News and Announcements

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

Announcing Monica Baskin as Deputy Director

2/20/2024 - Monica L. Baskin, PhD, has been appointed as Deputy Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. In her new role, she will collaborate with current Deputy Director Jeremy Rich, MD, to promote and invest in strategic new projects at UPMC Hillman to improve cancer center recruitment, shared resources, and pilot programs.

New Test Could Predict Immunotherapy Responders for Broader Range of Cancers than Current Tools

2/13/2024 - A newly identified genetic marker could potentially predict which patients are likely to respond to immunotherapy in cancer types that have lacked such tools until now, according to a study published in Cancer Immunology Research, led by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

Novel Clinical Trial to Treat Glioblastoma with Innovative Photodynamic Therapy

2/6/2024 - A first of its kind clinical trial in the United States to treat glioblastoma will be launching in early 2024 at UPMC and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center led by Jan Drappatz, MD, and Costas G. Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD.

Growth Factor Administration in Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

1/31/2024 - Led by Amer Zureikat, MD, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers and colleagues found that the administration of G-CSF during neoadjuvant therapy was associated with worse oncologic outcomes and overall survival in patients with resected pancreatic cancer.

Continuing a Legacy of Excellence

1/30/2024 - As Chuck Bogosta's 25-year tenure with UPMC concludes, current UPMC Hillman Cancer Center president Elizabeth Wild steps into an expanded executive leadership role, assuming full administrative leadership of the Hillman network.

1/24/2024 - With colleagues from multiple institutions, Dr. Bailey discusses the overall improvements of pediatric cancer outcomes, while recognizing the ongoing challenges in the disparity of outcomes across cancer types and patients.

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, Named Associate Director of Population Sciences

1/2/2023 - Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, has been named the new Associate Director of Population Sciences. Dr. Schmitz is an exercise oncology researcher and professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology as well as the director of UPMC Hillman’s Exercise Oncology efforts.

35th Annual UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Scientific Retreat Recap

12/21/2023 - The 35th Annual UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Scientific Retreat consisted of lectures, including the Director’s Annual State of the Cancer Center, a shark tank-style minnow competition, and poster presentations.

Jason Luke, MD, Named Associate Director of Clinical Research

12/19/2023 - After a national search and with approval of the External Advisory Board, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to announce Jason J. Luke, MD, FACP, has been appointed the Associate Director of Clinical Research.

University of Pittsburgh Receives Prestigious NIH Award for Research Excellence in Ovarian Cancer

12/18/2023 - The University of Pittsburgh was awarded a five-year grant from the NIH to support an Ovarian Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) — led by Ronald Buckanovich, MD, PhD, and Robert Edwards, MD. 

Tess Cummings Named New Associate Director for Research Administration

12/14/2023 - After a national search, we are pleased to announce Theresa (Tess) Cummings, RN, DBA, CCRP as the new Associate Director for Research Administration at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Novel Liquid Biopsy of Lymph Fluid Could Guide Precision Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer

12/11/2023 - University of Pittsburgh and Washington University School of Medicine researchers found that lymphatic fluid from surgical drains could inform more precise treatments for patients with head and neck cancer caused by HPV.

Eight UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Members Named Highly Cited Researchers

11/28/2023 - Clarivate™ has named their list of Highly Cited Researchers for 2023 — an elite group that demonstrates significant and broad influence in their field of research — and eight UPMC Hillman members are a part of it. 

Immunotherapy Drug is Well Tolerated in Lung Cancer Patients with Limited Physical Function

11/22/2023 - For patients with advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and limited performance status, durvalumab is safe and may benefit overall survival, according to a new eClinicalMedicine study by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers. 

Jing Li, PhD, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

11/7/2023 - Dr. Li focuses on regulatory CD8+ T cells, having identified KIR+CD8+ T cells as a regulatory CD8+ T cell subset in humans. She will develop an active research program in Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy collaborating with both research and clinical faculty.

Cancer Drug That Targets Two Immune-Evading Tumor Tactics Performs Well in Early Clinical Trial

10/19/2023 - A “two-for-one” cancer immunotherapy is potentially more effective and at least as safe as standard immunotherapies, physician-scientists from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center who led an international, early-phase clinical trial report in Nature Medicine.

Serah Choi, MD, PhD, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

10/17/2023 - Dr. Choi's research interests include targeting glucose transporters in cancers and developing novel therapies for brain tumors. 

Expert Opinions on Breast Cancer Research Innovations

10/6/2023 - We sat down with Ioannis Zervantonakis, PhD, Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, and Adrian Lee, PhD, to understand the impact of breast cancer research.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center ASTRO 2023 Presentations

9/19/2023 - See a full list of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center presentations at ASTRO 2023.

Enhancing Antitumor Immunity Targeting Regulatory T Cells

9/15/2023 - Published in Science Immunology, researchers led by Dario Vignali, PhD, identified a genetic mechanism to enhance an immune system’s antitumor activity.

Abby Overacre-Delgoffe Recipient of New Innovator Award

8/18/2023 - Abby Overacre-Delgoffe, PhD, has received a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases New Innovator Award for her project, “Microbiota initiation of lymphangiogenesis.”

Policies Favoring High-Volume Hospitals May Disadvantage Rural Cancer Patients

8/17/2023 - Patients with cancer who live in rural Pennsylvania appear to know that they may have better outcomes if they receive their cancer surgery at a high volume hospital, but still opt for lower volume hospitals closer to home when their cancer is less complex, according to a new analysis published in JCO Oncology Practice.

Cancer-Infecting Virus ‘Warms Up’ Cold Tumors and Improves Immunotherapy

8/15/2023 - Equipping cancer-infecting, or oncolytic, viruses with tumor-inhibiting genetic cargo stimulates the immune system and helps immunotherapy to shrink or completely clear aggressive tumors in mice, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine led by University of Pittsburgh and UPMC researchers. 

Miracle Makers: The Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products Laboratory

8/14/2023 - Yen-Michael Hsu, MD, PhD, says the most exciting part of being director of the IMCPL is working with investigators on the newest ways of making miracles with living cells. 

Low Dose, High Alert: A New Radiotherapy Wakes Up the Immune System

8/11/2023 - Ravi Patel, MD, PhD, is using low-dose radiopharmaceuticals that locate and kill some cells in a tumor and then alert the patient’s own immune response to take care of the rest — a different approach than the typical treatment.

Melanie Potiaumpai, PhD, MPH, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

8/10/2023 - Dr. Potiaumpai will develop an independently funded and nationally recognized research program focusing on using exercise in cancer prevention, control, and survivorship.

Tony Cillo, PhD, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

8/9/2023 - Dr. Cillo will develop an active research program focusing on cancer immunology, immunotherapy, and systems immunology, focusing on unraveling the complex interplay of various components of the immune system within the tumor microenvironment. 

Marci Nilsen, PhD, RN, Receives NIH R37 MERIT Award to Study Radiation-Induced Treatment Toxicity in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

8/8/2023 - Dr. Nilsen's award will further her research into head and neck cancer survivorship and treatment-related toxicities and morbidities, specifically how radiation-induced fibrosis impacts patients longitudinally.

UPMC Hillman Physicist Receives Top Award from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine

8/1/2023 - Saiful Huq, PhD, FAAPM, FInstP, received the William D. Coolidge Gold Medal Award from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) for his distinguished career and significant impact on the science and practice of medical physics.

Screening Won’t Solve Racial Disparities in Melanoma Outcomes, Study Suggests

7/27/2023 - Increased skin cancer screening in individuals with skin of color is not sufficient to address racial disparities in melanoma survival rates, according to a new JAMA Dermatology study, led by senior author Laura Ferris, MD. 

UPMC and Pitt Researchers Identify Link Between Cancer-Causing Gene and Aging

7/26/2023 - A gene called Myc — among the most important drivers of cancer — plays a newly discovered crucial role in aging, according to a new Cell Reports study by researchers including senior author and UPMC Hillman member Edward Prochownik, MD, PhD. 

Ben Nacev, MD, PhD, Named Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator for his Innovative Sarcoma Research

7/24/2023 - Benjamin A. Nacev, MD, PhD, has been named a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Nacev will use this opportunity to continue his work on recurring genetic changes that happen in sarcoma patients. 

How Skin Cancer Virus Outcompetes Host Cell Replication

7/18/2023 - University of Pittsburgh researchers have shown for the first time how Merkel cell polyomavirus initiates DNA replication in host cells. Published in PNAS, the study sheds light on the fundamental question of how viruses override their host cells’ carefully regulated DNA replicating system to make hundreds of new copies of themselves.  

Treating Ewing Sarcoma When Underlying Liver Disease Is Present

6/26/2023 - Researchers including Kelly Bailey, MD, PhD, published details from a recent case in which a patient with PFIC1 was diagnosed with localized, early-stage Ewing sarcoma and successfully treated with a modified plan of chemotherapeutic agents.

Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, DABR, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

6/5/2023 - UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, DABR, an associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology who will develop an active research program focusing on basic and translational research in head and neck cancer.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center ASCO 2023 Presentations

6/2/2023 - See a full list of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center faculty presenting at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting. 

Bench to Bedside: The Research Journey of Fecal Microbiota Transplants

6/2/2023 - Diwakar Davar, MD, and Hassane Zarour, MD, set out to understand if changing the gut microbiome could improve patient outcomes.

Patricia Opresko, PhD, Named the Dr. Bernard F. Fisher Chair for Breast Cancer Discovery Science

5/9/2023 - UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to announce Patricia L. Opresko, PhD, as the Dr. Bernard F. Fisher Chair for Breast Cancer Discovery Science, a newly formed chair being launched this year.

Leadership in Head and Neck Cancer

4/28/2023 - As head and neck cancer incidences increase, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is dedicated to research and clinical innovations to better help patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Faculty AACR 2023 Presentations

4/13/2023 - See a full list of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center faculty presenting at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. 

The FDA’s Rule Change Requiring Providers to Inform Women About Breast Density Could Lead to a Flurry of Questions

4/7/2023 - Wendie A. Berg, MD, PhD, explains how the rule change could affect screening recommendations as well as the way people interpret their results.

Study Reveals How Diet and Probiotics Boost Melanoma Immunotherapy Response

4/6/2023 - In mice with melanoma, probiotic bacteria travel from the gut and establish in tumors, where they directly stimulate immune cells to make cancer immunotherapy more effective, according to a new study led by University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers.

Cancer Therapy & Fecal Microbiota Transplants

4/6/2023 - In this UPMC Physician Journal video, join Diwakar Davar, MD, and Hassane M. Zarour, MD, as they study ways to help more cancer patients respond to immunotherapy using fecal microbiota transplants.

Women’s History Month at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

3/31/2023 - At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, the Women’s Initiatives Task Force supports and fosters women all throughout the year. Learn more about their efforts.

Q&A with Kelly Bailey, MD, PhD

3/30/2023 - For Women’s History Month, this research Q&A focuses on Kelly Bailey, MD, PhD, and her experience as a female researcher. 

Diwakar Davar, MD, Named Clinical Director of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program

3/29/2023 - UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is very pleased to announce Diwakar Davar, MD, MS, as clinical director for the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Looks to Increase Cancer Screenings Through Community Outreach

3/27/2023 - Monica Baskin, PhD, director of community outreach and engagement at UPMC Hillman, answers questions about ways to lower the risks of colorectal cancer. 

Q&A with Olivera Finn, PhD

3/27/2023 - For Women’s History Month, this research Q&A focuses on Olivera Finn, PhD, and her experience as a female researcher. 

Study of Immune ‘Neighborhoods’ Highlights Macrophages as Key Players in Invasive Breast Cancers

3/16/2023 – Published in Nature Cancer, Hillman researchers and colleagues found that macrophages were the dominant immune cell infiltrating ER+ invasive lobular carcinoma and invasive ductal carcinoma tumors. 

Disparities in Women’s Cancer Care featuring Alexander B. Olawaiye, MD

3/13/2023 – Alexander B. Olawaiye, MD, focuses much of his work on how disparities affect cancer care and cancer research specifically in women’s cancers.

Important Cancer Screenings Still on the Decline

3/10/2023 – A recent study from the American Cancer Society, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that cancer screenings remain below pre-pandemic levels for the second consecutive year. Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, comments on the issue.

Chemotherapy-Resistant Ovarian Cancer Cells Protect Their Neighbors

3/6/2023 – Certain chemotherapy-resistant ovarian cancer cells protect neighboring cancer cells by sending signals that induce resistance, according to a new study from University of Pittsburgh and UPMC researchers.

Renfeng Li, PhD, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

3/3/2023 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Renfeng Li, PhD. Dr. Li’s research interests include Epstein-Barr virus, human papillomavirus, and virus-associated cancer.

Scientists Use New Optical Tweezer Technology to Study DNA Repair 

3/2/2023 – Researchers in the Van Houten Lab used the cutting-edge C-trap to investigate how DNA repair proteins identify and bind to forms of damage, providing an unparalleled level of detail that could someday be used to halt cancer in its tracks. 

Angela Mazul, PhD, Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

3/2/2023 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is pleased to welcome Angela Mazul, PhD. Dr. Mazul will focus on head and neck cancer epidemiology, including a focus on understanding and addressing health disparities in cancer presentation and outcomes. 

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Researchers are Advancing the Field of CAR-T Cell Research

2/10/2023 – Published in OncoImmunology, researchers in the Tumor Microenvironment Center developed a new model that can be used by immunologists to further the understanding of CAR-T cell biology and identified a new possible human CAR-T cell target.

Yael Schenker, MD, MAS, Appointed Associate Director for Education and Training

2/8/2023 – Yael Schenker, MD, MAS, has been appointed to the position of Associate Director for Education and Training, focusing on clinical investigators at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Four Leading UPMC/Pitt Breast Cancer Scientists Receive Funding for Critical Research

2/6/2023 – Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, Adrian V. Lee, PhD, Wendie Berg, MD, PhD, and Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS, have each received funding from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Learn about how their work is changing the field of breast cancer research and care.

New Analysis Sheds Light on Link Between and Ovulation and Ovarian Cancer

2/1/2023 – A new international study led by Francesmary Modugno, MS, PhD, MPH, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, offers new clues as to how oral contraceptives, pregnancy, and breastfeeding impact ovarian cancer risk beyond simply suppressing ovulation and how this link may vary among different ovarian cancer subtypes. 

Q&A with Dr. Lyn Robertson: HPV and Cervical Cancer

2/1/2023 – Learn more about Lyn Robertson, DrPH, MSN, BSN, and her work regarding the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and cervical cancer. 

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to Expand Clinical Research in Erie with Hamot Health Foundation Gift

1/31/2023 – Thanks to a gift from the Hamot Health Foundation, the clinical research team in Erie will be bolstered to enhance the capability to screen, qualify and enroll patients for hundreds of clinical trials that would otherwise have required a trip to Pittsburgh.

Pitt Study Reframes Understanding of Graft-Versus-Host Disease

1/30/2023 – New research led by Warren Shlomchik, MD, Faruk Sacirbegovic, PhD, and Thomas Höfer, PhD, challenges the prevailing hypothesis for how donor stem cell grafts cause graft-versus-host disease, or GVHD, and offers an alternative model that could guide development of novel therapies. 

University of Pittsburgh Receives $11M NIH SPORE Award to Continue Research Excellence in Head and Neck Cancer

1/24/2023 – The University of Pittsburgh was awarded a five-year, $11.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support a Head and Neck Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence in 2022. The award will be led by Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, and Heath Skinner, MD, PhD.

Pitt Brain Tumor Expert Awarded Prestigious Research Grant

1/23/2023 – Sameer Agnihotri, PhD, member of the Cancer Biology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and assistant professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of five scientists awarded a prestigious 2022 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Sontag Foundation. 

Announcing Jason Luke, MD, as Interim Associate Director for Clinical Research

1/18/2023 – Jason J. Luke, MD, FACP, will be the Interim Associate Director for Clinical Research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center beginning February 1, 2023. Dr. Luke will be charged with reviewing and enhancing clinical research organization, support, and disease center functions in conjunction with Tess Cummings, RN.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center 2022 Research Highlights

12/22/2022 – 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. Learn more about our highlights from the last year.

Turncoat T Cells: When Exhausted, Cancer-Fighting T Cells May Switch Sides

12/21/2022 – In a new study published in Nature Immunologyresearchers led by Greg Delgoffe, PhD, and Paolo Vignali, PhD, report that the low oxygen environment of tumors can prompt tired T cells to switch allegiance so that they suppress the immune system instead of combating cancer.

Norman Wolmark Receives Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction

12/9/2022 – Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS, FRCSC, is recognized with the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research from Susan G. Komen® for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of clinical care for breast cancer patients.

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.

Artificial Intelligence Research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has New Leader

Yufei Huang, PhD, joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as Leader for Artificial Intelligence 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, Patricia Andres-Sanmartin, and Lilcelia Williams are part of a network connecting underserved patients with cancer screenings, clinical trials, and other programs to support their health journeys.

UPMC and 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, MD, PhD, 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

A study published 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, PhD, 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 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 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, MD, PhD, 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, MD, PhD, 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, MD, PhD, 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, MD, MHS, MBA, 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 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, MD, FACS, 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.

UPMC 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

UPMC 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.