• New Leadership at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center
  • December 15, 2017
  • The Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) at Penn Medicine recently named Dr. Robert Vonderheide as its next director. He succeeded Dr. Chi Van Dang, who held the position since 2011. Vonderheide is internationally recognized for his work in cancer immunotherapy and translational research. He joined the ACC in 2001 after receiving a Ph.D. in immunology and currently serves as its associate director of translational research.

    The ACC is the center of all cancer-related research and development at Penn. It was established in 1973 as a National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The ACC has become one of the most preeminent cancer centers in the U.S., which Vonderheide attributes to the collaborative and innovative spirit of its researchers. The center’s work focuses not only on developing cancer treatment methods and diagnostic techniques, but also public health aspects such as improving access to cancer treatment, which Vonderheide intends to explore further in his role as director.

    Cancer Vaccine Among Current Projects at Penn
    Vonderheide has been praised for spearheading innovation in a number of areas during his career at Penn, and he has ambitious goals for the future. In addition to novel treatment methods, one project currently in the works is a vaccine to prevent the development of cancer. This would be a game-changer for many people who are at higher than normal risk of developing certain cancers. For example, workers in the construction industry who may be exposed to asbestos would not need to worry about contracting mesothelioma if there were a preventive vaccine available to them.

    As part of former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, the ACC will also be investing heavily in cancer immunotherapy research. Biden believes that major developments are on the horizon for cancer research, and he has partnered with Penn in his quest to find impactful solutions for those suffering from this deadly disease. In recent years, immunotherapy has emerged as a hot topic in research on all types of cancers, including relatively rare forms such as mesothelioma.

    Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and chest cavity and is caused by exposure to asbestos. There is currently no cure, and the disease is notoriously resistant to many common treatment methods, leaving patients with few options. Novel treatments such as immunotherapy may be the key to defeating this deadly disease, which kills 3,000 Americans each year.

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