Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, FACS



  • Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Hillman Professor of Oncology
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research
  • Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center
  • Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, of Immunology, and of Radiation Oncology


Dr. Ferris is a head and neck surgical oncologist with an NIH R01 funded basic/translational immunology laboratory.  He investigates mechanisms of anti-tumor immunity in the microenvironment, as well as immune escape mechanisms developed by tumor cells to evade NK and T cells elimination. Dr. Ferris’s lab also studies immune checkpoint receptors and cellular immune mechanisms of anti-tumor responses and immunotherapy in phase I and phase II clinical trials, as well as correlative studies of immune markers in the serum and tumor microenvironment.  Dr. Ferris is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research and the 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. These include immunosuppressive effects which inhibit clinical activity of cetuximab, including suppressive immunologic effects and immune escape mechanisms by tumor cells in cetuximab treated patients.  Dr. Ferris is pleased to serve as contact PI of the NCI P50 Head and Neck SPORE, to further facilitate preclinical and clinical investigations, and to stimulate new collaborations.  He was elected surgical oncology Co-Chair of the NCI Head and Neck Steering committee, which provides additional opportunities to leverage translational and clinical oncology research.  As co-chair of the ECOG H&N committee, Dr. Ferris is leading two prospective randomized trials. ECOG 3311 (accrual 268/515) investigates the potential for surgical deintensification through reduced radiation dose in HPV+ oropharyngeal cancer patients treated with transoral robotic or laser surgery. More recently ECOG-ACRIN 3132 compares adjuvant radiation alone vs. cisplation-radiation in patients with disruptive or nondisruptive p53 alteration, using a molecular biomarker of “high risk” status.