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Robert L. Ferris, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Senior Vice President for Oncology Programs, UPMC
  • Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Hillman Professor of Oncology 
  • Professor of Otolaryngology, of Immunology and of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Robert L. Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., is director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. He also is UPMC senior vice president for Oncology Programs and associate senior vice chancellor for cancer research with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

Named director of UPMC Hillman in 2017, Ferris has established a reputation for both clinical and research excellence. He will also oversee clinical and research efforts in UPMC international oncology initiatives. 

Ferris is a pioneering cancer immunotherapist who develops and implements immunotherapy to stimulate the body’s immune system to eliminate and suppress cancer. He studies how immune cells in the tumor microenvironment can be harnessed to combat cancer and how tumor cells evade the body’s immunologic defenses.

Ferris currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research and Cancer Immunology Research, and as section editor for the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. He is editor-in-chief of Oral Oncology

Ferris has published more than 420 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters and was co-chair of the National Cancer Institute Head and Neck Steering committee for 6 years to facilitate prospective clinical trials. He has led several practice-changing, prospective randomized trials — including those that led to the approval of immunotherapy for head and neck cancer — and tested treatment deintensification for good prognosis HPV+ head and neck cancer after transoral surgery. He is principal investigator of the Hillman Specialized Programs of Research Excellence in head and neck cancer and leads a National Cancer Institute-funded immunotherapy laboratory.

Ferris received his bachelor’s degree with honors and distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received both his M.D. and Ph.D. in immunology from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed his residency training at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, serving as chief resident in otolaryngology, and received sub-specialty training in head and neck oncologic surgery. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the recipient of numerous research and teaching awards.