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About Walter J. Urba, MD, PhD

For more than thirty years, I have been engaged in immunological and immunotherapy research focused on translating basic science research discoveries from the laboratory bench to the cancer patient’s bedside. As a board-certified medical oncologist specializing in melanoma with a PhD in Immunology, I have been a leader in oncology for many years and have extensive experience as a principal investigator of numerous clinical studies of biological agents, including monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, vaccines and adoptive immunotherapy.  After several years leading the clinical division of the NCI’s Biological Response Modifiers Program, I joined Providence Health & Services in 1993 as director of cancer research for the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute (EACRI) and medical director of the cancer program at Providence Portland Medical Center. I have served as chair of the FDA advisory committee for Cells, Tissues and Gene Therapy, been a member of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors for Clinical Sciences and Epidemiology, Chair of the Protocol Reengineering Working Group, and member of the Immunotherapy Agent Workshop and Cancer Antigen Prioritization Committees organized by the NCI.  I served as the principal investigator on the multi-center international randomized trial of ipilimumab, approved by the FDA in 2011 as the first agent to improve survival of patients with previously treated metastatic melanoma. I have been an active member of the Cytokine Working Group, the melanoma committee of the Southwest Oncology Group and served on many scientific advisory boards and data safety monitoring committees. I am the site Co-PI for the Providence site of the NCI-sponsored Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network. I am also Co-PI for the Providence site in the BMS International Immuno-Oncology Network comprising 12 sites worldwide. With Dr. Thomas Brown at the Swedish Cancer Center Institute I am the co-leader of the Providence St. Joseph Genomics Program. I am also a member of the Providence St. Joseph Scientific Advisory Council led by Dr. Lee Hood. I am the Providence PI for the ASCO-sponsored TAPUR study and Providence PI for the AACR-sponsored Genie Project. Currently, as institute director and physician director for research, I am responsible for all aspects of our research administration program, clinical trials, regulatory, contracts and budgeting, protocol selection, as well as clinical research management.


Present Physician Director of Research - Oregon, Providence St. Joseph Health

Curriculum Vitae


2011 - Present Cancer Human Biobank (caHUB)
NIH/SAIC-F - Subcontract caHUB 11ST1005
Role: Principal Investigator
2011 - Present Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network
NCI/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Role: Principal Investigator
2011 - 2021 Sponsored Research Agreement
Role: Principal Investigator
2013 - 2017 International Immuno-Oncology Network Laboratory Resource Agreement
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Role: Principal Investigator
2013 - 2014 The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)
NIH/SAIC-F - Subcontract TCGA 13XS186
Role: Principal Investigator
2010 - 2012 NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP)
NIH/SAIC-F - Subcontract NCCCP 10ST1047
Role: Principal Investigator
2008 - 2011 Characterizing and Regulating Tumor-induced Regulatory T Cells
National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute - 1 K22 CA127739-01A1
Role: Collaborator
2008 - 2011 Clinical trial of DRibble vaccine in NSCLC
National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute - 1 R21 CA123864-01A2
Role: Principal Investigator
2006 - 2011 Exploiting Lymphopenia to Augment the Adoptive Immunotherapy of Melanoma Patients
National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute - 5 R01 CA119123-03
Role: Co-Investigator
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Professional Service and Affiliations

Present Member, American Association for Cancer Research
Present Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Present Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Present Member, American Association of Immunologists
Present Fellow, American College of Physicians
Present Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology
Present Member, Clinical Immunology Society
Present Member, Oregon Medical Association
Present Member, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
Present Member, Society for Melanoma Research
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Honors and Awards

  • 1973 - 1974 Henry Rutgers Honors Research Program, Rutgers University
  • 1976 - 1977 California Regents Scholar
  • 1977 - 1979 USPHS National Research Service Award Trainee
  • 1993 National Institutes of Health Award of Merit
  • 1998 Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, Portland, OR
  • 2010 Team Science Award – Cytokine Working Group, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
  • 2014 History Maker Medal, Oregon History Society, Portland, OR
  • 2015 Doctor of Public Service, Honoris Causa, University of Portland, Portland, OR


1983 - 1986 Clinical Staff Fellow, National Institute of Health ‐ Medical Oncology, National Cancer Institute
1981 - 1983 Medical Resident, Morristown Memorial Hospital, Morristown, New Jersey, Affiliate - Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
1979 - 1981 MD, University of Miami ‐ Ph.D. to M.D. Program
1975 - 1978 PhD, University of California, Los Angeles ‐ Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine
1970 - 1974 BA, Rutgers University - New Brunswick/Piscataway ‐ Biological Sciences

Research Works (301)