Robert Debs, M.D., Senior Scientist

California Pacific CURRENTS: The online journal of CPMC Research Institute

Uncovering molecular pathways in the metastatic progression of cancer
  • Anti-PECAM-1 monoclonal antibody therapy

    Anti-PECAM-1 monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb) effectively suppresses end-stage metastatic progression in mice. The images above show that the new anti-PECAM-1 monoclonal antibody therapy Dr. Debs and colleagues are developing dramatically reduces the advanced, now lethal stages of cancer metastasis.

    The three panels from left to right show a cross-section of tumor-bearing mouse lungs. The lungs shown in the left panel are from control treated mice showing extensive reddish staining metastatic melanoma tumors occupying more than one third of the entire lung. The center panel shows lungs from tumor bearing mice treated with the standard regimen of this monoclonal antibody that reduced lung tumor mass by approximately 40%. The right panel shows the dramatic response produced by administering an additional dose of this antibody at a time when the mice had advanced tumor metastases. The additional mAb dose produced a dramatic, fourfold reduction in tumor burden. These results suggest that this antibody might be particularly effective in cancer patients with advanced tumors refractory to currently available therapies.


  • administration of anti-PECAM antibody and effects on survival

    The two graphs illustrate that the administration of anti-PECAM antibody in mice with advanced melanoma or breast cancer metastases survive significantly longer than without antibody treatment.

    Source: American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, 2012.


Research Overview

  • Novel research by Dr. Debs showed that PECAM-1 (platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1) regulates levels of cancer-promoting proteins, and that an anti-PECAM-1 monoclonal antibody targets advanced metastases of common fatal cancers.
  • The Debs lab is developing gene delivery technologies for cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.
  • As part of a new CPMCRI collaborative effort, Dr. Debs is helping create a novel paradigm for treating metastatic tumors with combination therapies. Several targets implicated in tumor proliferation or invasion have already been identified at the institute, and studies are underway to assess activation of these targets and their signaling pathways.


Dr. Debs received his M.D. from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and completed a hematology-oncology fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.


Publication Search


Dar AA, Majid S, Bezrookove V, Phan B, Ursu S, Nosrati M, De Semir D, Sagebiel RW, Miller JR 3rd, Debs R, Cleaver JE, Kashani-Sabet M, BPTF transduces MITF-driven prosurvival signals in melanoma cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Dar AA, Nosrati M, Bezrookove V, de Semir D, Majid S, Thummala S, Sun V, Tong S, Leong SP, Minor D, Billings PR, Soroceanu L, Debs R, Miller JR 3rd, Sagebiel RW, Kashani-Sabet M, The role of BPTF in melanoma progression and in response to BRAF-targeted therapy. J Natl Cancer Inst

Sun V, Zhou WB, Nosrati M, Majid S, Thummala S, de Semir D, Bezrookove V, de Feraudy S, Chun L, Schadendorf D, Debs R, Kashani-Sabet M, Dar AA, Antitumor activity of miR-1280 in melanoma by regulation of Src. Mol Ther

De Semir D, Nosrati M, Bezrookove V, Dar AA, Federman S, Bienvenu G, Venna S, Rangel J, Climent J, Meyer Tamgüney TM, Thummala S, Tong S, Leong SP, Haqq C, Billings P, Miller JR 3rd, Sagebiel RW, Debs R, Kashani-Sabet M, Pleckstrin homology domain-interacting protein (PHIP) as a marker and mediator of melanoma metastasis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

DeLisser H, Liu Y, Desprez PY, Thor A, Briasouli P, Handumrongkul C, Wilfong J, Yount G, Nosrati M, Fong S, Shtivelman E, Fehrenbach M, Cao G, Moore DH, Nayak S, Liggitt D, Kashani-Sabet M, Debs R, Vascular endothelial platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) regulates advanced metastatic progression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

McAllister SD, Murase R, Christian RT, Lau D, Zielinski AJ, Allison J, Almanza C, Pakdel A, Lee J, Limbad C, Liu Y, Debs RJ, Moore DH, Desprez PY, Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis. Breast Cancer Res Treat

Robert Debs, M.D., Senior Scientist
Primary Research Interests
  • Combination therapies for metastatic cancers
    • Advanced, currently untreatable stages of common, non-fatal cancers
  • Gene delivery technologies for cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases
    • Developing technologies that correct genes directly in the body