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Robert D. Schreiber, PhD

Robert D. Schreiber, PhD, is the Alumni Professor of Pathology and Immunology and professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine. He is nationally recognized as a pioneer in efforts to understand how the immune system may be useful in battling cancer.

Schreiber earned his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1973. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Research Institute of the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA, he was appointed to the faculty ultimately becoming a tenured associate member. He was recruited to Washington University in 1985. Since 1998 he has been the program leader for tumor immunology at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

Schreiber’s lab was the first to purify a molecular factor that activated immune system cells known as macrophages, enabling them to kill invading microbes and cancers. Schreiber identified this molecule as interferon-gamma (IFNγ). He then generated a monoclonal antibody that inactivated IFNγ in mice and defined many of IFNγ’s roles in preventing disease.

Schreiber went on to define the IFNγ receptor, elucidate its mechanism of action and show that IFNγ-unresponsive mice were highly susceptible to infections and cancer. Building upon this work, Schreiber’s group elaborated the cancer immunoediting theory to explain how the immune system interacts with cancers. The team recently proved the theory’s key missing component, showing that immunity can drive cancers into a dormant state without destroying them. This finding suggests that immunity may someday be useful in transforming some cancers into chronic, controllable diseases.

Together with Emil Unanue, MD, Schreiber created the School of Medicine’s Immunology Graduate Program and led it for a decade. He has served in leadership roles for many international organizations. His honors include the Cancer Research Institute’s Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Tumor Immunology and the 2007 Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research.

Published: 03/23/2008