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Stephen Robbins

Stephen Robbins, PhD


Brain tumor microenvironment, Drug design, Glioma progression, Organ-selective metastasis
  • Director, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
  • Professor, Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology, McGill University
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Oncology, University of Calgary

Contact details

(514) 340-8100 ext. 27573

Assistant contact details

  • Voula Giannopoulos,
    Executive Assistant
    (514) 340-8222 ext. 25252


Stephen Robbins’ laboratory has had a long-standing interest in how extracellular signals are communicated to the cell to control such essential biological processes as the growth and differentiation of mammalian cells. They have been particularly interested in how this complex biochemical circuitry can go awry in the setting of cancer and how it can be targeted for therapeutic intervention.

With a greater understanding of the molecular drivers of tumor progression the Robbins laboratory are translating their findings using a wide range of pre-clinical models with the ultimate goal of testing them in the clinic to improve patient outcomes. Their specific focus is in the area of hard-to-treat cancers including

  • brain tumors, and
  • advanced metastatic disease with a specific focus on organ-specific metastasis.

Their studies have moved beyond the cancer cell per se and now include strategies to investigate how the tumor microenvironment fuels cancer cell proliferation and imparts therapeutic resistance to our current therapies.

Major Research Activities

Our research program aims to understand the role of the innate immune system in tumorigenesis, metastasis and therapeutic resistance. We also have specific interest in how leukocytes are recruited to specific organs during an inflammatory response on how dampening inflammation can be applied clinically.


The specific research areas in the laboratory include:

  • To therapeutically target the glioma disease reservoirs, namely the brain tumor-initiating cells and the highly invasive cellular compartment. In this regard they have isolated glioma targeting peptides that cross the blood brain barrier and are currently being developed as a platform for imaging and therapeutic delivery.
  • To determine the role of the brain tumor microenvironment including microglia and macrophages in glioma progression and their contribution to therapeutic resistance.
  • Based on the fact that most patients die from metastases than from their primary tumour it is important to determine the molecular features of a cancer cell and the target organ that facilitate the metastatic process. We have focused on the vascular ‘addresses’ that allow for the homing of cancer cells to specific organs in the body with specific focus on the liver and lungs, two major sites for metastatic spread.

Recent Publications and References