Tumor Virology Program


The Tumor Virology Program was founded in 1993 to serve as the central forum for facilitating interactions between virologists involved in cancer-related research on the Penn campus as well as with other investigators with an interest in the etiological basis of cancer. Program members have broad expertise in EBV, KSHV, alpha and beta herpesviruses, HPV, HCV, HIV, and other retroviruses, as well as emerging viral agents including coronaviruses, SARS, Ebola, and West Nile viruses. The Program is organized into four highly interactive and productive affinity groups: Viral Oncogenesis, DNA Virology, Viral Receptors and Retrovirology, and General Virology. Since 2002 the program has been led by Erle S. Robertson, PhD, who is recognized for his contributions to the field of Tumor Virology. Dr. Robertson is an experienced, well-funded tumor virologist who is highly collaborative, as shown by his many joint programmatic developments with a number of investigators from varying scientific backgrounds. He continues to make important improvements in the overall program to further develop the program, and enhance intra- and inter-programmatic collaboration, which includes translational research. Most importantly, Dr. Robertson has stimulated considerable interest among basic and clinical investigators in studying viruses and cancer in collaboration with members of the Tumor Biology, Cancer Control, and Cancer Therapeutics Programs, among others. These and other strategies have resulted in the recruitment of a recent tumor virologist to the program, a strong commitment to translational research, the development of new interprogrammatic collaborative interactions, and active participation by members in program meetings and interdisciplinary, interprogrammatic retreats. The major areas of viral-related research in the Tumor Virology Program include:

  • Studies to determine the mechanisms mediating cellular transformation, immortalization, and cell cycle dysregulation by viral encoded proteins;
  • Studies to understand the role of viral proteins in cellular and viral gene expression and in control of cellular growth and survival;
  • Research involving the structure and function of viral receptors and viral-receptor interactions;
  • Investigation of the molecular biology and pathogenesis of retroviruses as they relate to AIDS and AIDS-associated malignancies;
  • Studies focused on the elucidation of the mechanisms of viral neuropathology;
  • Studies to develop viral vectors for human gene therapy and cancer;
  • And the development of vaccine strategies for the treatment of viral-associated cancers. Post-doctoral or per-doctoral appointments will initially be for one year and continuation during this period and renewal of this award for a second year will be based on satisfactory performance, a written progress report, availability of funding, and active participation in program-related activities.
Training in Tumor Virology

20% of all human cancers are associated with viruses functioning as biological cofactors in driving these cancers. Some of these viruses may have a direct role in mediating these cancers as in the case of HIV-related cancers, which include Kaposi’s sarcoma, pleural effusion lymphomas, and lymphoproliferative disease. There is also an increase in the number of HPV-related patients, for example, in the immunocompromised patients who are on HAART therapy and in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.
The Tumor Virology Program at the University of Pennsylvania serves as the central forum for facilitating interactions among investigators involved in cancer-related viral research on the Penn campus. Program members have expertise in EBV, KSHV, HPV, HCV, HIV, and other retroviruses. There are 18 trainers in this program, all of whom are committed to training pre and postdoctoral fellows for biomedical research careers.
Viral-related cancers are expected to increase as the technology for identifying these agents improves. We provide an atmosphere of collaboration between clinical and basic scientists for our trainees who will have the opportunity to formulate ideas, which will lead to basic and translational studies supporting a cohesive group in tumor virology.

  • Pre-doctoral and Postdoctoral positions are available on an NIH training grant.
  • Each position will last 1-2 years
  • Candidates will have the choice of an established laboratory throughout the School of Medicine, Children's
  • Hospital of Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, and the Wistar Institute.
To apply, please send the following materials to the contact information in the right sidebar:
  • Cover letter from your mentor
  • Project Summary
  • CV, including publications
  • Mentor Biosketch
  • 2 reference letters
  • Transcript
Program Leader and Research Interests
Erle Robertson, PhD Oncogenesis, viruses and cancer, Viral oncology, Kaposi's Sarcoma, Epstein-Barr Virus, Lymphoproliferative disease, Microbiome and Cancer
Trainers Research Interests
Devraj Basu, MD, PhD Cell And Molecular Biology of HPV cancers
Kyong-Mi Chang, MD Cell And Molecular Biology, HBV and HCV associated cancers
Lewis Chodosh, MD, PhD Viruses and  Cancer biology, Genomics and computational biology, Cancer genetics,  Breast cancer, Endocrinology, Tumor dormancy and recurrence
David Feldser, PhD Lung Cancer associated with EBV
Serge Fuchs, MD, PhD Intereferon pathway and various types of cancer, HCV and HCC
Roger Greenberg, MD, PhD Oncogenic viruses regulate DNA Repair Mechanism
Hongzhe Li (Lee), PhD Epidemiology and Biostatistics of virus associated cancers, Genomics And Computational Biology
Paul Lieberman, PhD Human Tumor Viruses (EBV, KSHV) and Telomeres
Ronen Marmorstein, PhD Molecular Mechanisms of Protein Regulation in Chromatin, Metabolism and Disease
George Shaw, MD, PhD Virology of HCV  
Italo Tempera, PhD The epigenetic mechanism underlying Epstein Barr virus (EBV)
Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD Pathobiology, Hematopoietic malignancies, Viral Lymphomas, Leukemia
David Weiner, PhD DNA Vaccines
Eric Weitze, PhD Cell And Molecular Biology of HPV
Matthew Weitzman, PhD Virology, Virus Replication, DNA Damage and Repair, Genome Instability, Viral Vectors
Kathryn Wellen, PhD Viral Cancer Metabolism
Elizabeth White, PhD Cell And Molecular Biology of HPV
Xiaolu Yang, PhD Tumor suppressor, metabolism and protein control in viral cancer
Jianxin You, PhD DNA tumor viruses, Host targets, Persistent viral latent infection, Viral oncogenesis, Tumor virology, Bromodomain protein BRD4 and cancer
Yan Yuan, PhD KSHV Biology and Pathogenicity