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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Hamptons Paddle & Party for Pink Award

Area(s) of Focus

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, D.Phil

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

Current Research

Although there have been great advances in immune therapy for cancer, many of the newly approved therapies are not effective for most patients with breast cancer. Drs. Vonderheide and Domchek believe that a direct vaccine against breast cancer is necessary to generate an immune response. Their goal is to establish methods that will not only treat breast cancer but also prevent it. They are currently conducting four clinical trials: 1) A novel peptide vaccine that targets two cancer proteins called telomerase and survivin. Patient enrollment in this trial is nearly complete. 2) A trial to test genetically engineered cancer fighting immune cells called T cells injected into the tumor. Enrollment in this trial is underway. 3) A trial testing a DNA vaccine for high-risk patients in remission after adjuvant therapy. Four patients have been enrolled on this new trial and the goal is to enroll up to 54 patients over the next 18 months. 4) A trial testing the combination of radiation therapy with the FDA-approved immune activator pembrolizumab; the breast cancer component of this trial was scheduled to begin enrollment during the summer of 2015


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.