May 2019

Bringing Cancer Research to Life

This May, we join the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in celebrating National Cancer Research Month. This year’s theme, “Bringing Cancer Research to Life,” resonates throughout Hillman as we work to unlock the mechanisms of this disease, better understand the factors that influence an individual’s cancer risk, and develop more effective, less toxic treatments.

Cancer research comes to life perhaps most powerfully through stories from cancer patients and survivors. Renowned Pittsburgh broadcaster and Hillman patient Marty Griffin recently joined Chad Ellis, PhD, Leisha Emens, MD, PhD, Patty Opresko, PhD, and Dan Zandberg, MD, in Washington, D.C. for the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) Hill Day event to meet with Pennsylvania legislators and encourage them to continue funding cancer research. Marty spoke about his treatment for head and neck cancer, a condition that—without advancements that have resulted from cancer research—could have ended his career in journalism if he’d had invasive surgery.

Core Grant Progress

The first External Advisory Board meeting for our core grant application took place on May 7, and I’d like to extend sincere thanks to everyone who helped make the visit a success. We look forward to sharing the board’s feedback with our program leaders in the coming weeks, and to continue working together to identify our strengths and opportunities for growth.

Faculty Notes

Jason Luke, MD, FACP, has joined Hillman as director of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center. Dr. Luke received his medical degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science/Chicago Medical School and completed his internship and residency at Boston University Medical Center, followed by fellowships at Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is a medical oncologist and clinical investigator specializing in melanoma and advanced solid tumors.

ASCO Preview

The 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting will take place May 31 – June 4 in Chicago, where more than a dozen Hillman faculty will feature on the agenda in education sessions, oral abstract sessions, and poster sessions. View the full list of presenters; some highlights include:

Melissa Burgess, MD, will present her poster, number 338, Clinical activity of pembrolizumab (P) in undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS) and dedifferentiated/pleomorphic liposarcoma (LPS): Final results of SARC028 expansion cohorts at the poster discussion session on Saturday, June 1.

On Sunday, June 2, two faculty will present during education sessions; Ronald Buckanovich, MD, will present Changing the Perspective for “Successful” Maintenance Therapy as part of Wanna Get Away? Continuous Treatments Versus Treatment Holidays in Gynecologic Cancer, and Dr. Jason Luke will present Stage II Melanoma: What Patients are Appropriate for Adjuvant Therapy as part of Approaches to High-Risk Resected State II and III Melanoma.

Leonard Appleman, MD, PhD, will present Abstract 4502: Randomized, double-blind phase III study of pazopanib versus placebo in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma who have no evidence of disease following metastasectomy: A trial of the ECOG-ACRIN cancer research group (E2810) at the oral abstract session on Genitourinary (Nonprostate) Cancer on Sunday, June 3.

If you’re attending the meeting, I hope you’ll join Stanley Marks, MD, Edward Chu, MD, and me for our reception on Saturday, June 1 at ENO Wine Bar at the InterContinental Hotel Chicago, located at 505 N. Michigan Avenue. RSVP here – we look forward to seeing you.


Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD