuhn is a scientist and entrepreneur with a career long commitment in personalized medicine and individualized cancer patient care. He is focused on the redesign of cancer care.

Dr. Kuhn is a Professor at USC, a founding member of a new Institute of Convergent Sciences and director of the Southern California Physics Oncology Center. His research is shedding new light at how cancer spreads through the body. This new science will lead to a personalized care strategy that is biologically informed and clinically actionable.

Leveraging the laboratory’s fluid biopsy technology innovation, the Southern California Physics Oncology Center is advancing daily the forefront of both improving healthcare effectiveness for cancer patients by providing drug guidance and increasing our understanding of cancer as a disease in each individual patient. 

Dr. Kuhn is a physicist who trained initially at the Julius Maximilians Universität Würzburg, Germany, before receiving his Masters in Physics at the University of Albany, Albany, NY in 1993 and his PhD in 1995. He then moved to Stanford University where he later joined the faculties of Medicine and Accelerator Physics. From 2002 to 2014 he established a translational science program at the Scripps Research in La Jolla, CA that brought together over forty scientists from basic, engineering and medical sciences to work on understanding the spread of cancer in the human body. He has published over 180 peer scientific articles and filed 16 patents as a result of his research. Dr. Kuhn joined USC in 2014.

Large Researcher Headshot - Kuhn Peter

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Women's Cancer Research Fund Award

Area(s) of Focus