Matthias Stephan, MD, PhD

Assistant Member, Program in Immunology
Clinical Research Division
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology
University of Washington School of Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering
University of Washington


Medical University of Luebeck, Germany; MD, 2002

Imperial College, London, United Kingdom; Clinical fellowship, 2000

Cornell University, New York, New York; PhD, 2008

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts; Postdoctoral training, 2008-2012

Research Focus

Dr. Stephan works at the interface of materials science and immunology, designing synthetic materials that can be used as components of novel cancer therapies that selectively modulate the immune system. His long-term goal is to make cancer immunotherapy more widely accessible and successful by creating off-the-shelf reagents that can rapidly boost the body's natural ability to fight cancer, moving synthetic immunomodulatory materials into routine clinical practice and shifting the treatment focus from broadly toxic chemotherapy and radical surgery to tumor-specific immunotherapies.

Before moving to the Fred Hutch, Dr. Stephan demonstrated for the first time that immune T cells can be genetically engineered to self-stimulate when they encounter tumors, thereby enhancing anticancer immune responses. He also designed synthetic nanoparticles that can selectively deliver therapeutic drugs to tumors by smuggling them on the backs of tumor-seeking T cells, minimizing systemic drug toxicities.

Current Studies

Dr. Stephan continues developing injectable nanoparticle reagents, including ones that can rapidly program T cells to attack tumors. Ongoing research is focused on targeting melanoma, prostate, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

The other current focus is the creation of therapeutic scaffolds. The scaffolds are made of a porous, sponge-like polymer that soaks up select immune cells along with a support staff of molecules that help the T cells multiply and activate. Once prepared, a scaffold can be surgically implanted where a tumor was just removed or placed directly on a tumor that cannot be safely excised by surgeons. The scaffold acts as a reservoir, releasing anti-cancer immune cells as it slowly breaks down, much like dissolvable stitches. Already at their job site, those immune cells can immediately begin eliminating residual cancer cells that the surgeon couldn’t remove. This technology is presently being developed as a treatment for incompletely resected breast cancer.

Benefiting from the unique scientific environment at the Fred Hutch that fosters the translation of research discoveries into improved cancer treatment strategies, Dr. Stephan works closely with senior investigators, Drs. Phil Greenberg, Nora Disis and Stan Riddell who are conducting clinical immunotherapy trials for cancer patients.

Additional Links & Information

Related Labs & Projects

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Matthias Stephan, M.D., Ph.D.
Matthias Stephan, M.D., Ph.D.

Contact Information

(206) 667-6677
(206) 667-7983
Additional contact

Mail Stop: D3-100