A passion to finish cancer

The Earle A. Chiles Research Institute is a world-class research facility dedicated to discovering curative therapies for cancer patients. Located within Providence Cancer Center in Portland, Ore., our main area of investigation is cancer immunotherapy, a specialized field of study focused on triggering the immune system to fight cancer.

Established in 1987 through a collaboration between the Chiles Foundation and Providence Health & Services, cancer research was made the primary focus in 1993 with the recruitment of Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D. from the National Cancer Institute. Under Dr. Urba’s leadership, cancer immunotherapy research has flourished through the generosity of Robert W. Franz and Elsie Franz Finley, benefactors of the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center created in 1996. Today, we garner more than $2 million annually in federal and other sponsored grant funding with a research staff of more than 90 team members. 

A team of internationally-recognized experts

Our world-renowned team of scientists and clinical researchers has forged breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy. Our research discoveries have led to the formation of two biotech companies and partnerships with leading medical, research and industry institutions worldwide. We are one of 11 intuitions to participate in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s International Immuno-Oncology Network, one of 26 centers included in the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network and are a member of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program via the Pacific Cancer Research Consortium.

We have a proven track record of investigator-initiated, cooperative group and industry-sponsored clinical trials. Dr. Urba served as senior author and principal investigator on the international trial that led to the first immunotherapy drug approved for patients with melanoma – ipilimumab. This was the first therapy to improve survival of patients with melanoma. And, its approval by the FDA was a watershed moment and an important milestone for the oncology community. This achievement was key to cancer immunotherapy being named Science journal’s "Breakthrough of the Year" for 2013.

We have initiated numerous first-in-human trials including anti-OX40, a promising immunotherapy agent discovered at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute by Andrew Weinberg, Ph.D., as well as a novel, bacterial-based vaccine for glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer); alpha-TEA, a vitamin E analog proven effective on breast cancer in pre-clinical models; and combination stereotactic body radiation therapy with immunotherapy for patients with advanced metastatic melanoma.

Making history by being first

At the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, science and medicine have joined together. Being housed under one roof has fostered the ability of our bench scientists and physicians at the bedside to work together, developing the best new ideas to improve cancer treatment. Our patients have often been the first in the world to receive a new cancer immunotherapy treatment.

Here is a glimpse of our track record of firsts

First in the world

  • Genetically modified patient-derived tumor vaccine coupled with adoptive T cell transfer and interleukin-2 (IL-2) to treat late-stage melanoma (1995)
  • IL-21 for melanoma and renal cancer (2004)
  • Combination immunotherapy with chemotherapy, adoptive T cell transfer and vaccination for prostate cancer (2005)
  • Anti-OX40 for patients with advanced cancer (2006)
  • Patient-derived DRibble lung cancer vaccine (2009)
  • Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) plus IL-2 to treat late-stage melanoma and renal cancer (2009)
  • Off-the-shelf DRibble vaccine in lung cancer (2013)
  • Anti-PD-1 plus anti-KIR to treat melanoma (2013)
  • Genetically modified listeria vaccine to treat glioblastoma brain cancer (2014)

First in Oregon

  • Adoptive immunotherapy and high-dose IL-2 to treat late-stage melanoma (1994)
  • High-dose IL-2 to treat late-stage melanoma and renal cancer (1997)
  • Genetically modified breast cancer vaccine (1997)
  • Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) to treat prostate cancer (2000)
  • Ipilimumab to treat late-stage melanoma (2003)
  • Sorafenib to treat advanced kidney cancer (2004)
  • Anti-PD-1 to treat melanoma (2012)
  • Rituximab plus urelumab for B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (2013)
  • Nivolumab for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (2013)
  • Humanized OX40 agonist for patients with solid tumors (2015)

This is a very exciting time in the history of cancer research. We invite you to partner with us in our fight against cancer by taking a tour of our institute and supporting our research. Together, we can finish cancer.