News and Announcements

Learn more about the latest news and accomplishments from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the links below.

-2022-

Novel Nanoparticles Deliver Innovative Cancer Chemoimmunotherapy

11/24/2022 – University of Pittsburgh researchers led by Song Li, MD, PhD, have designed cancer-fighting nanoparticles that co-deliver a chemotherapy drug and a novel immunotherapy, according to a new Nature Nanotechnology study.

Q&A with Taofeek Owonikoko, MD, PhD

11/23/2022 – Learn more about what led Dr. Owonikoko into the field of lung cancer biology, how his research is advancing cancer treatment, and the importance of enrolling minorities in clinical trials in this Q&A.

Study Reveals Dual Roles Wielded by Type of Cell Death Involved in Fighting Cancer 

11/22/2022 – New research published in Nature reveals that ferroptosis is doing more than marking cells for death — it’s also sending signals that influence the immune response. 

Making Melanoma Immortal: Pitt Scientists Discover Key Genetic Step in Cancer’s Race to Live Forever

11/10/2022 – In a paper published in Science this week, Jonathan Alder, PhD, and his team describe how they discovered the perfect combination of genetic alterations that tumors use to promote explosive growth and prevent their own demise, a development that could change the way oncologists understand and treat melanoma. 

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Welcomes Leading Researcher in Exercise Oncology

11/8/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Kathryn H. Schmitz, PhD, MPH. Dr. Schmitz is leader for catchment area research and exercise oncology across the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center network.

UPMC Partners with Physician-Innovator to Offer Advanced Cancer Services in Croatia

11/7/2022 – UPMC announced that it is partnering with a leading physician and health care innovator in Croatia to offer cancer services in the country. The cancer services will be managed by UPMC and integrated into the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center network.

Pitt Public Health Receives CDC Award to Rebuild Public Health Workforce

11/1/2022 – Maureen Lichtveld, MD, MPH, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and member of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program, has been awarded a new five-year, $3.5 million award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund up to 50 CDC John R. Lewis Undergraduate Public Health Scholars from minority communities.

Research Spotlight: Dr. Steffi Oesterreich

10/25/2022 – Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, is a researcher at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center who focuses her work on better understanding how to most effectively treat breast cancers, including invasive lobular carcinoma and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer resistant to hormonal therapies. 

Multi-Center Study Sheds Light on Understudied Breast Cancer Type

10/14/2022 – Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a study of more than 33,000 patient records from three large cancer centers, including UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, shows that ILC and IDC are biologically distinct, highlighting important differences between the two diseases and the need for specific detection and treatment options for the lobular subtype. 

Preventative Measures: A Potential Cancer Vaccine

10/10/2022 – What if you could prevent cancer from ever developing with something as simple as a shot? Olivera Finn, PhD, a renowned Pitt immunologist, is conducting groundbreaking research to bring us closer to a cancer vaccine reality.

Pitt-Developed Genetic Test for Pancreatic Cancer Outperforms Current Guidelines

10/5/2022 – A molecular test called PancreaSeq accurately classifies pancreatic cysts as potentially cancerous or benign, according to a large, multi-center study led by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC researchers including Aatur Singhi, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology at Pitt and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center investigator. 

UPMC in Italy Comes to the Rescue for 21 Cancer Patients from Malta 

8/23/2022 – Responsiveness, passion and teamwork were crucial to ensuring the continuity of care for cancer patients from Malta who were recently treated by UPMC clinicians and staff in Italy. Some patients received radiotherapy at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at San Pietro FBF in Rome and others underwent chemotherapy at UPMC Salvator Mundi International Hospital.

Q & A: Leading Health Disparities Expert to Join UPMC Hillman Cancer Center & University of Pittsburgh 

8/22/2022 – Monica L. Baskin, PhD, who for two decades has led an extensive research program aimed at reducing health disparities, has joined UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as associate director of community outreach and engagement and professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Learn more about her vision.

Reinvigorating ‘Lost Cause’ Exhausted T Cells Could Improve Cancer Immunotherapy

8/5/2022 – In a study, published in Science Immunology, a research team including Amanda Poholek, PhD, and Greg Delgoffe, PhD, profiled molecular features of T cells as they progressed from early to terminal exhaustion in a mouse model of melanoma. 

Novasenta Closes $40 Million Series A Funding Round

7/29/2022 – Novasenta, a UPMC Enterprises portfolio company founded by Robert Ferris, MD, PhD, director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and Greg Delgoffe, PhD, and Dario Vignali, PhD, leading researchers from Hillman, announced today the completion of a $40M Series A financing. Novasenta discovers and validates novel targets to develop cancer therapies.

Cells Become Zombies When the Ends of Their Chromosomes are Damaged – A Tactic Both Helpful and Harmful for Health

7/21/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers Patricia Opresko, PhD, and Ryan Barnes, PhD, found that damage to the ends of chromosomes can create “zombie cells” that are still alive but can’t function, according to their recently published study in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Researchers Uncover New Pathway for Accumulation of Age-Promoting ‘Zombie Cells’

6/30/2022 – A study led by a team of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Genome Stability Program researchers has uncovered a mechanism by which senescent, or “zombie,” cells develop. These findings could eventually point to new therapeutics that promote healthy aging or combat cancer.

UPMC Hillman & Pitt School of Medicine announce New Radiation Oncology Leader

6/10/2022 – Heath D. Skinner, MD, PhD, has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

UPMC Hillman Immunologist Receives Holzer Research Award

6/8/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist Tullia C. Bruno, PhD, has been presented with the Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund Award to advance innovative research in cancer.

UPMC Hospitals Recognized for Nuclear Medicine Excellence

6/6/2022 – UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh have been designated as Comprehensive Radiopharmaceutical Therapy Centers of Excellence by the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), which recognizes facilities that offer the latest technology, cutting-edge research, Food and Drug Administration-approved radiopharmaceutical therapies and the best health care possible in this field of medicine.

New UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Fundraiser “Rush to Crush Cancer” Announced

6/7/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, in partnership with P3R, announced that they will host the first-ever Rush to Crush Cancer, a bike ride with the goal of raising money for cancer research, in Spring 2023.

Yael Schenker named an Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Fellow

6/2/2022 – Yael Schenker, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center member, professor in the School of Medicine and director of the Palliative Research Center, has been selected for the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) 2022-2023 class of fellows.

Leading UPMC Hillman Cancer Researchers Named as Susan G. Komen® Scholars and Advisors

5/20/2022 – Adrian V. Lee, PhD, breast cancer researcher at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will join the Susan G. Komen Scientific Advisory Board to help lead Komen’s overall research strategy and investments. The Komen organization also added Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, also a UPMC Hillman breast cancer researcher, scientific collaborator and co-director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center, as a Komen Scholar.

New Insights About ‘Bad News’ Breast Cancer Mutation Point to Treatment Opportunities

4/19/2022 – New studies co-led by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center member Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, uncover mechanisms for a mutated gene found in more than 20 – 30% of breast cancer recurrences that may open new targets for treatments.

Illumination of Immune Checkpoint LAG3 ‘Black Box’ Could Yield New Cancer and Autoimmune Therapies

4/19/2022 – New study by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center member Dario A.A. Vignali, PhD, pinpoints how LAG3 modulates T cell activity, providing important insights for cancer therapies.

What is Palliative Care? How is it Different From Hospice?

4/6/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center member Yael Schenker, MD, reflects on the difference between palliative care and hospice.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Researcher Receives Prestigious Award

3/28/2022 – Tullia C. Bruno, PhD, a UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist and assistant professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been selected to receive scientific research funding by the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.

Leading Cancer Researcher with National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

3/24/2022 – Charles Edward Geyer, Jr., MD, FACP, will join UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as co-director of its National Cancer Institute (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network efforts.

New Study Homes in on Gut Bacteria That Help or Hurt Melanoma Treatment

3/21/2022 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Hassane Zarour and Diwaker Davar found found that melanoma patients’ gut bacterial communities, which differ depending on a patient’s geographical region, are associated with favorable or unfavorable responses to cancer immunotherapy.

Malaria Drug Could Combat Chemotherapy-Resistant Head and Neck Cancers

3/14/2022 – A new study co-led by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Umamaheswar Duvvuri, MD, PhD, suggests that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine inhibits pathways that drive resistance to the chemotherapy agent cisplatin in head and neck cancers and restores tumor-killing effects of cisplatin in animal models.

Visualizing the Invisible: New Fluorescent DNA Label Reveals Nanoscopic Cancer Features

3/4/2022 – Researchers, including UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Dr. Yang Liu, associate professor of medicine and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, have developed a new fluorescent label that gives a clearer picture of how DNA architecture is disrupted in cancer cells. The findings could improve cancer diagnoses for patients and classification of future cancer risk.

Online Tool Helps Ovarian Cancer Patients Feel More in Control of Symptoms

2/7/2022 – A new study led by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN, professor of health and community systems in Pitt’s School of Nursing and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services in the School of Medicine, developed an online symptom management tool that could help women with ovarian cancer better manage complex symptoms.

-Archive-

Artificial Intelligence Research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has New Leader

Yufei Huang, PhD, joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as Leader for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research. Dr. Huang also serves as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

It Takes a Village—Helping the Vulnerable Navigate Cancer

They see around 12,000 patients combined a month, many underserved. It’s challenging but rewarding work for the folks at Pittsburgh’s UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Birmingham Free Clinic. Dr. Linda Robertson (Lyn), Patricia Andres-Sanmartin (Patty), and Lilcelia Williams (CeCe) are part of a network connecting underserved patients with cancer screenings, clinical trials, and other programs to support their health journeys.

UPMC & Pitt Develop New Cancer Immunotherapy

A new collaboration among UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and New Jersey-based biotechnology company Avalon GloboCare Corp. aims to develop new cancer immunotherapy approaches and streamline manufacturing processes to bring these powerful treatments to cancer patients within days instead of weeks.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Joins Other NCI-Designated Cancer Centers Urging Action to Get Cancer-Preventing HPV Vaccination Back on Track

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers and partner organizations today issued a joint statement urging the nation’s physicians, parents and young adults to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination back on track.

Three Hillman Researchers Featured on American Cancer Society’s “TheoryLab” Podcast


The American Cancer Society recently published a “TheoryLab” podcast episode featuring three researchers from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, including Kathy Shair, PhD, Sarah Hengel, PhD, and Yuri Bunimovich, MD, PhD. Listen to learn how these researchers are revolutionizing cancer care from their respective labs. 

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Names New Chief of Hematology Oncology

Taofeek K. Owonikoko, M.D., Ph.D., will join the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh as chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Owonikoko, a physician-scientist board-certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine, also will serve as associate director for translational research and co-leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Hillman. He will hold the Stanley M. Marks – OHA Endowed Chair in Hematology/Oncology Leadership and will begin his appointment on July 1, 2021.

New Research Suggests Breast Cancer Treatment in Patients over Age 70 can be Safely Reduced

Oncologists faced with treating older women with breast cancer often must decide if the treatment may be more detrimental than the cancer. A study published today in JAMA Network Open by researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine sheds new light on this choice and suggests the rate of cancer recurrence or survival may be no different in treated vs. untreated elderly patients diagnosed in the early stages of the cancer diagnosed most commonly in women.

UPMC/Pitt Researchers Share New Data on COVID-19 Vaccination in Elderly and Cancer Patients

UPMC and University of Pittsburgh physician leaders recently shared new data on how certain UPMC patients with weak immune systems have responded to COVID-19 vaccination and offered clinical recommendations in light of these findings. They also provided an update on UPMC’s COVID-19 vaccination and monoclonal antibody treatments in the communities we serve. 

New Faculty Welcome: Dr. Nadine Hempel, Member of the Cancer Biology Program

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Nadine Hempel, Ph.D., to the faculty as a member of the cancer biology program. Hempel will serve as an associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Hillman Researchers Receive More Than $2.5M for Ovarian Cancer Research

Pitt researchers at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Magee Womens Research Institute (MWRI) were awarded more than $2.5 million by the Department of Defense (DoD) to support ovarian cancer research.

Insight About Tumor Microenvironment Could Boost Cancer Immunotherapy

A paper published today in Nature shows how chemicals in the areas surrounding tumors—known as the tumor microenvironment—subvert the immune system and enable cancer to evade attack. These findings suggest that an existing drug could boost cancer immunotherapy.

Fecal Transplant Boosts Cancer Immunotherapy

Researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) demonstrate that changing the gut microbiome can transform patients with advanced melanoma who never responded to immunotherapy—which has a failure rate of 40% for this type of cancer—into patients who do.

UPMC Hillman Immunologist Receives Holzer Research Award

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center physician-scientist Leisha A. Emens, M.D., Ph.D., has been presented with the Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund Award to advance innovative research in cancer. Internationally recognized for her work in breast cancer immunotherapy, Emens is co-leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program and Director of Translational Immunotherapy for the Women’s Cancer Research Center at UPMC Hillman.

New Faculty Welcome: Dr. Jing Hong Wang, Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Jing Hong Wang, M.D., Ph.D., to the faculty as a member of the cancer immunology and immunotherapy program. Wang will also be appointed as a professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Hillman Announces New Director for Cell Therapy Laboratory

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center today announced that Yen-Michael Hsu, M.D., Ph.D., will serve as the new as Director of the Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory at (IMCPL). He is also appointed as associate professor of hematology and oncology in the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has been awarded a Hillman Fellowship for Innovative Cancer Research to support his research.

Hillman Appoints Brain Tumor Expert as New Deputy Director of Research

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center recently announced the appointment of Jeremy Rich, M.D., M.H.S., M.B.A., as deputy director of research. Rich will also serve as the Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Personalized Cancer Therapies and a professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Q&A with Hillman Virologist Part of Historic FDA Panel That Endorsed COVID-19 Vaccine

Hillman virologist Patrick Moore, MD, MPH, distinguished professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was a part of the small committee of scientists tasked by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewing the data provided by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has developed a COVID-19 vaccine.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Rated Exceptional by National Cancer Institute

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center received an “exceptional” score, the highest achievable rating, and its largest grant to date when it was recently renewed as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)- designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for another five-year period.

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion for low-income people appears to lead to earlier diagnosis of colon cancer, enhanced access to care and improved surgical care for patients with the disease, according to research by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 

UPMC Partners with American Cancer Society to Address Breast Cancer Disparities

UPMC is one of just 21 hospital systems in the country and the only system in Pennsylvania selected to work with the American Cancer Society (ACS) on a community program to promote health equity and equal access to cancer screenings and education with a specific focus on breast cancer.

Pitt and Tsinghua University Scientists Collaborate to Improve Cancer Treatments

Through a novel combination of immunotherapy and small molecule drugs, an ongoing collaboration between scientists in Pittsburgh and China is developing the future of cancer treatments.

Increase in Early Cancer Detection Followed ACA Expansion, Hillman/Pitt Study Finds

In an analysis published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health demonstrate positive effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion on rates of early cancer diagnosis. 
 

Hillman Study Shows How HIV and Cancer Drugs Accelerate Cellular Aging

A new study led by researchers at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh published in Nature Communications shows for the first time how certain drugs used to treat HIV and cancer drive the cellular aging process, at least in part, by blocking telomeres – the protective tips on the end of our chromosomes – from replenishing themselves.

Pitt/UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Name New Surgical Oncology Chief

Amer Zureikat, M.D., F.A.C.S., has been appointed vice chair of surgery for Surgical Oncology in the UPMC Department of Surgery and chief of Surgical Oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Celebration Successful Virtual Event

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Celebration of Hope was held virtually this year due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hillman Immunologist Recognized for Cancer Immunology Research

Hillman investigator, Greg Delgoffe, PhD, associate professor of immunology at Pitt, was recognized this month with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Lloyd J. Old STAR Program grant in Cancer Immunology.
 

Felicia Snead releaseSushil Beriwal releaseUPMC Hillman Cancer Center Radiation Oncologists Named Fellows of the American Society for Radiation Oncology  

Two UPMC Hillman Cancer Center radiation oncologists have been designated Fellows of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (FASTRO), the world’s largest society for radiation oncology professionals.

Boosting Immune Memory Could Reduce Cancer Recurrence

Research led by Dario Vignali and published in Nature Immunology found a protein that plays an important role in long-term immune response against tumors.

 

Exploring How Cells Find and Repair Damaged DNA

Hillman researcher Bennett Van Houten, PhD has been featured on the NIEHS Stories of Success Website.

 

Less Intense Treatment Safe for HPV+ Throat Cancer

A less intense treatment for human papillomavirus positive (HPV+) throat cancer could provide as much benefit as standard higher-dose radiation and chemotherapy while preserving a patient’s throat function, and with potentially less toxicities, according to researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Yale Cancer Center.

 

 

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