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.
Education & Training
Dr. Vessella received his BA in Microbiology from the University of
Connecticut in 1970, and his PhD in Microbiology/Immunology from the
University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1974. He completed a postdoctoral
fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Department of
Surgery, in tumor and transplantation immunology from 1974 to 1976, after
which he took a faculty position at the University of Minnesota in the
Department of Urology.
- Corey E, Quinn JE, Emond MJ, Buhler KR, Brown LG and Vessella RL. "Inhibition of androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer xenografts by 17B-Estradiol." Clin Cancer Res. 8:1003-7, 2002.
- Corey E, Quinn JE, Bladou F, Brown LG, Roudier MP, Brown JM, Buhler KR and Vessella RL. "Establishment and characterization of osseous prostate cancer models: intra-tibial injection of human prostate cancer cells." Prostate 52:20-33, 2002.
- True LD, Buhler K, Quinn J, Williams E, Nelson PS, Cregg N, Macoska JA, Norwood T, Liu A, Ellis W, Lange PH, and Vessella RL. "A neuroendocrine/small cell prostate carcinoma xenograft: LuCaP 49." Am J Pathol 161:705-15, 2002.
- Corey E, Brown LG, Quinn JE, Poot M, Roudier MP, Higano CS and Vessella RL. "Zoledronic acid exhibits anti-tumor effects on prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo." Clin Cancer Res 9:295-306, 2003.
- Ellis WJ, Pfitzenmaier J, Colli J, Arfman EA, Lange PH and Vessella RL. "The detection and isolation of prostate cancer cells from peripheral blood and bone marrow." Urology 61:277-81, 2003.
- Roudier MP, Vesselle H, True LD, Higano CS, Ott SM, King SH and Vessella RL. "Bone histology at autopsy and matched bone scintigraphy findings in patients with hormone refractory prostate cancer: the effect of bisphosphonate therapy on bone scintigraphy results." Clin and Exp Metastasis 20: 171-180, 2003.
- Corey E, Quinn JE, Buhler KR, Nelson PS, Macoska JA, True L and Vessella RL. "LuCaP 35: A new model of progression of prostate cancer to androgen independence." Prostate 55:239-246, 2003.
- Roudier MP, True LD, Higano CS, Vesselle H, Ellis W, Lange PH and Vessella RL. "Phenotypic heterogeneity of end-stage prostate carcinoma metastatic to bone." Human Pathology 34:646-653, 2003.
- Corey E, Brown LG, Kiefer JA, Quinn JE, Pitts TEM, Blair JM and Vessella RL: "Osteoprotegerin in prostate cancer bone metastasis." Cancer Res 65:1710-1718, 2005.
- Wu JD, Odman A, Higgins LM, Haugk K, Vessella RL, Ludwig DL and Plymate SR: "Differential Effects of the human IGF-IR Antibody A12 on androgen-dependent and androgen-independent xenograft human prostate tumors." Clin Cancer Res 11:3065-74, 2005.
- Vessella RL and Corey E. "Targeting factors involved in bone remodeling as treatment strategies in prostate cancer bone metastases." Clin Cancer Res 20:6285s-6290s, 2006.
- Pfitzenmaier J, Ellis WJ, Hawley S, Arfman EW, Klein JR, Lange PH, and Vessella RL. "The detection and isolation of viable PSA positive epithelial cells by enrichment: a comparison to standard PSA RT-PCR and its clinical relevance in prostate cancer." Urologic Oncology, 25:214-220, 2007.
- Morrissey C and Vessella RL. "The role of tumor microenvironment in prostate cancer bone metastasis." J Cellular Biochemistry, 101:873-876, 2007.
- Morgan T, Lange PH and Vessella RL. "Detection and characterization of circulating and disseminated prostate cancer cells." Frontiers in Bioscience, 12:3000-3009, 2007.
- Morrissey C, True LD, Roudier MP, Coleman IM, Hawley S, Nelson PS, Coleman R, Wang Y, Corey E, Lange PH, Higano CS and Vessella RL. "Differential expression of angiogenesis associated genes in prostate cancer bone, liver and lymph node metastases." Clin Exp Metastasis 25:377-388, 2008.
- Pienta KJ, Abate-Shen C, Agus DB, Attar RM, Chung LW, Greenberg NM, Hahn WC, Isaacs JT, Navone NM, Peehl DM, Simons JW, Solit DB, soule HR, Bandyke TA, Weber MJ, Wu L and Vessella RL. "The current state of preclinical prostate cancer animal models." Prostate 68:629-639, 2008.
- Holcomb IN, Grove DI, Kinnunen M, Friedman C, Gallagher I, Morgan TM, Sather CL, Delrow JJ, Nelson PS, Lange PH, Ellis WJ, True LD, Young JM, Hsu L, Trask BJ, Vessella RL. "Genomic alterations indicate tumor origin and varied metastatic potential of disseminated cells from prostate cancer patients." Cancer Res 68:5599-5608, 2008.
- Morgan TM, Lange PH, Porter MP, Lin DW, Ellis WJ, Gallaher IS and Vessella RL. "Disseminated tumor cells in prostate cancer patients after radical prostatectomy and without evidence of disease predicts biochemical recurrence." Clin Cancer Research 15:677-683, 2009.
- Koreckij TD, Hill C, Azure L, Nguyen HM, Kunz LL, Azure A, Corey E, Lange PH and Vessella RL. "Low dose alternating electric current inhibits growth of prostate cancer." Prostate 70:529-539, 2010.
- Sun S, Sprenger CC, Vessella RL, Haugk K, Soriano K, Mostaghel EA, Page ST, Coleman IM, Nguyen HM, Sun H, Nelson PS, Plymate SR. "Castration resistance in human prostate cancer is conferred by a frequently occurring androgen receptor splice variant." J Clin Invest 20:2715-2730, 2010
Awards & Honors