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Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, D.Phil

Professor of Medicine
Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research
Director of Translational Research,
Abramson Cancer Center
Vice Chief for Research, Hematology Oncology
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Current Research

  • Seeking to advance the use of immunotherapy in breast cancer.  

  • Several clinical trials are ongoing to test novel approaches in immunotherapy and combination treatments.

  • These "proof-of-concept” clinical trials may reveal new opportunities for immunotherapy for patients with breast cancer. 

Although great advances have been achieved in immune therapy for cancer, many of the newly approved therapies are not effective for most patients with breast cancer.

Dr. Vonderheide believes that a direct vaccine against breast cancer is necessary to generate an immune response. His goal is to establish methods that will not only treat breast cancer but also prevent it.

His team is currently conducting a series of “proof-of-concept” clinical trials designed to reveal new opportunities for immunotherapy for patients with breast cancer. If the clinical results are successful, this would justify initiating a large trial to demonstrate clinical effectiveness.

Three clinical trials are underway to test:

  1. Genetically engineered T cells (“CAR T cells”) to target breast cancer cells;

  2. A DNA vaccine for high-risk patients in remission after adjuvant therapy;

  3. Specialized radiation therapy in combination with dual checkpoint blockade.

Each trial is actively enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center. Please contact Colleen Redlinger for details:  215-220-9693;


Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, D. Phil, is Professor of Medicine and the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and an investigator of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. He is a member of the Abramson Cancer Center where he serves as the Associate Director for Translational Research. He is Vice Chief of Research for Hematology-Oncology.

Dr. Vonderheide graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor of science degree in Chemical Engineering and from Oxford University, England, as a Rhodes Scholar with a doctor of philosophy (D.Phil) degree in Immunology. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Vonderheide completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a clinical fellowship in hematology-oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is board certified in medical oncology. Dr. Vonderheide combines efforts in both basic research and clinical investigation to advance the understanding of tumor immunology and to develop novel immunotherapies for cancer, with a focus on breast cancer. He has grant funding from the National Cancer Institute and Stand Up To Cancer as well as BCRF, and serves as Deputy Editor for Cancer Immunology Research. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians.

BCRF Investigator Since


Area(s) of Focus