Message from the Director


Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D.
Director and Endowed Chair,
Earle A. Chiles Research Institute
Physician Executive, Providence Cancer Institute
Physician Executive for Research, Providence St. Joseph Health

Welcome to the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Center, in Portland, Oregon. I am delighted to share with you recent highlights from our progress in cancer medicine and research.

2018 marked a significant milestone in the era of cancer immunotherapy. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to two immunotherapy researchers – James Allison, Ph.D., and Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D. - for their work uncovering how the immune system attacks cancer.

Their discoveries led to the development of the FDA-approved immune checkpoint therapies we have today. As the center which led the global clinical trial of one of those therapies – ipilimumab, we are delighted our contributions helped achieve this monumental honor and important recognition. 

2018 also marked the first immunotherapy approval by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with breast cancer, and we are proud of our contributions to the clinical trial which prompted the accelerated approval.

Another exciting advancement came with the expansion of clinical and research space at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Center. Our newly opened Franz Clinic allows us to serve more patients with cancer, and an additional 10,000 square feet of space dedicated to cancer research enables us to recruit more laboratory and clinical investigators.

From our humble beginnings, our team has grown to more than 150 investigators and research personnel, including 22 faculty members recognized globally for their pioneering contributions to cancer immunotherapy. From detecting and treating cancer in its earliest stages to developing new therapies for the most pernicious cancers, our researchers are united in their aim to advance cancer medicine.

With the growth of our genomics and bioinformatics teams, Providence oncologists can now recommend highly personalized treatment plans based on the unique genetic profiles of patients’ tumors. Coupled with the development of our adoptive cellular therapy programs, including CAR T-cell therapy, we are at the forefront of precision immuno-oncology.

Our growth would not have been possible without the support of major benefactors like Robert W. Franz and his sister, Elsie Franz Finley. Together, they helped equip us for state-of-the-art care and translational research for many years to come. Their generosity and leadership inspire us to press forward with an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of patients with cancer.

We all are touched by cancer, and we all have a role to play in the pursuit of a cancer-free future. I invite you to join us on our journey. With your support, together we can finish cancer.