November 2019

This month we held a crucial exercise in our core grant renewal process: rehearsal for our site visit, which is slated for January 23, 2020. During the rehearsal, members of our external advisory board provided valuable feedback on our presentations and talked with program leaders about their own experiences in the renewal process. After incorporating their suggestions, we’ll rehearse again in December, one final time in advance of the site visit.

Earlier this month, Olivera J. Finn, PhD, received the 2019 Richard V. Smalley, MD Award and delivered the lecture “Traveling the Cancer Vaccine Road and Reaching My Destination”  at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer’s 34th Annual Meeting in National Harbor, Md. Established in 2005, the Smalley Award is SITC’s highest honor and serves to honor those who have been pioneers in their work and made a notable impact worthy of high regard and recognition by their peers. Dr. Finn is a distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh who served as chair of the Department of Immunology and led the Cancer Immunology Program for more than a decade.

Yuan Chang, MD, and Patrick Moore, MD, MPH, received the NCI Director’s Award last month, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the discovery of Kaposi Sarcoma-related herpesvirus and cancer advances through years of discovery and research on oncogenic viruses. Drs. Chang and Moore are internationally recognized for their work in cancer virology, having discovered two of the seven known cancer-causing viruses.

Jan Hendrik Beumer, PharmD, PhD, DABT, was recently appointed United States Editor-in-Chief for Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, joining European editor Professor Etienne Chatelut. Dr. Beumer is a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and holds his PharmD and PhD from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He joined Pitt as a postdoctoral associate in 2005 under the late Dr. Merrill Egorin.

Tullia C. Bruno, PhD, recently entered the tenure stream and is an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh and a faculty member in the Tumor Microenvironment Center and the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Hillman. She obtained her doctorate in Immunology from Johns Hopkins in 2010 and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado in 2015, both with a focus in tumor immunology. While Dr. Bruno’s PhD training focused on inhibitory receptors on intratumoral T cells, she became interested in tumor infiltrating B cells during her postdoctoral fellowship and has built her independent research program around understanding their function in multiple human cancers, in particular, lung and head and neck cancer. Her overall research objective is to develop a B cell-specific immunotherapy in the next five to ten years. 

I’m pleased to announce that our Head and Neck Cancer Program recently formalized its leadership structure, as follows:

Nicole Scheff, PhD, has joined the Head and Neck Cancer Program as an instructor of neurobiology. Dr. Scheff received her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and completed postdoctoral training at New York University. Her interests include the neurobiology of cancer pain, gender-specific differences, and the role of innate inflammation in this response.

Lastly, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to all Hillman faculty and staff members for your collaboration, innovation, and ongoing dedication to our mission. I hope you all enjoy the holiday, and time with family and friends.

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD