March 2019

The AACR Game Plan

As universities and basketball fans across the nation tune in for March Madness, we’re gearing up for the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Atlanta, which takes place March 31 – April 3. I’m proud to report that the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center team has 20 poster presentations at the conference, along with the following oral presentations:

  • Olivera Finn, PhD, will chair the educational session Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy for Nonimmunologists: Standard Cancer Therapies Are Ultimately Immunotherapies on Saturday, March 30. Later that same morning, she and Theresa L. Whiteside, PhD, will participate in the roundtable discussion Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy for Nonimmunologists: Standard Cancer Therapies Are Ultimately Immunotherapies. Finn will also present Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of preventative MUC1 vaccine in patients with newly diagnosed advanced adenomas: Results from one-year booster as part of the clinical trials symposium Developmental Therapeutics: Clinical Results of Novel Agents, on Tuesday, April 2.
  • On Monday, April 1, Greg Delgoffe, PhD, will present Reprogramming tumor microenvironment metabolism to improve immunotherapy during the symposium Defining Systemic Tumor-Host Communication in Cancer Progression and Therapy Responses.
  • Also on April 1, Jian-Min Yuan, PhD, will present Prediagnostic levels of urinary 8-epi-prostaglandin F2α and prostaglandin E2 metabolite, biomarkers of oxidative damage and inflammation, and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma as part of the symposium Exposures and Genetics in Cancer Risk.
  • Jim Herman, MD, will present Epigenetic therapies in lung cancer: Early excitement to current approaches as part of the major symposium Advancing Epigenetic Therapies for Solid Tumors on Tuesday, April 2.
  • Chia Chia Liu, PhD, will present Novel neoplastic RAD51AP1-DYRK4 fusion transcript in aggressive luminal breast cancers as part of the symposium Genomic Correlates of Therapy Response on April 2.

Additionally, I’d like to congratulate Tullia Bruno, PhD, who received the AACR-Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Innovation Science Grant. Dr. Bruno and her colleague James V. DeGregori, PhD, of the University of Colorado, are working 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. Drs. Bruno and DeGregori, along with recipients from other institutions, will be honored at a private dinner on Tuesday, April 2.

Team Spirit

With so many presentations on this year’s agenda, I’d like to stress the importance of presenting a consistent, unified image for the science associated with our institution. Our marketing team has created custom, brand-approved PowerPoint presentation and poster templates that will reinforce the Hillman brand while also acknowledging our affiliations with the University of Pittsburgh, Magee-Womens Research Institute, and UPMC Children’s Hospital. The templates are available here.

If you’re tweeting at the conference, please tag @UPMCHillmanCC and use the conference hashtag #AACR19 in your posts. And if you haven’t already done so, please contact Cyndy Patton, our manager of media relations, at to let her know what you’re presenting so that she can help promote your participation and findings among the media.

Ed Chu, MD, and I both hope you can join us for our reception for Hillman faculty and friends at Sear, located on the atrium level at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis at 235 Peachtree Center Ave. on Monday, April 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. RSVP here, and please feel free to share the invitation with your colleagues.

News from the Genome Stability Program

Patty Opresko, PhD, Ben Van Houten, PhD, and their team at the Genome Stability Program (GSP)—also known as the DNA Pitt Crew—recently launched their program newsletter. We’re proud of the exciting science coming out of the GSP and happy to showcase their recent recruits, accomplishments, and milestones. In the coming months, we’ll be reaching out to each program leader to find out more about your developments and plan to highlight them in a similar way.


Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD