Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson

Professor, Biodesign Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics


Karen Anderson is a professor at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics and ASU’s School of Life Sciences. She is also a medical oncologist and an associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic Arizona.

Anderson is focused on understanding how the immune response can be used to detect and alter cancer development. To create an effective cancer immunotherapy, Anderson’s team identifies target antigens and pushes scientific understanding of the mechanisms of immune regulation that limit effective immunotherapy. 

Before moving to Arizona in 2011, Anderson was an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute where she also completed her clinical fellowship in adult hematology and oncology and served as a medical oncologist at the Breast Oncology Center. While at Data Farber, Anderson led two investigator-initiated breast cancer vaccine trials.

One challenge in tumor immunology is how to measure immune responses across the proteome.  Antibodies to tumor antigens can be detected in the blood of cancer patients and be used as biomarkers for early cancer detection. Anderson’s team uses custom protein microarrays and bead-array assays to detect these antibodies and has identified novel biomarkers for the detection of breast, ovarian, and human papillomavirus-associated cancers. 

Anderson developed novel assays for the detection of serum antibodies to the HPV16 proteome, which are strongly detected in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer patient sera. She is evaluating these antibodies as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. 

The Center for Personalized Diagnostics at ASU, where the Anderson Lab is housed, has adapted custom protein microarray technology developed for high-throughput screening of tumor antigen-specific antibodies. The team has developed secondary confirmatory assays for rapid antibody detection using plate-based and bead-based formats, resulting in identifying panels of autoantibody-based biomarkers for breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. 

Anderson is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.  She has written more than 40 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, book chapters and editorials. Anderson serves as committee co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network Breast/Gyn Cancers Collaborative Group and is a member of NCI’s Cancer Biomarkers Study Section. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 

Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia. At Duke University, she completed the Medical Scientist Training Program in which she earned a medical degree at the School of Medicine and a doctorate from the department of microbiology and immunology. Anderson completed her medical internship and residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Internal Medicine.