Distinguished Professor
Vice Chair of Research
Department of Dermatology

Distinguished Professor
Department of Internal Medicine
Division of Hematology/Oncology

Dr Murphy

Research Interests: Cancer Immunotherapy
and graft vs host disease.

UC Davis Department of Dermatology
2921 Stockton Blvd. 
Sacramento, CA 95716



Dr. Murphy spent his postdoctoral years and early career at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland. After 12 years and becoming Director of Basic Research at NCI-Frederick in Maryland, he then joined the faculty at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno (UNR) where he later became the Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. In 2008, Dr. Murphy moved his laboratory to University of California, Davis (UCD) School of Medicine, accepting a position as Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Departments of Dermatology and Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology. He became Interim Chair of the Department of Dermatology from 2012-2016. In 2018 he became Distinguished Professor at UC Davis.

The immune system can both fight cancer and promote it during chronic inflammatory conditions. Understanding the complex immunology of cancer will lead to better means of preventing and treating it.

Dr. Murphy’s laboratory studies various aspects within cancer immunology and immunotherapy, including immune responses to pathogens. Current projects within the lab are examining immunology and responses using a more system biology approach with regard to multiple immune components and pathogen/cancer interactions. Another focus within Dr. Murphy’s laboratory is how to make preclinical modeling more reflective of the clinical scenario by incorporating human modifying factors such as obesity, aging and prior immune exposures. His laboratory uses multiple models (including viral) and species (ranging from mouse, feline, canine, nonhuman primate and clinical samples) to integrate/link immune signatures and responses a pathogen or immunological therapy or challenge.

Dr. Murphy has over 250 publications in cancer immunology/immunotherapy over his 30-year career, has had continuous NIH funding over the years and is active on multiple NIH and DOD Study Sections.


Undergraduate Education: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, B.S. 1984

Graduate Education: University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas, Ph.D. 1989

Dr Murphy Research Lab Team

Left to right (standing):
Catherine Le, GSR
Jacob Mathai, Student
Steven Grossenbacher, GSR
Ian Sturgill, Junior Specialist
Jane (Qian) Chen, SRA
Ethan Aguilar, GSR
Dr. William Murphy, Professor
Sita Withers, DVM (Visiting PhD Student)
Monja Metcalf, SRA Supervisor
Lam Khuat, GSR
Christine Mall Minnar, PhD

Left to right (sitting):
Cordelia Dunai, GSR
Stefani (Ziming) Wang, GSR
Weihong Ma, SRA

Laboroatory of Cancer Immunobiology - Dr William Murphy 

Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is currently used for the treatment of a variety of disease states ranging from aplastic anemia to cancer. However, significant obstacles limit the efficacy of this procedure. These include: marrow graft failure, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), immune deficiency following the transplant, and when used for the treatment of cancer, relapse of the tumor. Using both in vivo and in vitro model systems, our laboratory has been examining the immunobiology underlying these obstacles.

Natural killer (NK) cells have been demonstrated to be responsible for mediating the specific rejection of bone marrow cell (BMC) allografts in lethally irradiated mice. However, little is known concerning the nature of these cells and BMC rejection which leads to marrow graft failure. We have found that NK cell subsets exist that are responsible for mediating the specific rejection of BMC from mice bearing the appropriate MHC molecules. In addition, these NK subsets also play an important role in the normal homeostasis of hematopoiesis suggesting that it is one of their normal physiologic functions. We are currently examining the differentiation of these various subsets. We are also using activated NK cells as a means of providing additional antitumor effects when BMT is used with tumor bearing mice. We found that adoptive transfer of NK cells can provide significant antitumor effects while at the same time promoting hematopoietic engraftment and preventing GVHD in mice. We are currently examining the mechanism(s) by underlying these effects.

Our laboratory has also been examining means to accelerate immune and hematopoietic reconstitution following BMT. This would also be of use in other instances where immune recovery is desirable such as in AIDS. We have been focusing on the use of neuroendocrine hormones such as growth hormone (GH) and prolactin. They are attractive since they are relatively nontoxic when given systemically and can exert pleiotropic effects. We have found that GH can exert significant hematopoietic growth-promoting effects after in vivo administration. GH can also accelerate immune and hematopoietic reconstitution after BMT in mice. Using a human/mouse chimera model we have found that these hormones can improve human T-cell trafficking and function in vivo. We are also examining physiological role of these neuroimmune interactions.

Another problem with BMT is an EBV-induced B-cell lymphoma that can arise in immunodeficient individuals. We have found that stimulation of CD40, a molecule present on B cells critical for their development and function, can promote B-cell recovery after BMT. Using a human/mouse chimera model, we have also found that CD40 stimulation can prevent the occurrence of this EBV-induced B-cell lymphoma in vivo. Thus, CD40 stimulation after BMT may accelerate immune recovery and prevent lymphoma generation. We are currently examining the role of CD40 in hematopoiesis.

  1. Alderson KL, Murphy WJ. 2009. Effects of cancer immunotherapy regimens on primary vs. secondary immune responses and the potential impact on long-term antitumor responses. Adv Exp Med Biol: Crossroads Between Innate and Adaptive Immunity II, ed. 633: 81-89.
  2. Ames E, Hallett WD, Murphy WJ. 2009. Sensitization of human breast cancer cells to natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity by proteasome inhibition. Clin Exper Immunol 155: 504-13.
  3. O'Shaughnessy MJ, Vogtenhuber C, Sun K, Sitcheran R, Baldwin AS, Murphy WJ., Dang L, Jaffee B, Palmer E, Serody JS, Blazar BR. 2009. Ex vivo inhibition of NK-kappaB signaling in alloreactive T-cells prevents graft-versus-host disease. Am J Transplant 9: 452-62.
  4. Taylor PA, Ehrhardt MJ, Lees CJ, Panoskaltsis-Mortari A, Krieg AM, Sharpe AH, Murphy WJ., Serody JS, Hemmi H, Akira S, Levy RB, Blazar BR. 2008. TLR agonists regulate alloresponses and uncover a critical role for donor APCs in allogeneic bone marrow rejection. Blood 112:3508-16.
  5. Sun K, Li M, Sayers TJ, Welniak LA, Murphy WJ.. 2008. Differential effects of donor T cell cytokines on outcome with continuous bortezomib administration following allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. Blood 112: 1522-9.
  6. Shanker A, Brooks AD, Tristan CA, Wine JW, Elliott PJ, Yagita H, Takeda K, Smyth MJ, Murphy WJ, Sayers TJ. 2008. Treating metastatic solid tumors with bortezomib and a tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor agonist antibody. J Natl Cancer Inst 100: 649-62.
  7. Redelman D, Welniak LA, Taub D, Murphy WJ. 2008. Neuroendocrine hormones such as growth hormone and prolactin are integral members of the immunological cytokine network. Cell Immunol 252: 111-21.
  8. Puliaev R, Puliaeva I, Welniak LA, Ryan AE, Haas M, Murphy WJ, Via CS. 2008. CTL-Promoting Effects of CD40 Stimulation Outweigh B Cell-Stimulatory Effects Resulting in B Cell Elimination and Disease Improvement in a Murine Model of Lupus. J Immunol 181: 47-61.
  9. Murphy WJ. 2008. Raising the specta of T-cell profiling. Blood 112: 3008-9.
  10. Motarjemi M, Hallett WHD, Li M, Murphy WJ. 2008. Proteasome Inhibition: Potential for Sensitization of Immune Effector Mechanisms in Cancer. In Sensitization of Cancer Cells for Chemo/immuno/Radio-therapy., ed. B Bonavida, pp. 51-60. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press