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Radiation Biology investigators

Christopher Bakkenist, PhD
Hillman Cancer Center 2.6
5117 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cancer pharmacology
  • DNA repair
Kara Bernstein, PhD
5117 Centre Avenue
UPCI Research Pavilion Lab 2.35
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-3227
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • DNA repair, DNA recombination, DNA replication, double-strand break repair, Shu complex, Rad51 paralogs, breast and ovarian cancers
My work is to determine what genetic factors make some people more likely to develop cancer, particularly breast and ovarian cancers. The genes that we study are important for fixing damage to DNA. If these genes are not operating properly and DNA damage is uncorrected, cancer may develop. DNA damage can be caused by our bodies themselves or from outside sources such as chemicals found in the environment. We are working to better predict who is likely to get cancer by understanding both people's genes and their environmental exposures. By doing so, we aim to create new tailored strategies for treating people's tumors and ultimately prevent patients from developing breast and ovarian cancers at all.

Valerian Kagan, PhD, DSc
100 Technology Drive
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Free radical biochemistry
  • phospholipid signaling in cell death pathways
  • nitric oxide (NO) interactions with cellular components
  • antioxidant activity of pulmonary epithelial and endothelial proteins
Heath Skinner, MD, PhD
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Research Pavilion
Suite 2.6a, 5117 Centre Ave.
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-3275
Simon Watkins, PhD
S225 BST-South
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cellular organization
  • cell-cell communications
  • cell imaging
Hulya Bayir
Joel Greenberger, MD
UPMC Shadyside Radiation Oncology
UPMC Cancer Pavilion, POB2, Rm. 533 5150 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-647-3602
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Radiation mitigator
  • radiation protection
  • lung cancer
Dr. Greenberger is examining the use of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) plasmid liposome gene therapy and GS-nitroxides, as agents to protect the normal tissues in the esophagus and lung from damage during radiation therapy. Damage to normal tissues during radiation therapy has been a major limitation to the effective treatment of lung cancer. The goal of his research is to improve the quality of life for cancer patients by potentially allowing the use of higher doses of radiation or chemotherapy to effectively treat lung cancer without the damaging side effects.
Yuri Nikiforov, MD, PhD
3477 Euler Way
Clinical Lab Building, 8th Floor Room 8031
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-864-6162
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Thyroid cancer genetics
  • chromosomal rearrangements
  • radiation-induced carcinogenesis
  • novel mutations in thyroid cancer
  • next-generation sequencing
  • thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA)
Dr. Nikiforov's research is focused on thyroid cancer genomics and mechanisms of chromosomal rearrangements and other mutations induced by ionizing radiation in thyroid cells and other cell types. Since 2000, Dr. Nikiforov's research activities have led to four scientific discoveries. These discoveries described below have resulted in more than 120 published papers and form the basis of Dr. Nikiforov's current work. 1.The discovery that genes involved in recurrent chromosomal rearrangements in cancer cells are localized in proximity to each other in the nuclei of normal human cells at the time of exposure to ionizing radiation or other genotoxic stress (Science, 2000, 290:138-141). 2.The discovery that BRAF oncogene can be activated as a result of chromosomal rearrangement (J Clin Invest, 2005,115:94-101). 3.The discovery that in thyroid cancer, chromosomal rearrangements represent the main mutational mechanism in tumors arising as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation, whereas point mutations are a mechanism of spontaneous (chemical) carcinogenesis (J Clin Invest, 2005,115:94-101). 4.The discovery of ALK activation in thyroid cancer as a result of STRN-ALK fusion (PNAS, 2014, 111:4233-8). Current research activities of Dr. Nikiforov's lab are focused on further understanding the molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced carcinogenesis and chromosomal rearrangements in human cells. Specifically, the studies aim to establish the number of double-strand DNA breaks required for the formation of a chromosomal rearrangement after exposure to ionizing radiation and identify the DNA repair mechanisms involved in this process. The results of this research will allow better understanding of carcinogenesis induced by ionizing radiation and help to develop measures for alleviating and preventing the carcinogenic effect of radiation exposure. Another direction of Dr. Nikiforov's research is centered on finding novel mutations and gene fusions in thyroid cancer using next-generation sequencing and applying the current knowledge in molecular genetics of thyroid cancer to the clinical management of patients with thyroid nodules. Specifically, the studies in progress aim to define the diagnostic utility of molecular markers for preoperative diagnosis of cancer in thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies and to characterize several novel chromosomal rearrangements discovered in thyroid cancer by next generation sequencing.
Hong Wang, PhD
130 De Soto Street
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Survival analysis and statistics in cancer biomarker research
  • radiation survival analysis