Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil

Robert H. Vonderheide

Dr. Vonderheide is director of the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) and the John H. Glick, MD Abramson Cancer Center’s Director Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is vice dean of cancer programs at the Perelman School of Medicine and vice president for cancer programs at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. He successfully led the competitive renewal of the ACC CCSG grant in 2020 with a score of “Exceptional.” 

Dr. Vonderheide is the physician leader of the cancer service line for Penn Medicine, which comprises six fully-owned hospitals and their outpatient satellites in the Philadelphia region. In these roles, Dr. Vonderheide is responsible for developing and delivering an exceptional cancer research and clinical care enterprise at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Medicine, and for designing strategies for cancer-related basic and translational science, clinical investigation, clinical care, population science, cancer education and training, diversity/equity/inclusion, and community outreach. 

Dr. Vonderheide graduated from the University of Notre Dame (chemical engineering) and obtained his DPhil in immunology from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard Medical School, completed a residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is board-certified in medical oncology. 

Dr. Vonderheide is a leading researcher in cancer immunobiology and immunotherapy. He combines efforts in both basic laboratory research and clinical trials to advance the understanding of tumor immunology and to develop novel immunotherapies for cancer. His basic research includes deciphering the immunobiology of novel genetically engineered mouse models of cancer, including the regulation of immune surveillance and the tumor microenvironment by CD40. His translational work tests novel approaches such as agonists, vaccines, antibodies, and adoptive T cells for the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. 

Dr. Vonderheide has been continuously funded by the NIH since 2000. He holds an R01 in pancreatic cancer immunology, a P01 in radioimmunology, and leads or co-leads two SU2C research teams in pancreatic cancer. He ranks 26th in the nation for the most NIH research dollars in internal Medicine. Dr. Vonderheide has published more than 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts with senior-author papers in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature, Cancer Cell, and the New England Journal of Medicine. His Web of Science H index is 64, and he has been cited more than 18,000 times. He is well-known for designing and directing investigator-initiated trials, has held multiple INDs, and enrolled more than 400 patients in clinical trials. He served as the national PI for a randomized Phase II study of CD40 antibody in pancreatic cancer (NCT03214250) sponsored by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and is currently the overall PI for the Parker Institute’s pancreas cancer national clinical trial platform REVOLUTION. 

Dr. Vonderheide has a proven commitment to science and service. He has pressed the cause for clinical trial reform and equal access of minority patients to cancer care and clinical trials. He is a member of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, the NCCN Board of Directors, and deputy editor of the journal Cancer Immunology Research, among other roles on editorial boards. He has served on the NCI Cancer Immunopathology and Immunotherapy study section and is a member of, or chairs, the external scientific advisory boards of seven NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. He also serves on advisory boards for numerous cancer research foundations, including the Lustgarten Foundation and the Cancer Research Institute. He is an elected member of AAP and ASCI (serving on the ASCI council from 2014-2017). As cancer center director, Dr. Vonderheide has prioritized contributions to AACI, has been an invited speaker and regular attendee at the AACI/CCAF annual meeting, and is currently a member of the scientific program committee for the 2021 annual meeting.