UPMC Hillman Cancer Center 2022 Research Highlights

In 2022, we at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center greatly expanded the capabilities for the research that is done here every day to envision life without cancer. We expanded our footprint, welcomed exceptional leadership and faculty to our center, and launched a new cancer research fundraiser. Additionally, our faculty have been acknowledged for their work across the region and nation. Here’s a look at some of the details. 

UPMC Hillman’s research footprint expanded.

In the first major expansion of our research space in 20 years, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers moved into the newly renovated Assembly building. We now have an additional 100,000 new square feet of space that not only allows for the cutting-edge research we do, but also brings our researchers together from multiple campuses in a synergistic environment.

Exceptional leaders and faculty members joined UPMC Hillman.

We welcomed exceptional talent to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center this year.  Among the new hires are four new to UPMC Hillman’s leadership: Monica Baskin, PhD, who is leading community outreach, engagement, and health equity; Theresa “Tess” Cummings, RN, DBA, CCRP, who is heading the center’s clinical research services; Charles Geyer, Jr., MD, FACP, co-director of our National Cancer Institute (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network efforts; and Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, who is leading catchment area research and exercise oncology. We also welcomed Heath D. Skinner, MD, PhD, as the head of Radiation Oncology.

Other faculty members to our cancer center include: 

UPMC Hillman launched a new cancer research fundraiser.

A new bike ride fundraiser called Rush to Crush Cancer, was launched to raise money for cancer research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. The first bike ride event will take place on May 20, 2023. Registration is open at rushtocrushcancer.org.

UPMC Hillman researchers were recognized for their expertise.

Several researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center were recognized nationally and locally. 

Tullia C. Bruno, PhD, was recognized by the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research with her scientific project as one of only four to share $12 million in funding as part of the foundation’s 2022 Endeavor Awards. She was also honored with the Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund Award to advance innovative research in cancer, which was matched by the Stanley M. Marks Endowed Research Fund at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.   

Greg Delgoffe, PhD, and Ying Ding, PhD, were acknowledged as two of the inaugural Ascending Stars Award from the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences. Dr. Delgoffe’s research focuses on the intersection of metabolism and immunity in cancer. Dr. Ding’s research focuses on statistical theory and methodology for time-to-event data that arise in clinical trials, epidemiology, engineering, and medicine.

Olivera Finn, PhD, was honored by the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer in the 2022 class of Fellows of the Academy of Immuno-Oncology, one of the society’s most prestigious honors.

Adrian V. Lee, PhD, joined the Susan G. Komen® Scientific Advisory Board to provide leadership for the organization’s overall research strategy and investments.

Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, was named a Komen Scholar — recognizing her as one of the foremost experts in laboratory research, clinical practice, public health, and patient advocacy for breast cancer.

Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, and Hassane Zarour, MD, were honored with the Merrill J. Egorin Excellence in Scientific Leadership Award for their biomedical expertise, scientific passion, and scholarly dedication.

Lyn B. Robertson, DrPH, MSN, BSN, was recognized with the 2022 PNC Elsie Hillman Distinguished Scholar Award for her work in health equity and community outreach.

Yael Schenker, MD, MAS, was selected for the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine 2022-2023 class of fellows.

Theresa Whiteside, PhD, was honored by the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer in the 2022 class of Fellows of the Academy of Immuno-Oncology, one of the society’s most prestigious honors.

Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS, FRCSC, was awarded the 2022 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research from Susan G. Komen®, their marquee scientific award.

In addition, we acknowledged several of our researchers at the 34th Annual UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Scientific Retreat in several categories including:

Junior Scholar Awardees

Sameer Agnihotri, PhD (Cancer Biology Program), whose research focuses on pediatric and adult high-grade gliomas.

Lan Coffman, MD, PhD (Cancer Biology Program), who conducts research on understanding and targeting the cancer supporting stromal tissues that are critical to the survival, growth, and spread of ovarian cancer.

Bruce Jacobs, MD, MPH (Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program), whose work focuses on urologic oncology including prostate, kidney, bladder, and testicular cancers.

Poster Award Winners

Basic Science 1st Place: Maria Beecher (Cancer Biology Program) – MALT1 Inhibition to Improve Chemotherapy Response in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 

Basic Science 2nd Place: Alex C. McPherson (Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program) – Dietary Tryptophan Catabolite Released by Intratumoral Lactobacillus reuteri Facilitates Anti-PD-L1 Therapy

Clinical/Translational or Population Science 1st Place: Emily Geramita (Cancer Therapeutics Program) ­– Pilot Trial of Interferon-γ and Donor Lymphocyte Infusion to Treat Relapsed Myeloid Malignancies after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Clinical/Translational or Population Science 2nd Place: Neil Carleton (Cancer Biology Program) – Investigating the Aged Systemic and Breast Environment in Older Women with ER+ Breast Cancer