Faculty

Co-Directors

Steffi Oesterreich
Program(s): Cancer Biology
Contact:
B411 Magee-Womens Research Institute
204 Craft Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • estrogen receptor
  • invasive lobular carcinoma
  • epigenetics
  • chromatin
  • coregulators
  • bone metastases
  • lobular carcinoma in situ
  • mutations
Summary

The main interest of Dr. Oesterreich's laboratory is to further our understanding of hormone action in women's cancers (including both breast and ovarian cancers), with the ultimate goal to use this knowledge for improved diagnosis and endocrine treatment. These studies include many aspects of translational breast cancer research utilizing basic biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, and cell lines, mouse models and clinical samples. Over the last few years, Dr. Oesterreich has developed a strong research interest in in situ and invasive lobular disease, the second most common yet understudied histological subtype of breast cancer. In her role as Director of Education at the Women's Cancer Research Center, Dr. Oesterreich is also very interested in providing outstanding training opportunities to the next generation of women's cancer researchers.

Ronald Buckanovich
Program(s): Cancer Biology
Contact:
204 Craft Avenue, B333
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-641-4721
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Ovarian cancer
  • cancer stem cells
  • tumor vasculature
  • targeted therapies
Summary

Cancer stem cells (CSC) are rare, inherently chemoresistant cells, which have the capacity to differentiate and generate the numerous cancer cell types observed in a tumor. CSC are hypothesized to be the primary source of cancer recurrence and ultimately a patient's demise. The primary objective of my laboratory is to understand cellular interactions in the tumor vascular/cancer stem cell niche with the goal of developing novel therapeutics targeting CSC proliferation and differentiation. In order to characterize these interactions, we have performed an extensive characterization of ovarian CSC and have begun to define a differentiation hierarchy of the ovarian CSC. In addition, we have characterized several components of the ovarian CSC niche; we have extensively characterized the ovarian tumor vasculature, tumor vascular associated leukocytes, and cancer associated mesenchymal stem cells. We have developed novel in vitro microfluidics devices as a means to study symmetric versus asymmetric divisions of CSC, and novel human in vivo tumor models for the study of ovarian CSC growth and differentiation. Finally, we have developed tumor vascular niche targeted nanoparticle platform with which to assess the efficacy of CSC targeted therapies delivered specifically to CSC. We are now perfectly placed to significantly develop the field of cancer stem cell based differentiation targeted therapies.

Faculty

Catherine Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-624-3594
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cognitive function of cancer patients
  • reproductive hormones
  • breast cancer
  • adherence to cancer therapy
Summary
My two areas of research interest include the neuropsychological sequellae of cancer and cancer treatment and the physiological mechanisms underlying these problems and adherence to cancer therapy. More specifically, my research focuses on the changes in cognitive function and mood that occur in patients with cancer. I also examine whether the changes in reproductive hormones that occur as a consequence of cancer therapy are related to changes in cognitive function experienced by women with cancer, and we are investigating candidate genes for correlations with cognitive function in patients with cancer. I also study adherence to therapy in patients with cancer and other chronic conditions and predictors of non-adherence to therapy.
Wendie Berg, MD, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention
Contact:
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
300 Halket St.
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: (412) 641-1635
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Risk assessment and breast density
  • Supplemental screening for breast cancer based on risk
  • Comparative effectiveness of new technologies in breast imaging
  • Shear wave elastography to reduce false positives on screening breast ultrasound
  • Correlation of shear wave elastography with prognostic factors and treatment response
  • Comparison of tomosynthesis and ultrasound for cancer detection
  • Comparison of molecular breast imaging and MRI for contralateral screening in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer
Dana Bovbjerg, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Hillman Cancer Center 5115 Centre Avenue, Suite 140
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-7771
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Biobehavioral factors in cancer
  • cancer risk
  • cancer screening
  • cancer diagnosis
  • psychological factors in cancer
  • smoking behavior
Summary

Interdisciplinary studies of: biobehavioral factors in cancer; the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biological consequences of breast cancer risk; the contribution of biobehavioral factors to side effects of medical treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) and interventions that may ameliorate those effects; interactions between psychological and genetic factors in persistent smoking behavior; and, psychological influences on cancer screening decisions.

Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Therapeutics
Contact:
300 Halket St
Suite 4628
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Breast cancer
  • clinical trials
  • molecular biology of breast cancer
Uma Chandran, PhD, MSIS
Program(s): Cancer Biology
Contact:
Room 513
5607 Baum Boulevard
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Bioinformatics
John Comerci, MD
Program(s): Cancer Therapeutics
Contact:
9100 Babcock Boulevard
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • cervical cancer
  • ovarian cancer
Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-624-2699
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Symptom management
  • quality of life
  • oncology caregivers
Summary
My expertise is in symptom management and the development and testing of theoretically-guided psycho-educational interventions to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and their family caregivers. I am the co-developer of the Representational Approach (RA) to patient education, an intervention theory designed to promote behavior change to improve self-management of complex health problems. I have had sustained funding to develop and test a web-based symptom management intervention (WRITE Symptoms) based on the RA with the aim of improving symptoms, patient-health care provider communication, and quality of life among women with recurrent ovarian cancer (NR010735). I am also a Co-PI with Dr. Paula Sherwood on a 3-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating the impact of a web-based caregiver intervention (SmartCare) on biobehavioral outcomes for caregivers of patients with a primary malignant brain tumor (NR013170).
Robert Edwards, MD
Program(s): Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy
Contact:
204 Craft Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-641-8556
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Ovarian cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • gynecologic malignancies
  • intraperitoneal chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • clinical trials
Summary
Dr. Edwards' research interests include cervical and ovarian malignancies. He serves as principle investigator of the Gynecologic Oncology Group for the University of Pittsburgh and for a number of pharmaceutical-sponsored studies. He also serves on the Cancer Vaccine Committee, which experiments with novel therapeutic approaches to gynecologic malignancies and produces translational research.

Three specific targets of Dr. Edwards' research include: 1) vaccine therapies for cervical and ovarian cancer; 2) combining biologic and immunologic therapies with traditional therapies in the treatment of women's cancer; and 3) intraperitoneal therapy.

Adrian Lee, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Biology
Contact:
Magee-Womens Research Institute
204 Craft Avenue, A412
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-641-7739
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Breast cancer
  • steroid receptors
  • growth factor signaling
  • estrogen receptor
  • progesterone receptor
  • insulin-like growth factor
  • tumor heterogeneity
Summary

The goal of the Lee laboratory is translational breast cancer research. The laboratory has two main areas of focus. The first involves targeting the insulin-like growth factor pathway in breast cancer. A major emphasis is upon the downstream signaling intermediates the insulin receptor substrates (IRSs) analyzing interactions with steroid hormone receptors (ER and PR), role in normal mouse mammary gland development, mechanisms of transformation of mammary epithelial cells in vitro and in mouse models, and roles in human breast cancer. The second area of research is studies on tumor heterogeneity and molecular changes during progression, with a particular focus on DNA and RNA structural rearrangements. The laboratory participated in the first comprehensive report of structural rearrangements in a breast cancer cell line (MCF7) and reported on a novel massively parallel fosmid-based mate-pair assay for determining structural rearrangements. This work focuses on different tumor areas, or tumors from different parts of the body (obtained via rapid autopsy) to identify novel changes that may offer therapeutic insight. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh is the largest contributor of tissue to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), and many results are validated in these index cases.

Francesmary Modugno, PhD, MPH
Program(s): Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention
Carola Neumann
Program(s): Genome Stability
Contact:
Thomas E. Starzl
Biomedical Science Tower 3
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Breast cancer
  • cell signaling
  • peroxiredoxin
Priya Rastogi, MD
Program(s): Cancer Therapeutics
Contact:
UPMC CancerCenter at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
300 Halket Street
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Breast cancer
  • medical oncology
Margaret Rosenzweig, PhD, CRNP-C, AOCN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
336 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria Street
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Women's cancer
  • cancer education
  • cancer survivorship
  • metastatic breast cancer
  • electronic symptom assessment
  • minority cancer
Summary
My program of research seeks to better understand cancer illness to inform interventions directed towards educating and supporting patients with breast cancer, in order to empower them in obtaining optimal health care. My research career first included exploration of metastatic breast cancer experience according to race and income. I then received six additional extramural grant awards as principal investigator, which supported preliminary descriptive studies that culminated in the development of a psycho-educational intervention for the unique educational and supportive needs of African American women diagnosed with cancer and for women with newly diagnosed metastatic breast cancer. Specifically, each of these studies explores the impact that biobehavioral and psychosocial factors have on the cancer patient and how approaches and interventions can be tailored to improve the illness experience.
Shivendra Singh, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention
Contact:
2.32A Hillman Cancer Research Pavilion
5117 Centre Ave
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-3262
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cancer pharmacology
  • drug discovery
  • chemoprevention
  • dietary anti-cancer compounds
  • isothiocynates
  • organosulides
  • withaferin A
  • cancer prevention
Summary

The primary research interests of the Singh laboratory include molecular characterization of novel cancer chemopreventive agents and rational design of mechanism-driven combination chemoprevention regimens. Cellular and transgenic animal models are used to screen potential cancer chemopreventive constituents from dietary and medicinal plants. Cutting edge cellular, molecular biological, omics (metabolomics and proteomics), structural biology, and imaging techniques (MRI and bioluminescence) are used to (a) determine the mechanism of action of promising cancer chemopreventive agents, (b) monitor effects on cancer progression, and (c) identify biomarkers predictive of tissue exposure and possibly response. Some of the agents under active investigation in the Singh laboratory include: cruciferous vegetable-derived isothiocyanates, garlic-derived organosulides, and medicinal plant constituent withaferin A. As an example, recent published work from the Singh laboratory indicates suppression of glycolysis in mammary cancer prevention by withaferin A in a transgenic mouse model. Likewise, complementary cellular and molecular biological, targeted proteomics, and molecular modeling techniques were used to identify beta-tubulin as a novel target of cancer cell growth arrest by withaferin A (WA).

Richard Steinman, MD, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Biology
Contact:
UPMC Cancer Pavilion
5150 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • melanoma
  • breast cancer
  • fibrosis
Summary

Dr. Steinman has interrogated the function and regulation of cdk inhibitors during quiescence and differentiation. His recent research focuses on dissection of the tumor microenvironment, including the development of a tool to enable topographically-restricted genetic manipulation of cells adjacent to cancer. Current questions under investigation include the contribution of fibrosis to metastatic growth and stromal factors that impact cancer dormancy and recurrence.

Anda Vlad, MD, PhD
Program(s): Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy
Contact:
204 Craft Avenue, B403
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-641-2985
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Ovarian cancer
  • immunology
  • immune surveillance
  • biomarkers
  • endometriosis
Summary
Proposing to identify immune biomarker discovery for disease management of endometriosis and ovarian cancer, the Vlad lab is investigating numerous questions about immune surveillance in women with these diseases. Via collaborations with our clinician colleagues at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, the lab is working on implementing new clinical trials exploring the roles of novel immune biologics as adjuvant therapies in ovarian cancer.