UPMC Hillman Immunologist Receives Holzer Research Award


Dr. Leisha Emens

Pittsburgh, Jan. 28, 2021 – UPMC Hillman Cancer Center physician-scientist Leisha A. Emens, M.D., Ph.D., has been presented with the Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund Award to advance innovative research in cancer. Internationally recognized for her work in breast cancer immunotherapy, Emens is co-leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program and Director of Translational Immunotherapy for the Women’s Cancer Research Center at UPMC Hillman.

Emens has developed innovative combination immunotherapies that incorporate cancer vaccines, immune checkpoint inhibitors and other immune modulators with standard and novel treatments for breast cancer. She plays a vital role in leading the effort to advance translational cancer immunotherapy at UPMC Hillman and was the first to show that a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy can extend the lives of women with triple negative breast cancer.  Her research led to accelerated approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this treatment to address one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

The Holzer Fund, now in its third year, was established to honor Sy Holzer’s philanthropic work as the long-time president of PNC and his many years of service as chair of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Council.  The fund has been supported through leadership gifts made by many local and national individual funds, foundations and corporations.  This award, once again, is being matched by the Stanley M. Marks Endowed Research Fund at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Emens is the vice president/president-elect of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer. She is also a member of the American College of Physicians, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies and the European Society for Medical Oncology. She has received multiple awards for research and clinical care, including a Stand Up to Cancer Laura Ziskin Prize in Translational Research, Castle Connolly Exceptional Women in Medicine, the Hillman Fellowship for Innovative Cancer Research and U.S. News and World Report Top Doctor (Top 1% in Nation).


About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center  UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and is one of the largest integrated community cancer networks in the United States. Backed by the collective strength of UPMC—which is ranked No. 15 for cancer care nationally by U.S. News & World Report – and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has nearly 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Maryland, with cancer centers and partnerships internationally. The more than 2,000 physicians, researchers, and staff are leaders in molecular and cellular cancer biology, cancer immunology, cancer virology, biobehavioral cancer control, and cancer epidemiology, prevention, and therapeutics. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is transforming cancer research, care, and prevention — one patient at a time. 

Media Contact: Cyndy Patton 
Mobile: 412-415-6085
E-mail: PattonC4@upmc.edu