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Robert K. Bright, PhD

Robert K. Bright


Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology
Phone: 806.743.4592
Lab: 806.743.2626
Fax: 806.743.2334
Email: Robert K. Bright, PhD


Robert K. Bright is a Full Professor in the Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas. Dr. Bright graduated from the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho with a B.S. degree in Bacteriology (emphasis biochemistry) in 1987. After some time on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army he was hired as a Research Associate at the SW Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Bright enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio in the fall of 1989. He was recalled to active duty in the U.S. Army in the fall of 1990 and served until June of 1991 in the combat zone in support of Operation Desert Storm as the HHC Commander of the 114th Field Evacuation Hospital. Returning to graduate studies in the fall of 1991 Dr. Bright earned a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio in 1994. Upon completion of his doctoral studies Dr. Bright moved to Bethesda, Maryland where he was awarded an Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship to study tumor immunology in the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. In late 1996 he was recruited to the Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Department of Surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan where he assumed a position of Assistant Professor. Two years later Dr. Bright was recruited to the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute and the Robert Franz Cancer Center at the Providence Portland Medical Center in Portland, Oregon where he served as Chief of Prostate Cancer Biology until February of 2002. In 2002 Dr. Bright was recruited as an Associated Professor to the Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Bright has received several honors and awards to include the University of Texas Health Sciences Center Armand J. Guarino Award for Academic Excellence in Doctoral Studies (top graduate student), the National Institutes of Health Fellows Award for Research Excellence (top 10% of postdoctoral fellows), a Research Scholars Award from the American Cancer Society and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Outstanding Teacher and Student Advocate Award, 2006. He was recognized, in 2011, by the DOD Prostate Cancer Research Program as an Innovative Mind in Prostate Cancer Research for his work on cancer vaccines. Dr. Bright has served and currently serves on numerous national grant review committees to include the American Cancer Society, the DOD/ Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, NASA and the National Institutes of Health. He has also served as Chair for several grant review committees. Dr. Bright also serves as an expert reviewer for several scientific journals including the Journal of Immunology, Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, the Journal of Immunotherapy, Vaccine, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, and on the editorial board of several prominent journals. He has more than 20 years of experience in research focusing on tumor immunity, has been funded by the NIH, the American Cancer Society and the DOD CDMRP, and has over 90 publications in the area of tumor immunology and tumor vaccines.


Bright Research

Extensive studies over the past few decades have established that cancer patients can mount immune responses against their own tumor(s), and that these responses can be effectively manipulated to treat patients with cancer by using defined targets isolated from the tumor cells, known as tumor associated antigens as vaccines. Recently the National Cancer Institute sponsored a pilot project to prioritize cancer vaccine target antigens for translational research. The study involved developing a set of nine “ideal” cancer antigen criteria/ characteristics, with 1) therapeutic function, 2) immunogenicity and 3) a role in oncogenicity deemed as having the greatest importance. From a growing but representative list of antigens, a group defined as over-expressed self-proteins stands out as the group with the largest number of potentially important target antigens. My research at present has focused on tumor immunology and cancer vaccines, which can be categorized by work in: a) the discovery and validation of novel tumor associated antigens using genomics and proteomics, b) the design of vaccine strategies and c) the study of mechanisms that impede effective vaccine induced immunity to include CD4+ and CD8+ regulatory T cells. Our systems biology efforts along these lines have led to the discovery of a novel cancer over-expressed self onco-protein, Tumor Protein D52, which is an active focus of our research. Tumor protein D52 (D52) is involved in cellular transformation, proliferation and metastasis and thus has a role in oncogenicity. Expression microarray analyses predict D52 over-expression in many other cancer types, including multiple myeloma, Burkitt’s lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, testicular germ cell tumors, and melanoma. We have reported that vaccines targeting D52 elicit tumor-specific T cells but only limited tumor protection in murine models of cancer. Data from these D52 vaccine studies suggest that a subset of CD8+ T cells plays a regulatory role in suppressing vaccine induced D52-specific immunity and may play a role suppressing immunity to self-proteins in general. A deeper understanding of the regulation of immunity to self onco-proteins is critical for the development of successful cancer vaccines. Our goal is to develop D52 as a systemic therapy or vaccine against cancer. Since D52 is over-expressed in many malignancies the long-term clinical impact could be wide reaching.

Laboratory Techniques

  1. Cell and tissue culture
  2. T cell isolation, expansion and characterization
  3. Realtime RT-PCR
  4. 2D-PAGE proteomics
  5. RNAi
  6. Gene cloning
  7. Immuno-assays
  8. Flow cytometry


For a complete list of publications by Robert K. Bright in PubMed click here