Robert L. Vessella, PhD

Robert L. Vessella, PhD

Pritt Family Endowed Chair in Translational Prostate Cancer Research
Departments of Urology and Microbiology
University of Washington


Dr. Vessella earned his Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1974 with a special emphasis in tumor and transplant immunology.  Following a post doctoral fellowship in tumor biology, he was recruited by Paul Lange, M.D. to the Department of Urology faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1976.  He and Dr. Lange left the University of Minnesota in the late 80’s to join the University of Washington.  Dr. Vessella is Director of the Genitourinary Cancer Research Laboratory and is greatly assisted in these tasks by co-directors Eva Corey, Ph.D. and Colm Morrissey, Ph.D.

Dr. Vessella has been focused on genitourinary cancer research for the past 36 years.  He and Dr. Lange explored immunotherapy, biomarkers and novel xenograft models (tumor avatars) while at the University of Minnesota and played significant roles in the development and use of AFP and PSA for the management of testicular cancer and prostate cancer, respectively.  At the University of Washington, their research focused primarily on prostate cancer.  Dr. Vessella has led a research team in the development of 30 novel prostate cancer avatars.  Furthermore, Drs. Vessella and Lange were among the first to detect and characterize circulating / disseminated prostate cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow, a project that has spanned 20 years of investigative effort.  Dr. Vessella was also among the first to form a research team that would explore the biology of prostate cancer bone metastases.  Finally, with the assistance of many colleagues, he developed the prostate cancer rapid autopsy program in 1992 which enabled many of the laboratory’s research projects to flourish.  He has consistently focused on translational science and has developed one of the field’s most comprehensive biospecimen banks.  These specimens, including the tumor avatars, are shared with investigators worldwide.  Additional information on the GU Cancer Laboratories’ research in prostate cancer along with our colleagues can be found here.


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