Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD


Hillman Cancer Center
Cancer Pavilion, Suite 500
5150 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Ph: 412-623-3205

Fax: 412-623-3210

My Website »


  • MD, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 1995
  • PhD, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 1998
  • BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1990

Academic Affiliation

Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Professor, Department of Otolaryngology

Hillman Professor of Oncology

Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research

Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center

Professor, Department of Immunology

Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology

Member, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI)

About Research

Dr. Ferris serves as the Director of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Co-Director of the Tumor Microenvironment Center. In these capacities, his goals are to facilitate and enhance development of new targets and therapeutic agents through collaborative, trans-disciplinary preclinical research and clinical application. As a head and neck surgical oncologist and NIH R01 funded basic/translational tumor immunologist, Dr. Ferris’s lab is uniquely positioned to investigate mechanisms of anti-tumor immunity in the tumor microenvironment (TME), as well as tumor cell escape. His lab also studies immune checkpoint receptor signals and cellular mechanisms of anti-tumor responses and immunotherapy in head and neck cancer patients. They are currently investigating immunosuppressive effects which inhibit clinical activity of therapeutic antibodies such as immune checkpoint therapies targeting PD-1 and CTLA-4, as well as cetuximab, including suppressive immunologic effects on tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and immune escape mechanisms by tumor cells. They have studied the role of HPV in HNSCC extensively, and particularly host response in the TME and its therapeutic implications. Dr. Ferris has substantial experience running phase I and phase II clinical trials, as well as correlative studies of immune markers in the serum and TME.  Dr. Ferris is currently leading several prospective phase I, II, and III trials in HPV+/- HNSCC and anti-viral immunity, with HPV therapeutic vaccines and anti-PD-1 mAb immunotherapy providing insights and potential synergy with novel mechanistic and therapeutic information gained from the proposed work. 

Selected Publications

Shayan G, Srivastava R, Li J, Schmitt N, Kane LP and Ferris RL. 2016. Adaptive resistance to anti-PD1 therapy by Tim-3 upregulation is mediated by the PI3K-Akt pathway in Head and Neck Cancer.  Oncoimmunology. 6: e1261779.

Jie HB, Srivastava RM, Argiris A, Bauman JE, Kane LP and Ferris RL. 2017. Increased PD-1+ and TIM-3+ TILs during cetuximab therapy inversely correlates with response in head and neck cancer patients. Cancer Immunol Res. 5: 408-416.

Liu Z, McMichael EL, Shayan G, Li J, Chen K, Srivastava R, Kane LP, Lu B and Ferris RL. 2018. Novel Effector Phenotype of Tim-3+ Regulatory T Cells Leads to Enhanced Suppressive Function in Head and Neck Cancer Patients. Clin Cancer Res. 24: 4529-4538.

Kansy BA, Concha-Benavente F, Srivastava RM, Jie HB, Shayan G, Lei Y, Moskovitz J, Moy J, Li J, Brandau S, Lang S, Schmitt NC, Freeman GJ, Gooding WE, Clump DA and Ferris RL. 2017. PD-1 Status in CD8<sup>+</sup> T Cells Associates with Survival and Anti-PD-1 Therapeutic Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancer. Cancer Res. 77: 6353-6364.

Kikuchi M, Clump DA, Srivastava RM, Sun L, Zeng D, Diaz-Perez JA, Anderson CJ, Edwards WB and Ferris RL. 2017. Preclinical immunoPET/CT imaging using Zr-89-labeled anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody for assessing radiation-induced PD-L1 upregulation in head and neck cancer and melanoma. Oncoimmunology. 6: e1329071.

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