Vito W. Rebecca, Ph.D.

Headshot of Vito W. Rebecca
  • Joint Appointment in Oncology

Research Interests

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma; Stem-Like Cancer Cell Biology; Non-Genetic Mechanisms of Resistance; Therapy Resistance, Cancer Health Disparities more


Dr. Rebecca is internationally known for his discoveries in autophagy-lysosome function, therapy resistance, and cancer research. He and his colleagues firstly identified palmitoyl-protein thioesterase 1 (PPT1) as the protein target of hydroxychloroquine, the only autophagy-lysosome inhibitor clinically available for the treatment of patients with advanced cancer. This research has revealed the importance of PPT1 in autophagy-lysosome function and immunotherapy resistance in melanoma. Later, he and his colleagues discovered a gene signature shared between tumor cells and skin-derived stem cells not previously known to drive therapy resistance and metastatic capacity of melanoma cells, including the receptor LPAR1. More recently, his group has developed and characterized novel models of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), the most lethal and common subtype of cutaneous melanoma in underrepresented patient populations, to understand why existing cutaneous melanoma therapies are not as effective in patients with ALM.

Dr. Rebecca is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also a Member of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Department of Oncology and the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center. He has a B.S. from Lafayette College and a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida / H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center cancer biology graduate program. Dr. Rebecca serves on the Steering Committee for the Society for Melanoma Research and on various committees to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biomedical sciences. He is the recipient of several awards for his work including the Melanoma Research Foundation Young Investigator Award (2019), the Christopher Marshall Award (2018), and the Johns Hopkins University Faculty Innovation Award (2021). more


  • Joint Appointment in Oncology

Departments / Divisions

  • Oncology - Cancer Invasion and Metastasis

Centers & Institutes



  • B.S.; Lafayette College (Pennsylvania) (2009)
  • Ph.D.; University of South Florida (Florida) (2014)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The Rebecca laboratory focuses on understanding mechanisms leveraged by tumor cell subpopulations that metastasize and escape targeted- and immune-therapy, using acral lentiginous melanoma as a paradigm. Studies encompass quantitative tools, genetic editing, molecular biology, in vivo patient-derived xenograft therapy trials, and bioinformatic analyses to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of actionable vulnerabilities for stem cell-like subpopulations of cancer cells.

Selected Publications

Alicea GM, Rebecca VW. Un-Fair Skin: racial disparities in acral melanoma research. Nature Reviews Cancer, 2022

Jamerson T, Rebecca VW, Aguh C. Genetic characteristics and response to systemic therapies of acral lentiginous melanoma at a tertiary care center-a retrospective review. Journal of the National Medical Association, 2021

Alicea GM, Rebecca VW. Emerging strategies to treat rare and intractable subtypes of melanoma. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, 2020

Alicea GM, Rebecca VW, Goldman AR, Fane ME, Douglass SM, Behera R, Webster MR, Kugel CH, Ecker BL, Caino MC, Kossenkov AV, Tang HY, Frederick DT, Flaherty KT, Xu X, Liu Q, Gabrilovich DI, Herlyn M, Blair IA, Schug ZT, Speicher DW, Weeraratna AT. Changes in Aged Fibroblast Lipid Metabolism Induce Age-dependent Melanoma Cell Resistance to Targeted Therapy Via the Fatty Acid Transporter FATP2. Cancer Discovery, 2020

Rebecca VW, Nicastri MC, Fennelly C, Chude CI, Barber-Rotenberg JS, Ronghe A, McAfee Q, McLaughlin NP, Martorella A, Alicea GM, Lee JJ, Schuchter LM, Xu X, Herlyn M, Marmorstein R, Gimotty PA, Speicher DW, Winkler JD, Amaravadi RK. PPT1 promotes tumor growth and is the molecular target of chloroquine derivatives in cancer. Cancer Discovery, 2019

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