Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., directs the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center's efforts to find new treatments for cancer patients. Founded in 1993 by Dr. Urba and a team of internationally recognized scientists, the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center today garners more than $2 million annually in federal grants and has a research staff of 60.

The Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center is a world-class research facility located inside the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute of the Providence Cancer Center. The center was established to promote translational research, where researchers take novel discoveries from their laboratories and collaborate with physicians to “translate” those discoveries into new treatments that can directly benefit people being treated for cancer. Our center translates the most promising results from our own laboratories into novel treatments for patients in Oregon and southwest Washington, and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The main area of investigation at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center is immunotherapy, a specialized field of study focused on triggering the immune system to fight cancer. Our research has led us to test vaccines in patients with cancers of the lung, prostate, kidney, breast and skin. We are hopeful that our work will result in new strategies to treat, and one day prevent, this disease that continues to take so many of our loved ones.

The Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center houses a suite of class-10,000 cancer research laboratories that are GMP-capable.  These facilities are fully equipped to process and prepare autologous and allogeneic tumor vaccines, and to process and expand PBMC and T-cells through our Human Applications Laboratory.

At Providence Cancer Center, patients have access to dozens of clinical trials of promising new drugs and cancer therapies. Many of these new therapies are developed by researchers in the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center, while others come from scientists at other major cancer research institutions. Patients at Providence also have access to a broad range of government-sponsored clinical trials via the Columbia River Oncology Program (CROP) and trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. 

All clinical trials are supported by teams of physicians, nurses and other cancer specialists who have up-to-the-minute knowledge of the latest treatment options for a variety of cancers. When new treatments prove more effective than standard therapies, patients who participate in clinical trials are among the first to benefit. By working in close proximity to patients and to each other, Providence researchers, physicians and clinical trials staff members enjoy a collaborative, patient-centered relationship that enhances both research and patient care.

The Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center is located in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center.  The Earle A. Chiles Research Institute was created in 1987 as a result of the collaboration of the Chiles Foundation and Providence Health & Services. Cancer research was established as a major focus in 1993 and has flourished because of the generosity of Robert W. Franz and Elsie Franz Finley. The Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center was dedicated to them in 1996.