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Associate Professor, Oncology & Immunology

Office: 919.513.6183

• BA, English, Biology; Rutgers, 1985
• DVM; Mississippi State, 1992
• PhD, Immunology; NCSU, 2002 [Gilboa Lab, Duke]

Post-Graduate Training
• Small Animal Rotating Internship; NCSU, 1992-3
• Residency, Small Animal Internal Medicine; NCSU, 1994-7
• Post-doctoral researcher, UNC-CH, 2003-8, [Frelinger Lab]
• Residency, Medical Oncology; NCSU, 2002-8
Professional Affiliations
• Graduate Faculty, NCSU Comparative Biomedical Sciences (CBS), Immunology Concentration
• NCSU Biotechnology Program
• NCSU Comparative Medicine Institute
• American Association of Veterinary Immunologists
• American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (SAIM, Oncology)
Hess Lab: CD8+ T cells in Health & Disease

Research Interests
Cancer in dogs:
We’re working to develop new immunotherapies for two common, deadly cancers of white blood cells, lymphoma and histiocytic sarcoma. Our goal is to harness the selective killing power of CD8+ T cells to eradicate the tiny number of cancer cells that somehow resist all chemotherapy treatments and ultimately jeopardize the patient’s life. We are conducting 3 active studies in this area:
• We will begin (late Spring 2019) to test a novel peptide vaccine for treatment of lymphoma. This study is an internal trial limited to Golden Retriever and Boxer patients of the NCSU Veterinary Hospital that carry specific immune response genes and have failed conventional chemotherapy [Funded by an NCSU Chancellor’s Innovation Fund].
• We are investigating new adjuvants (immune stimulants) for use in next-generation canine cancer vaccines for lymphoma and histiocytic sarcoma [Funded by an NCSU CVM grant award].
• We are investigating new antigens (immune targets) for use in next-generation canine cancer vaccines and T-cell therapies for lymphoma and histiocytic sarcoma [Funded by donations].
• Also, we recently completed a study, funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, that used state-of-the-art DNA sequencing of lymphoma cell “fingerprints” in a patient’s blood during treatment as a way to measure the invisible number of cancer cells that resist chemotherapy. In the future, such determinations, made in real-time, will guide chemotherapy choices to improve the outcomes of dogs with T-cell lymphoma.

Viral infections in cats: Cats are afflicted by several chronic viral infections for which no effective treatments exist, such as those caused by feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) virus. Generating effective therapies for these viruses will depend on understanding why CD8+ T cells whose job it is to clear infected cells from the body fail to do so when confronted with these particular viruses. Understanding this failure in turn requires better characterization of the specialized immune presentation system - in cats, called the Feline Leukocyte Antigen class I (FLAI) system – that is responsible for signaling the presence of viral infection to T cells. Our current understanding of FLA I genes and functioning is rudimentary. We are conducting 1 active study in this area:
• State-of-the-art DNA sequencing is being used to decode the genetic elements that define FLAI and to catalog the frequency of different gene versions (alleles) used by cats across the world [Funded by the Morris Animal Foundation and donations].

Current lab members:
• Jenny Holmes, MS; Research Technician / Lab manager
• Alex Kapatos; PhD Graduate Student, CBS (Immunology)
• Loren Johnson; Undergraduate Student (Zoology)
• Sophie Mercer; DVM Student (Summer 2019 Veterinary Scholars Program)

• B-305, NCSU-CVM Main Building
• Dept. of Clinical Sciences
1060 William Moore Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607

Are you interested in becoming a student in the CBS Immunology Program at NCSU?

Are you interested in financially supporting this research?
• Donations can be made through the NCSU CVM Gift website at:
• After selecting “Choose a fund”, scroll to “Other”, check “Other – I would like to give to a different area” , and indicate the Hercules Fund/dog or Hercules Fund/cat, whichever is desired
• Thank you for support of these research endeavors. Even a small donation can have a big impact!
  • (2019) Cancer-Testis Antigens in Canine Histiocytic Sarcoma and Other Malignancies.Nemec PS, Kapatos A, Holmes JC, Stowe DM, Hess PR. | Vet Comp Oncol. 2019 Accepted for publication.
  • (2018) The prevalent Boxer MHC class Ia allotype dog leukocyte antigen (DLA)-88*034:01 preferentially binds nonamer peptides with a defined motifNemec PS, Kapatos A, Holmes JC, Hess PR. | HLA. 2018 Dec;92(6):403-407. PubMed PMID: 30239163.
  • (2018) The canine MHC class Ia allele DLA-88*508:01 presents diverse self- and canine distemper virus-origin peptides of varying length that have a conserved binding motif. Vet Immunol Immunopathol.Ross P, Nemec PS, Kapatos A, Miller KR, Holmes JC, Suter SE, Buntzman AS, Soderblom EJ, Collins EJ, Hess PR. | 2018 Mar;197:76-86. PubMed PMID: 29475511; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5850932.
  • (2017) Canine acute leukaemia: 50 cases (1989-2014).Bennett AL, Williams LE, Ferguson MW, Hauck ML, Suter SE, Lanier CB, Hess PR. | 2017 Sep;15(3):1101-1114. PubMed PMID: 27402031; NIHMSID: NIHMS806230; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5233675.
  • (2013) Characterization and allelic variation of the transporters associated with antigen processing (TAP) genes in the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).Gojanovich GS, Ross P, Holmer SG, Holmes JC, Hess PR. | Dev Comp Immunol 2013 Dec;41(4):578-86. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2013.07.011. Epub 2013 Jul 25. PubMed PMID: 23892057; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3846772.
  • (2013) Polymorphisms and tissue expression of the feline leukocyte antigen class I loci FLAI-E, FLAI-H, and FLAI-K.Holmes JC, Holmer SG, Ross P, Buntzman AS, Frelinger JA, Hess PR. | Immunogenetics. 2013 Sep;65(9):675-89. PubMed PMID: 23812210; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3777221.
  • (2012) Allelic diversity at the DLA-88 locus in Golden Retriever and Boxer breeds is limited.Ross P, Buntzman AS, Vincent BG, Grover EN, Gojanovich GS, Collins EJ, Frelinger JA, Hess PR. | Tissue Antigens 2012 Aug;80(2):175-83. PubMed PMID: 22571293; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3407292.
  • (2012) A cell-based MHC stabilization assay for the detection of peptide binding to the canine classical class I molecule, DLA-88Ross P, Holmes JC, Gojanovich GS, Hess PR. | Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2012 Dec 15;150(3-4):206-12. PubMed PMID: 23062801; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3494747.
  • (2010) Evaluation of an in vitro telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay to detect telomerase activity in canine urine.McCleary-Wheeler AL, Williams LE, Hess PR, Suter SE. | Am J Vet Res. 2010 Dec;71(12):1468-74. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.71.12.1468.
  • (2006) Vaccination with mRNAs encoding tumor-associated antigens and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor efficiently primes CTL responses, but is insufficient to overcome tolerance to a model tumor/self antigen. Cancer Immunol Immunother.Hess PR, Boczkowski D, Nair SK, Snyder D, Gilboa E. | 2006 Jun;55(6):672-83. PubMed PMID: 16133108.