April 2019

Director’s Message

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s scientists have a long history of recognition for their discoveries, innovations, and dedication. I’m proud to share that this tradition continues today, through accolades for investigators who are starting out in their careers and those who’ve spent their lives in pursuit of a better understanding of cancer.

Two of our faculty members received recognition at this year’s Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, where the Hillman team presented more than 20 posters and participated in roundtable discussions, major symposia, and minisymposia. Tullia Bruno, PhD, was honored for her AACR-Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Innovation Science Grant. Dr. Bruno is working with her collaborating partner, James DeGregori, PhD, of the University of Colorado, to understand early drivers for lung cancer to increase pre-detection of the disease by evaluating how oncogenic mutations and the immune system might contribute to lung adenocarcinomas. The AACR also named Greg Delgoffe, PhD, as one of its 2019 AACR NextGen Stars, a program that aims to increase the visibility of early-career scientists at the annual meeting and to support their professional development and advancement.

The Society for Immunotherapy in Cancer (SITC) bestowed its highest honor on Olivera Finn, PhD, with the Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Lectureship. Dr. Finn is a distinguished professor of immunology and surgery and founding chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a position which she held from 2002 to 2013. She also led our Cancer Immunology Program for more than 20 years, and her laboratory was the first to identify a human tumor antigen recognized by human T cells and antibodies, the epithelial mucin MUC1. Dr. Finn will deliver the keynote presentation Traveling the Cancer Vaccine Road and Reaching My Destination on Friday, Nov. 8 at the 34th Annual SITC Meeting in National Harbor, Md.

Hillman’s internationally renowned Cancer Virology Program celebrates an important anniversary this month, marking 25 years since Patrick Moore, PhD, and Yuan Chang, PhD discovered Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. This groundbreaking work helped reveal the links between immune signaling and cancer prevention and served as a gateway to the exploration of the general features of cancers.

In honor of this anniversary, the Cancer Virology Program Symposium will take place on Monday, April 15 at Herberman Conference Center at UPMC Shadyside. The event aims to provide the latest information on the etiologies, mechanisms of oncogenesis and molecular biology of cancer viruses, as well as clinical associated viral cancers, and current detection and treatments including immunotherapy and virus-mediated oncolytic therapy. View the symposium brochure to learn more about the program.

On a personal note, April 7 – 14 is Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, an observation that is close to my heart as a head and neck cancer surgeon and immunologist. I’d like to recognize the physicians and scientists in our Head and Neck Cancer Program, who work collaboratively to better understand, diagnose, and treat head and neck cancers and to develop protocols that reduce the complications and long-term quality of life issues that can result from treatment. I thank you for all that you—and all our colleagues here at Hillman—do each day to advance scientific discoveries and, ultimately, improve the lives of our patients.

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD