UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Postdoctoral Fellowship

Hillman Postdoctoral Fellows for Innovative Cancer Research

Program Overview

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, now offers an exciting new postdoctoral training opportunity at the University of Pittsburgh. Made possible by a donation from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, the Hillman Postdoctoral Fellows for Innovative Cancer Research program seeks the nation’s top graduate students and early-stage postdoctoral fellows to pursue leading-edge cancer research in Hillman laboratories.

Fellows chosen for this highly selective program will receive a stipend 20% above the current NIH level and a generous career development fund, which can be applied toward research-related or personal expenses, including purchase of a laptop and travel to national or international meetings.

A select group of applicants will be required to attend a special event to meet with prospective faculty mentors, at no personal cost. This event will be held in Pittsburgh in October 2018. Applicants who are selected as a Hillman Postdoctoral Fellow for Innovative Cancer Research will be notified of their award within six weeks of the event.

All Hillman Postdoctoral Fellows must possess a doctoral degree prior to their start date. Fellows will receive a one-year contract, renewable for a second year pending committee review of progress.

Faculty Mentors

Participating UPMC Hillman Cancer Center faculty mentors are all nationally and internationally recognized scientists with strong publication records, dynamic laboratories, and established track records of effective mentoring.

Biobehavioral Oncology

Catherine Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN
Nancy Glunt Hoffman Endowed Chair in Oncology Nursing
Professor of Oncology Nursing, Health & Community Systems

Keywords:

  • Cognitive function of cancer patients
  • Exercise interventions
  • Breast cancer
  • Adherence to cancer therapy

Research:

Dr. Bender’s two areas of research interest include the neuropsychological sequellae of cancer and cancer treatment, as well as the physiological mechanisms underlying these problems and adherence to cancer therapy. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Gentry AL, et al. Protocol for Exercise Program in Cancer and Cognition (EPICC): A randomized controlled trial of the effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive function in postmenopausal women with breast cancer receiving aromatase inhibitor therapy. Contemp Clin Trials 2018 67:109-115.
  2. Bender, CM, et al. Trajectories of Cognitive Function and Associated Phenotypic and Genotypic Factors in Breast Cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum 2018 45(3):308-326.
  3. Merriman, JD, et al. Trajectories of self-reported cognitive function in postmenopausal women during adjuvant systemic therapy for breast cancer. Psychooncology 2017 26(1):44-52.

Complete List of Publications

Dana Bovbjerg, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Leader, Hillman Biobehavioral Oncology Program

Keywords:

  • Biobehavioral factors in cancer
  • Cancer risk
  • Cancer screening
  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Psychological factors in cancer
  • Smoking behavior

Research:

Dr. Bovbjerg’s laboratory focuses on biobehavioral factors in cancer, such as the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biological consequences of breast cancer risk; the contribution of biobehavioral factors to side effects of medical treatments and interventions that may ameliorate those effects; interactions between psychological and genetic factors in persistent smoking behavior; and psychological influences on cancer screening decisions. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Vin-Raviv N, et al. Sleep disorder diagnoses and clinical outcomes among hospitalized breast cancer patients: a nationwide inpatient sample study. Support Care Cancer. 2018 26:1833-1840.
  2. Linkov F, et al. Changes in inflammatory endometrial cancer risk biomarkers in individuals undergoing surgical weight loss. Gynecol Oncol. 2017 147:133-138.
  3. Edmond SN, et al. Persistent breast pain among women with histories of breast-conserving surgery for breast cancer compared with women without histories of breast surgery or cancer. Clin J Pain. 2017 33:51-56.

Complete List of Publications

Carissa A. Low, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine (Division of Hematology/Oncology) and Psychology

Keywords:

  • Mobile sensing technology
  • Depression
  • Physical activity and sedentary behavior
  • Symptom management

Research:

Dr. Low’s laboratory works on interactions between behavior, biology, and patient-centered outcomes in the context of cancer. She is particularly interested in the use of technology to detect and change unhealthy behaviors, psychological stress, and symptom burden during cancer treatment. (Funded be the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Low CA, et al. Fitbit step counts during inpatient recovery from cancer surgery as a predictor of readmission. Ann Behav Med. 2018 52:88-92.
  2. Low CA, et al. Estimation of symptom severity during chemotherapy from passively sensed data: Exploratory study. J Med Internet Res. 2017 19(12):e420.
  3. Low CA, et al. Depressive Symptoms in Patients Scheduled for Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy with Cytoreductive Surgery: Prospective Associations With Morbidity and Mortality. J Clin Oncol 2016 34(11):1217-22.

Complete List of Publications

Robert B. Noll, PhD
Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Psychology

Keywords:

  • Pediatric cancer
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Clinical trials

Research:

Research from Dr. Noll’s laboratory focuses on gaining a better understanding of the impact of cancer on the psychosocial functioning of children and their families, and developing evidence-based strategies to alleviate suffering and late effects

Selected Publications:

  1. Hardy KK, et al. Neurocognitive functioning of children treated for high risk B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (HR B-ALL) randomized to different methotrexate (MTX) and corticosteroid treatment strategies: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). J Clin Oncol, inpress. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2016.71.7587 J Clin Oncol - published online before print July 3, 2017.
  2. Kazak AE, Noll RB. The integration of psychology in pediatric oncology research and practice: Collaboration to improve care and outcomes for children and families. Am Psychol. 2017 70(2): 146-158.
  3. Wiener L, et al. Standards for the psychosocial care of children with cancer and their families: An introduction to the special issue. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2015 62: S419-S425.

Complete List of Publications

Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD
Dean, University Honors College
Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Chair
Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics
Director, Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health

Keywords:

  • Tobacco
  • Smoking
  • Waterpipe
  • Hookah
  • Adolescent
  • Mass media
  • Media literacy
  • Technology
  • Health outcomes
  • Education
  • Health disparities

Research:

Dr. Primack’s laboratory investigates the influence of media and technology exposures, particularly on tobacco use. They also study waterpipe (hookah) tobacco and electronic cigarette smoking in youth. (Funded by the NCI and NIDA)

Selected Publications:

  1. Primack BA, et al. Comparison of toxicant load from waterpipe and cigarette tobacco smoking among young adults in the United States. Tobacco Control. In press, 2018.
  2. Primack BA, et al. Initiation of traditional cigarette smoking after electronic cigarette use among tobacco-naïve U.S. young adults. American Journal of Medicine. 2018 131(4):443.e1-443.e9.
  3. Hoffman BL, et al. Pennsylvania policymakers’ knowledge, attitudes, and likelihood for action regarding waterpipe tobacco smoking & electronic nicotine delivery systems. Tobacco Prevention & Cessation. 2018;4.

Complete List of Publications

Margaret Rosenzweig, PhD, CRNP-C, AOCN, FAAN
Professor and Vice Chair of Research, Acute and Tertiary Care

Keywords:

  • Disparities in cancer treatments
  • Women's cancer
  • Cancer education
  • Cancer survivorship
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Electronic symptom assessment

Research:

Dr. Rosenzweig’s laboratory explores the impact that biobehavioral and psychosocial factors, such as race and income, have on the metastatic breast cancer patient and how approaches and interventions can be tailored to improve the illness experience. (Funded by NCI and NIMHD)

Selected Publications:

  1. Yee MK, et al. Symptom incidence, distress, cancer-related distress, and adherence to chemotherapy among African American women with breast cancer. Cancer 2017 123:2061-2069.
  2. Hoffmann RL, et al. Creating Quality Online Materials for Specialty Nurse Practitioner Content: Filling a Need for the Graduate Nurse Practitioner. J Cancer Educ 2017 32:522-527.
  3. Jiang Y, et al. Beliefs in Chemotherapy and Knowledge of Cancer and Treatment Among African American Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum 2016 43:180-9.

Complete List of Publications

Yael Schenker, MD, MS
Associate Professor of Medicine (Division of General Internal Medicine)
Director, Palliative Care Research

Keywords:

  • Palliative care
  • Supportive oncology care
  • Informed consent
  • Surrogate decision making
  • Clinician-patient communication
  • Language barriers

Research:

Dr. Schenker’s primary research interest is in the integration of palliative care services in oncology, with a particular focus on developing new models to improve provision of “primary” palliative care within oncology practices. Secondary research interests include surrogate decision making, informed consent, health care advertising, and the impact of language and cultural barriers on patient-clinician communication. (Funded by the NCI and ACS)

Selected Publications:

  1. Soodalter JA, et al. Affective science and avoidant end-of-life communication: Can the science of emotion help physicians talk with their patients about the end of life? Patient Educ Couns 2018 101:960-967.
  2. Becker CL, et al. A cluster randomized trial of a primary palliative care intervention (CONNECT) for patients with advanced cancer: Protocol and key design considerations. Contemp Clin Trials Commun 2017 54:98-104.
  3. Hay CM, et al. Strategies for Introducing Outpatient Specialty Palliative Care in Gynecologic Oncology. J Oncol Pract 2017 13:e712-e720.

Complete List of Publications

Jennifer Lynn Steel, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery, Psychiatry, and Psychology
Director, Center for Excellence in Behavioral Medicine

Keywords:

  • Caregiving
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Genetics
  • Symptom Management
  • Microbiomes
  • Collaborative care interventions
  • Quality of life

Research:

Dr. Steel’s laboratory focuses on collaborative care interventions to manage cancer-related symptoms and improve quality of life for cancer patients. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Krane DM, et al. Putting the life in lifestyle: Lifestyle choices after a diagnosis of cancer predict mortality. Cancer 2018 in press.
  2. Collins KP, et al. Sleep duration is associated with survival in advanced cancer patients. Sleep Med 2017 32:208-212.
  3. Steel JL, et al. Web-based collaborative care intervention to manage cancer-related symptoms in the palliative care setting. Cancer 2016 122(8):1270-82.

Complete List of Publications

Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention

Wendie A. Berg, MD, PhD, FACR
Professor of Radiology

Keywords:

  • Breast imaging
  • Tomosynthesis
  • Ultrasound

Research:

Dr. Berg compares imaging modalities, such as digital tomosynthesis and whole breast ultrasound, for breast cancer detection. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Narayanan D, et al. Use of Breast-Specific PET Scanners and Comparison with MR Imaging. Magn Reson Imaging Clin N Am 2018 26(2):265-272.
  2. Berg WA. Can Optoacoustic Imaging Safely Reduce Benign Breast Biopsies? Radiology 2018 287:413-415.
  3. Berg WA, et al. Ultrasound as the Primary Screening Test for Breast Cancer: Analysis from ACRIN 6666. J Natl Cancer Inst 2015 108(4).

Complete List of Publications

Rohit Bhargava, MD
Professor of Pathology

Keywords:

  • Breast cancer pathology
  • Gynecologic cancer pathology

Research:

Dr. Bhargava's research interests include identifying novel diagnostic and prognostic markers for invasive and in situ (early) breast cancer, studying predictive biomarkers in breast carcinoma and their correlation to clinical outcome, and validating new and informative diagnostic assays in breast and gynecologic pathology and general oncology. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publication:

  1. Landmann A, et al. Low Estrogen Receptor (ER)-Positive Breast Cancer and Neoadjuvant Systemic Chemotherapy: Is Response Similar to Typical ER-Positive or ER-Negative Disease? Am J Clin Pathol 2018 150:34-42.
  2. Clark BZ, et al. Prognostic Significance of Modified Residual Disease in Breast and Nodes (mRDBN) Algorithm After Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer. Am J Clin Pathol 2018 149:332-343.
  3. Assylbekova B, et al. Well Differentiated Endometrioid Adenocarcinoma of the Endometrium with "Adenoma Malignum-Like" Pattern of Invasion: Report of Two Cases and Review of Literature. Ann Clin Lab Sci 2017 47:765-767.

Complete List of Publications

James Herman, MD
UPMC Endowed Chair for Lung Cancer Research
Professor of Medicine
Leader, Hillman Lung Cancer Program

Keywords:

  • Lung cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • Tumor suppressor genes
  • Epigenetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Transcription factors
  • Early detection
  • Cancer prognosis

Research:

Dr. Herman’s laboratory explores changes in DNA methylation in cancer and was the first to demonstrate that tumor suppressor genes are silenced by promoter region methylation. Current research is aimed at the development of prognostic, predictive, and early detection epigenetic biomarkers, and in studies of epigenetic therapy. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Yan W, et al. Retinoic acid-induced 2 (RAI2) is a novel tumor suppressor, and promoter region methylation of RAI2 is a poor prognostic marker in colorectal cancer. Clin Epigenetics 2018 10:69.
  2. Pelosof L, et al. GPX3 promoter methylation predicts platinum sensitivity in colorectal cancer. Epigenetics 2017 12:540-550.
  3. Hulbert A, et al. Early Detection of Lung Cancer Using DNA Promoter Hypermethylation in Plasma and Sputum. Clin Cancer Res 2017 23:1998-2005.

Complete List of Publications

Stephen J.D. O'Keefe, MD, MSc
Professor of Medicine (Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition)

Keywords:

  • Nutrition and disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Prevention
  • Microbiome

Research:

Dr. O’Keefe studies the role of diet, the microbiome and its metabolites in determining colon cancer risk in extreme risk Alaska Native People, high risk African Americans, and minimal risk rural South Africans. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. O'Keefe SJD. The Need to Reassess Dietary Fiber Requirements in Healthy and Critically Ill Patients. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 2018 47:219-229.
  2. Ocvirk S, et al. Influence of Bile Acids on Colorectal Cancer Risk: Potential Mechanisms Mediated by Diet - Gut Microbiota Interactions. Curr Nutr Rep 2017 6:315-322.
  3. O'Keefe SJ, et al. Fat, fiber and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans. Nat Commun 2015 6:6342.

Complete List of Publications

Robert E. Schoen, MD, MPH
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Chief, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Keywords:

  • Early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer (CRC)
  • Biomarkers for Early Detection and Monitoring of CRC
  • Environmental and Genetic Risk Factors for CRC
  • Colonoscopy quality and utilization
  • Acceptability and implementation of CRC screening

Research:

Dr. Schoen’s interests are centered on early detection and prevention of CRC. He is a principal investigator in the Early Detection Research Network, studying ctDNA with Dr. Kinzler at Johns Hopkins for detection and monitoring of CRC, and with Dr. Olja Finn evaluating a MUC1 vaccine for prevention of adenomatous polyps. He is also a principal investigator in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, a randomized trial of over 154,000 individuals that evaluated flexible sigmoidoscopy. He has used PLCO data to study surveillance colonoscopy utilization and yield, interval cancers, and risk of colorectal cancer among subjects with a family history of cancer. He is a co-investigator in the GECCO consortium, evaluating environmental and genetic risk factors for CRC. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Click B, et al. Association of Colonoscopy Adenoma Findings with Long-term Colorectal Cancer Incidence. JAMA 2018 319:2021-2031.
  2. Jeon J, et al. Determining Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Starting Age of Screening Based on Lifestyle, Environmental, and Genetic Factors. Gastroenterology 2018;154:2152-2164.e19.
  3. Cohen JD, et al. Detection and localization of surgically resectable cancers with a multi-analyte blood test. (2018). Science. 359(6378):926-930. PMID: 29348365.

Complete List of Publications

Shivendra V. Singh, PhD
UPMC Chair in Cancer Prevention Research
Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology and Professor of Urology
Associate Director for Basic Research, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Keywords:

  • Cancer pharmacology
  • Drug discovery
  • Chemoprevention
  • Dietary anti-cancer compounds
  • Isothiocynates
  • Organosulfides
  • Withaferin A

Research:

The primary research interests of Dr. Singh’s laboratory include molecular characterization of novel cancer chemopreventive agents and rational design of mechanism-driven combination chemoprevention regimens. Some of the agents under active investigation in the Singh laboratory include cruciferous vegetable-derived isothiocyanates, garlic-derived organosulfides, and medicinal plant constituent withaferin A. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Singh KB, et al. Prostate cancer chemoprevention by sulforaphane in a preclinical mouse model is associated with inhibition of fatty acid metabolism. Carcinogenesis. 2018 28;39(6):826-837.
  2. Samanta SK, et al. Peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase Pin1 regulates withaferin A-mediated cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 2018 57(7):936-946.
  3. Samanta SK, et al. Disease Subtype-Independent Biomarkers of Breast Cancer Chemoprevention by the Ayurvedic Medicine Phytochemical Withaferin A. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2016 31;109(6).

Complete List of Publications

Jian-Min Yuan, MD, PhD
Arnold Palmer Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Professor of Epidemiology
Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Co-Leader, Hillman Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program
Director, Translational Research Training in Cancer Etiology and Prevention

Keywords:

  • Gene-environment interaction in cancer etiology
  • Cancer biomarkers
  • Cancer risk prediction
  • Dietary chemopreventive agents
  • Cancer epidemiology
  • Cancer prevention
  • Clinical trials

Research:

Dr. Yuan’s laboratory focuses on the etiologic and protective roles of environmental exposures and genetic factors, and their interaction in the development of cancers. Dr. Yuan is Principal Investigator of the Shanghai Cohort Study and the Singapore Chinese Health Study ─ two population-based prospective cohort studies of more than 80,000 individuals ─ as well as the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PluSS) that has collected repeated annual blood samples and biannual low-dose CT scans on a cohort of 3,600 smokers at high risk for lung cancer. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Huang JY, et al. A prospective evaluation of serum kynurenine metabolites and risk of pancreatic cancer. PLoS One 2018 13:e0196465.
  2. Yuan JM, et al. Relationship of the Oxidative Damage Biomarker 8-epi-prostaglandin F2α to Risk of Lung Cancer Development in the Shanghai Cohort Study. Carcinogenesis 2018 May 3. [Epub ahead of print].
  3. Wang Z, et al. Telomere length and risk of developing gastric adenocarcinoma: The Singapore Chinese Health Study. Gastric Cancer 2017 21(4):598-605.

Complete List of Publications

Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy

Carolyn J. Anderson, PhD
Professor of Medicine (Division of Cardiology), Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, and Bioengineering
Co-Director, In Vivo Imaging Facility

Keywords:

  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Metal radionuclides
  • Cancer imaging
  • Radiotherapy
  • Molecular imaging
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Cancer metastasis

Research:

The major focus of Dr. Anderson's laboratory is the development, evaluation and application of radiopharmaceuticals containing metal radionuclides for diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy for cancer. In models of metastatic melanoma, they are evaluating the therapeutic potential of combining checkpoint inhibitors with a radionuclide targeting very late antigen-4 (VLA-4), an integrin involved in tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis, as well as the ability of PET tracers targeting VLA-4, PD-1 and CD8 to monitor early responses to therapy. (Funded by the NCI, NIAID, and NIBIB)

Selected Publications:

  1. Choi J, et al.  Combination treatment of VLA-4 targeted radionuclide therapy and immunotherapy in a mouse model of melanoma.  Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 2018 doi:10.2967/jnumed.118.209510 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Ocak M, et al. (64)Cu-Laboratoryeled Phosphonate Cross-Bridged Chelator Conjugates of c(RGDyK) for PET/CT Imaging of Osteolytic Bone Metastases. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2018 Mar;33(2):74-83.
  3. Choy CJ, et al.  177Lu-Labeled phosphoramidate-based PSMA inhibitors: the effect of an albumin binder on biodistribution and therapeutic efficacy in prostate tumor-bearing mice.  Theranostics. 2017 Apr;7(7): 1928-1939.

Complete List of Publications

Robert J. Binder, PhD
Associate Professor of Immunology
Director, Immunology Graduate Program

Keywords:

  • Antigen cross-presentation
  • Tumor immunology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Heat shock proteins
  • Cancer vaccines

Research:

Dr. Binder’s laboratory focuses on the mechanisms of antigen cross-priming during immune responses to cancer. In particular, they are interested in heat shock proteins as they are both necessary and sufficient for cross presentation. (Funding by the NCI and NIAID)

Selected Publications:

  1. Kinner-Bibeau LB, et al. HSPs drive dichotomous T-cell immune responses via DNA methylome remodelling in antigen presenting cells. Nat Commun. 2017 May 31;8:15648.
  2. Sedlacek AL, et al. Phenotypically distinct helper NK cells are required for gp96-mediated anti-tumor immunity. Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 19;6:29889.
  3. Zhou YJ, et al. Establishment of tumor-associated immunity requires interaction of heat shock proteins with CD91. Cancer Immunol Res. 2014 Mar;2(3):217-28.

Complete List of Publications

Greg M. Delgoffe, PhD
Assistant Professor of Immunology

Keywords:

  • Tumor immunology
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Immunometabolism
  • Cancer immunotherapy

Research:

Dr. Delgoffe’s laboratory studies the impact of the tumor microenvironment on T cell subsets that infiltrate the tumor. They aim to dissect how tumor cells promote an immunosuppressive environment through the modulation of metabolite availability and the generation of a chronic inflammatory environment. (Funded by the NIAID)

Selected Publications:

  1. Menk AV, et al. 4-1BB costimulation induces T cell mitochondrial function and biogenesis enabling cancer immunotherapeutic responses. J Exp Med. 2018 Apr 2;215(4):1091-1100.
  2. Menk AV, et al. Early TCR Signaling Induces Rapid Aerobic Glycolysis Enabling Distinct Acute T Cell Effector Functions. Cell Rep. 2018 Feb 6;22(6):1509-1521.
  3. Delgoffe GM. PP2A's restraint of mTOR is critical for T(reg) cell activity. Nat Immunol. 2016 May;17(5):478-9. doi: 10.1038/ni.3442. PubMed PMID: 27092798.

Complete List of Publications

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Hillman Professor of Oncology
Professor of Otolaryngology, Immunology, and Radiation Oncology
Associate Vice-Chancellor for Cancer Research
Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center
Director, Postdoctoral Research Training in Head and Neck Oncology

Keywords:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • PD-1
  • Tim-3
  • Antigen presentation
  • Cancer vaccines
  • Immunotherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Tumor microenvironment

Research:

Dr. Ferris's laboratory focuses on understanding basic immunological mechanisms of the T lymphocyte response to cancer for the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches to head and neck cancers. They are particularly interested in the immune response to HPV-associated head and neck cancer, which appears to be a distinct subgroup of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Kansy BA, et al. PD-1 Status in CD8+ T Cells Associates with Survival and Anti-PD-1 Therapeutic Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancer. Cancer Res. 2017 Nov 15;77(22):6353-6364.
  2. Shayan G, et al. Phase Ib Study of Immune Biomarker Modulation with Neoadjuvant Cetuximab and TLR8 Stimulation in Head and Neck Cancer to Overcome Suppressive Myeloid Signals. Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Jan 1;24(1):62-72.
  3. Liu Z, et al. Novel effector phenotype of Tim-3+ regulatory T cells leads to enhanced suppressive function in head and neck cancer patients. Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Apr 30. pii: clincanres.1350.2017.

Complete List of Publications

Olivera J. Finn, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Immunology and Surgery

Keywords:

  • Cancer vaccines
  • Tumor-specific immunity
  • Immunoprevention

Research:

The long-standing interests of Dr. Finn’s laboratory center on identifying specific mechanisms of human anti-tumor immunity and cancer immunosurveillance; they were the first to identify a human tumor antigen recognized by human T cells and antibodies - the epithelial mucin MUC1, which has been tested as a therapeutic cancer vaccine and currently as a prophylactic cancer vaccine. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Finn OJ. The dawn of vaccines for cancer prevention. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 2018 Mar 18(3):183-194.
  2. Lohmueller JJ, et al. Antibodies elicited by the first non-viral prophylactic cancer vaccine show tumor-specificity and immunotherapeutic potential. Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 22;6:31740.
  3. Kimura T, et al. MUC1 vaccine for individuals with advanced adenoma of the colon: a cancer immunoprevention feasibility study. Cancer Pre Res (Phila). 2013 Jan;6(1):18-26.

Complete List of Publications

Lawrence Kane, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair for Education, Immunology

Keywords:

  • T cells
  • Signal transduction
  • Kinases
  • Immunology
  • Mast cells
  • Co-stimulation
  • Tim-3

Research:

Dr. Kane’s laboratory studies the signal transduction pathways that regulate antigen-dependent activation of T cells and mast cells. A large focus centers on TIM-3, a novel transmembrane protein associated with both inhibitory and co-stimulatory functions, depending on the biological context. (Funded by the NCI and NIAID)

Selected Publications:

  1. Avery L, et al. Tim-3 co-stimulation promotes short-lived effector T cells, restricts memory precursors, and is dispensable for T cell exhaustion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 6;115(10):2455-2460.
  2. Phong B, et al. Cutting Edge: Murine Mast Cells Rapidly Modulate Metabolic Pathways Essential for Distinct Effector Functions. J Immunol. 2017 Jan 15;198(2):640-644.
  3. Phong BL, et al. Tim-3 enhances FcεRI-proximal signaling to modulate mast cell activation. J Exp Med. 2015 Dec 14;212(13):2289-304.

Complete List of Publications

John M. Kirkwood, MD
Thomas and Sandra Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology and Translational Science
Co-Leader, Hillman Melanoma Program
Director, Training Program in Skin Biology and Cancer

Keywords:

  • Melanoma
  • Immunology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interferon
  • Cancer vaccines
  • Clinical trials

Research:

Dr. Kirkwood’s laboratory studies melanoma immunobiology, and assesses new immunomodulators and targeted therapies for melanoma in the context of clinical trials. In addition, they perform correlative studies to evaluate putative predictive and prognostic biomarkers associated with therapeutic interventions. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Tahata S, et al. Evaluation of biodistribution of sulforaphane after administration of oral broccoli sprout extract in melanoma patients with multiple atypical nevi. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2018 Apr 24. pii: canprevres.0268.2017. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-17-0268. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Ferris LK, et al. A Large Skin Cancer Screening Quality Initiative: Description and First-Year Outcomes. JAMA Oncol. 2017;3(8):1112-1115
  3. Long GV, et al. Adjuvant Dabrafenib plus Trametinib in Stage III BRAF-Mutated Melanoma. N Engl J Med. 2017 Nov 9;377(19):1813-1823.

Complete List of Publications

Binfeng Lu, PhD
Associate Professor of Immunology

Keywords:

  • Immunotherapy
  • Interleukin-33
  • Signal transduction
  • Stress-triggered responses

Research:

Dr. Lu’s laboratory aims to discover new targets for improving immunotherapy, such as IL-33, and to understand the regulation of stress-triggered molecular responses in T cells and how these responses impact cancer immunity. (Funded by the NCI and NIAID)

Selected Publications:

  1. Yang X, et al. ATF4 Regulates CD4+ T Cell Immune Responses through Metabolic Reprogramming. Cell reports. 2018; 23(6):1754-1766
  2. Xu Y, et al. Higher Numbers of T-Bet+ Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes Assocaite with Better Survical in Human Epithelial Ovarian Cancer. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017; 41(2)475-483.
  3. Wang X, et al. IL-36γ Transforms the Tumor Microenvironment and Promotes Type 1 Lymphocyte-Mediated Antitumor Immune Responses. Cancer cell. 2015; 28(3):296-306.

Complete List of Publications

Saumendra N. Sarkar, PhD
Associate Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and Immunology

Keywords:

  • RIG-I-like receptors (RLR)
  • Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3)
  • Innate immune signaling
  • Anti-viral innate immunity
  • IFN signaling
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • Oncolytic viruses

Research:

Dr. Sarkar’s laboratory seeks to define the role of innate immune responses, specifically the IFN response, in shaping tumorigenesis and metastasis. They are also developing immune-oncolytic viruses for cancer therapy. (Funded by the NCI and NIAID)

Selected Publications:

  1. Cuevas RA, et al. MOV10 Provides Antiviral Activity against RNA Viruses by Enhancing RIG-I-MAVS-Independent IFN Induction. J Immunol. 2016 May 1;196(9):3877-86.
  2. McCormick KD, et al. Innate immune signaling through differential RIPK1 expression promote tumor progression in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Carcinogenesis. 2016 May;37(5):522-9.
  3. Zhu J, et al. Antiviral activity of human OASL protein is mediated by enhancing signaling of the RIG-I RNA sensor. Immunity. 2014 Jun 19;40(6):936-48.

Complete List of Publications

Walter J. Storkus, PhD
Professor of Dermatology, Immunology, Bioengineering, and Pathology

Keywords:

  • Tumor biology
  • Cancer vaccines
  • Immunotherapy
  • Dendritic cells
  • Tumor microenvironment

Research:

Cancer immunobiology and immunotherapy are the main interests of Dr. Storkus’s laboratory. They are developing novel vaccine approaches, such as using dendritic cells, which target tumor cells and stromal cells within the tumor microenvironment. Studies span from murine tumor models to human clinical trials. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Weinstein AM, et al.Tbet and IL-36γ cooperate in therapeutic DC-mediated promotion of ectopic lymphoid organogenesis in the tumor microenvironment. Oncoimmunology. 2017 Apr 28;6(6):e1322238.
  2. Fabian KP, et al. Therapeutic efficacy of combined vaccination against tumor pericyte-associated antigens DLK1 and DLK2 in mice. Oncoimmunology. 2017 Feb 10;6(3):e1290035.
  3. Wesa AK, et al. Circulating Type-1 Anti-Tumor CD4(+) T Cells are Preferentially Pro-Apoptotic in Cancer Patients. Front Oncol. 2014 Sep 29;4:266. doi:10.3389/fonc.2014.00266

Complete List of Publications

Dario A.A. Vignali, PhD
The Frank Dixon Chair in Cancer Immunology
Professor and Vice Chair of Immunology
Leader, Hillman Cancer Immunology Program
Director, Cancer Immunology Training Program
Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center
Scientific Director, Fondazione Ri.MED

Keywords:

  • Regulatory T cells
  • Inhibitory Receptors
  • Tumor immunology

Research:

Dr. Vignali’s laboratory focuses on various aspects of cancer immunology, focusing on T cell regulation, exhaustion and function; inhibitory receptors, particularly LAG3 and PD1; regulatory T cells; the inhibitory cytokines IL-35 and IL10; and control of T cell receptor:CD3 complex signaling. (Funded by the NCI, NIAID, NIDDK, and several biopharma)

Selected Publications:

  1. Overacre-Delgoffe AE, et al. Interferon-γ Drives T(reg) Fragility to Promote Anti-tumor Immunity. Cell. 2017 Jun 1;169(6):1130-1141.
  2. Turnis ME, et al. Interleukin-35 limits anti-tumor immunity. Immunity. 2016 44:316-29.
  3. Delgoffe GM, et al. Stability and function of regulatory T cells is maintained by a neuropilin-1:semaphorin-4a axis. Nature. 2013 501:252-256.

Complete List of Publications

Theresa L. Whiteside, PhD
Professor of Pathology, Immunology, and Otolaryngology
Co-Leader, Hillman Head and Neck Cancer Program

Keywords:

  • Tumor immunity
  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Exosomes
  • Head and neck cancer

Research:

The goal of Dr. Whiteside’s laboratory is to develop a better understanding of cellular and molecular cancer immunology. They are particularly interested in the role that exosomes play in modulating cancer immunity and malignant progression. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Theodoraki MN, et al. Plasma-derived Exosomes Reverse Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition after Photodynamic Therapy of Patients with Head and Neck Cancer. Oncoscience. 2018 Apr 29;5(3-4):75-87
  2. Sharma P, et al. Immunoaffinity-based isolation of melanoma cell-derived exosomes from plasma of patients with melanoma. J Extracell Vesicles. 2018 Feb 15;7(1):1435138.
  3. Theodoraki MN, et al. Separation of plasma-derived exosomes into CD3((+)) and CD3((-)) fractions allows for association of immune cell and tumour cell markers with disease activity in HNSCC patients. Clin Exp Immunol. 2018 Jun;192(3):271-283.

Complete List of Publications

Hassane Zarour, MD
Professor of Medicine (Division of Hematology/Oncology), Immunology and Dermatology
Co-Leader, Hillman Melanoma Program

Keywords:

  • Cancer immunology
  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Melanoma
  • Skin cancer

Research:

Dr. Zarour’s laboratory studies the mechanisms of melanoma-induced T cell dysfunction, including the role of the PD-1, Tim-3, BTLA and TIGIT pathways. They also are evaluating the role of the gut microbiome in modulating clinical and immune responses to immune checkpoint blockade in patients with PD1 refractory melanoma. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Chauvin JM, et al. TIGIT and PD-1 impair tumor antigen-specific CD8⁺ T cells in melanoma patients. J Clin Invest. 2015 May;125(5):2046-58
  2. Sun Z, et al. IL10 and PD-1 Cooperate to Limit the Activity of Tumor-Specific CD8+ T Cells. Cancer Res. 2015 Apr 15;75(8):1635-44.
  3. Fourcade J, et al. PD-1 and Tim-3 regulate the expansion of tumor antigen-specific CD8⁺ T cells induced by melanoma vaccines. Cancer Res. 2014 Feb 15;74(4):1045-55.

Complete List of Publications

Cancer Virology

Yuan Chang, MD
UPMC Chair in Cancer Virology Research
Distinguished and American Cancer Society Research Professor of Pathology

Keywords:

  • Tumor viruses
  • Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV)
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV)
  • Digital transcriptome subtraction; tumor virus discovery

Research:

Drs. Chang and Moore's laboratory was the first to identify Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV8) and show that this virus was causally associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma. They have continued to study virus-host cell interactions in the context of dysregulation of pro-proliferative and anti-apoptotic pathways and recently identified the seventh human tumor virus, Merkel cell polyomavirus, from a Merkel cell carcinoma. They are the recipients of multiple awards, including the 1998 Robert Koch Prize, 2003 GMCRF Mott Prize, 2017 Paul Ehrlich Prize, 2017 Passano Prize, 2017 Clarivate Laureate and election to the National Academies of Science. (Funded by the ACS)

Selected Publications:

  1. Kwun HJ, et al. Merkel cell polyomavirus small T antigen induces genome instability by E3 ubiquitin ligase targeting. Oncogene. 2017 Dec 7;36(49):6838.
  2. Velásquez C, et al. Mitotic protein kinase CDK1 phosphorylation of mRNA translation regulator 4E-BP1 Ser83 may contribute to cell transformation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Jul 26;113(30):8466-71.
  3. Toptan T, et al. Survey for human polyomaviruses in cancer. JCI Insight. 2016 Feb;1(2).

Complete List of Publications

Shou-Jiang Gao, PhD
The Pittsburgh Foundation Endowed Chair in Drug Development for Immunotherapy
Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics
Leader, Hillman Cancer Virology Program

Keywords:

  • Tumor viruses
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus
  • Models of cellular transformation and tumorigenesis
  • Cancer drivers and cancer vulnerabilities
  • Cancer targets and deliveries
  • Epigenetics and epitranscriptomics
  • Inflammation and Angiogenesis
  • Cancer metabolism

Research:

Dr. Gao’s laboratory studies the biology of infection and oncogenesis of tumor viruses. The current focus is on Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and its associated cancers. (Funded by the NCI and NIDCR)

Selected Publications:

  1. Gruffaz M, et al. Repurposing Cytarabine for Treating Primary Effusion Lymphoma by Targeting Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Latent and Lytic Replications. MBio. 2018 May 8;9(3). pii: e00756-18.
  2. Tan B, et al. Viral and cellular N6-methyladenosine and N6,2'-O-dimethyladenosine epitranscriptomes in the KSHV life cycle. Nature Microbiol. 2018, 3:108-120.
  3. Gruffaz M, et al. TLR4-Mediated Inflammation Promotes KSHV-Induced Cellular Transformation and Tumorigenesis by Activating the STAT3 Pathway. Cancer Res. 2017 Dec 15;77(24):7094-7108

Complete List of Publications

Patrick Moore, MD, MPH
The Pittsburgh Foundation Endowed Chair in Innovative Cancer Research
Distinguished Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Keywords:

  • Tumor viruses
  • Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV)
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV)
  • Digital transcriptome subtraction
  • Tumor virus discovery

Research:

Drs. Moore and Yuan Chang’s laboratory investigates viral causes of human malignancy and identify new cancer-causing viruses. They discovered KSHV/HHV8 in 1994 and Merkel cell polyomavirus in 2008, two of the seven known human cancer viruses.  Drs. Moore and Chang’s major scientific honors include the 1998 Robert Koch Prize, 2003 GMCRF Mott Prize, 2017 Paul Ehrlich Prize, 2017 Passano Prize, 2017 Clarivate Laureate and election to the National Academies of Science.  Currently, projects in their laboratory focus on (1) expression and function of virus-encoded circular RNAs in KSHV- and EBV-related cancers; (2) Role of cellular SCF E3 ligases in maintaining small DNA tumor virus latency: (3) mitotic regulation of 4E-BP1-dependent translation, using in vitro and mouse models; and (4) new transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to discover human cancer viruses. (Funded by the NCI and ACS)

Selected Publications:

  1. Shuda M, et al. CDK1 substitutes for mTOR kinase to activate mitotic cap-dependent protein translation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 12;112(19):5875-82.
  2. Kwun HJ, et al. Protein-mediated viral latency is a novel mechanism for Merkel cell polyomavirus persistence. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 May 16;114(20):E4040-E4047.
  3. Feng, H., et al. Clonal integration of a polyomavirus in human Merkel cell carcinoma. Science 2008 319:1096-100.

Complete List of Publications

Kathy Shair, PhD
Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Keywords:

  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • B cell lymphoma
  • Cancer virology

Research:

Dr. Shair's laboratory focuses on understanding the oncogenic mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in virus-associated B and epithelial cell cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma and post-transplant lymphomas. Current studies investigate the oncogenic properties of the EBV proteins, latent membrane protein (LMP) 1 and LMP2A, expressed in latently infected tumor cells. (Funded by the ACS)

Selected Publications:

  1. Wasil LR and Shair KH. A modified anoikis assay that functionally segregates LMP1 strains into two groups. J Virol. 2018 Jun; pii: JVI.00557-18. PMID 29950426 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Caves EA, et al. An air liquid interface method to study EBV pathogenesis in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. mSphere 2018; 3(4), in press. Commentary ed. Blossom Damania (in press).
  3. Shair KH, et al. New insights from elucidating the role of LMP1 in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Cancers 2018; 19(4), doi:10.3390/cancers10040086.

Complete List of Publications

How to Apply

To apply to the Hillman Postdoctoral Fellows for Innovative Cancer Research program, please provide the following:

  1. Curriculum vitae
  2. A one-page description of your research interests and career goals
  3. PDF copies of all first author manuscripts
  4. Three (3) letters of recommendation (sent directly from referee)

Email all materials to Christopher Bakkenist, PhD, Associate Director for Education and Training, c/o Lola Thompson thompsonla3@upmc.edu.

Applications must be received by August 31, 2018.

Review and evaluation of applications will occur after receipt of all required materials.

The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer EEO/AA/M/F/Vets/Disabled.