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
  • Reproductive hormones
  • 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. Myers JS, et al. Perceived cognitive function for breast cancer survivors: association of genetic and behaviorally related variables for inflammation. Support Care Cancer 2017 25:2475-2484.
  3. Nugent BD, et al. The association between pre-treatment occupational skill level and mood and symptom burden in early-stage, postmenopausal breast cancer survivors during the first year of anastrozole therapy. Support Care Cancer. 2016 24:3401-9.

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 health
  • Sickness behavior
  • Depression
  • Physical activity and sedentary behavior

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 assess and target health behaviors, psychological stress, and symptoms 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. 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.
  3. Sullivan-Singh SJ, et al. Living with limited time: Socioemotional selectivity theory in the context of health adversity. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 Jun;108(6):900-16.

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. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Phipps S, et al. Parents of Children with Cancer: At-Risk or Resilient? J Pediatr Psychol. 2015 Oct;40(9):914-25
  2. Devine KA, et al. PROMIS Peer Relationships Short Form: How Well Does Self-Report Correlate with Data from Peers? J Pediatr Psychol 2018 May 24. [Epub ahead of print].
  3. Devine KA, et al. Social Competence in Childhood Brain Tumor Survivors: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes of a Peer-Mediated Intervention. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2016 37:475-82.

Complete List of Publications

Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Clinical & Translational Science
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research on Health and Society
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. Sidani JE, et al. Initiation, Progression, and Sustained Waterpipe Use: A Nationally Representative Longitudinal Study of U.S. Young Adults. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2017 26(5):748-755
  2. Colditz JB, et al. Toward Effective Water Pipe Tobacco Control Policy in the United States: Synthesis of Federal, State, and Local Policy Texts. Am J Health Promot. 2017 31(4):302-309.
  3. Soneji S, et al. Associations between initial water pipe tobacco smoking and snus use and subsequent cigarette smoking: results from a longitudinal study of US adolescents and young adults. JAMA Pediatr. 2015 169(2):129-36.

Complete List of Publications

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

Keywords:

  • Women's cancer
  • Cancer education
  • Cancer survivorship
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Electronic symptom assessment
  • Minority cancer

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, and the impact of language and cultural barriers on patient-clinician communication. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Robbins-Welty GA, et al. (2018). Interventionist training and intervention fidelity monitoring and maintenance for CONNECT, a nurse-led primary palliative care in oncology trial. Contemp Clin Trials Commun 10:57-61.
  2. Soodalter JA, et al. (2018). 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 101:960-967.
  3. Hay CM, et al. (2017). Strategies for Introducing Outpatient Specialty Palliative Care in Gynecologic Oncology. J Oncol Pract 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:

  • Collaborative care interventions
  • Cancer-related symptoms
  • Quality of life
  • Cancer patients

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. Steel JL, et al. Prospective Analyses of Cytokine Mediation of Sleep and Survival in the Context of Advanced Cancer. Psychosom Med 2018 80:483-491.
  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)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Acceptability and implementation of CRC screening
  • Surveillance colonoscopy
  • Relationship of insulin/insulin-like growth factors to adenomatous polyps and CRC

Research:

Dr. Schoen’s interests are centered on early detection and prevention of CRC. He is 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, or cancers detected shortly after endoscopic procedures, and risk of colorectal cancer among subjects with a family history of cancer. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Ertem FU, et al. Incidence of Interval Colorectal Cancer Attributable to an Endoscopist in Clinical Practice. Gastrointest Endosc 2018 May 24. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Click B, et al. Association of Colonoscopy Adenoma Findings with Long-term Colorectal Cancer Incidence. JAMA 2018 319:2021-2031.
  3. Schoen RE, et al. Incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer. Gastroenterology 2018 149:1438-1445.

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

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. 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.
  2. Nedrow JR, et al. Targeting PSMA with a Cu-64 Laboratoryeled Phosphoramidate Inhibitor for PET/CT Imaging of Variant PSMA-Expressing Xenografts in Mouse Models of Prostate Cancer. Mol Imaging Biol. 2016 Jun;18(3):402-10.
  3. Beaino W, et al. PET imaging of very late antigen-4 in melanoma: comparison of 68Ga- and 64Cu-laboratoryeled NODAGA and CB-TE1A1P-LLP2A conjugates. J Nucl Med. 2014 Nov;55(11):1856-63.

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

Keywords:

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

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. Gillison ML, et al. CheckMate 141: 1-Year Update and Subgroup Analysis of Nivolumab as First-Line Therapy in Patients with Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer. Oncologist. 2018 Jun 4. pii: theoncologist.2017-0674.
  2. Lu S, et al. STING activation enhances cetuximab-mediated NK cell activation and DC maturation and correlates with HPV(+) status in head and neck cancer. Oral Oncol. 2018 Mar;78:186-193.
  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 promotes a highly inflammatory tumor microenvironment. (Funded by the NCI)

Selected Publications:

  1. Lohmueller JJ et al. mSA2 affinity-enhanced biotin-binding CAR T cells for universal tumor targeting. Oncoimmunology. 2017 Oct 26;7(1):e1368604.
  2. Cascio S, et al. Abnormally glycosylated MUC1 establishes a positive feedback circuit of inflammatory cytokines, mediated by NF-κB p65 and EzH2, in colitis-associated cancer. Oncotarget. 2017 Oct 27;8(62):105284-105298.
  3. 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.

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

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. 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.
  3. Kashani-Sabet M, et al. Prospective Validation of Molecular Prognostic Markers in Cutaneous Melanoma: A Correlative Analysis of E1690. Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Nov 15;23(22):6888-6892.

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
Professor and Vice Chair of Immunology
Leader, Hillman Cancer Immunology Program
Co-Director, Tumor Microenvironment Center
Scientific Director, Fondazione Ri.MED

Keywords:

  • Regulatory T cells
  • Tumor immunology
  • Cytokine signaling

Research:

Dr. Vignali’s laboratory focuses on various aspects of T cell regulation and function, including regulatory T cells and interleukin 35 signaling; inhibitory molecules, particularly LAG3 and PD1; and control of T cell receptor:CD3 complex signaling. (Funded by the NCI, NIAID and NIDDK)

Selected Publications:

  1. Zhang Q, et al. LAG3 limits regulatory T cell proliferation and function in autoimmune diabetes. Sci Immunol. 2017 Mar 31;2(9).
  2. Bettini ML, et al. Cutting Edge: CD3 ITAM Diversity Is Required for Optimal TCR Signaling and Thymocyte Development. J Immunol. 2017 Sep 1;199(5):1555-1560.
  3. Overacre-Delgoffe AE, et al. Interferon-γ Drives T(reg) Fragility to Promote Anti-tumor Immunity. Cell. 2017 Jun 1;169(6):1130-1141.

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:

Dr. Chang’s laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Patrick 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. (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
  • Angiogenesis
  • Signal transduction

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. 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
  3. He M, et al. SIRT1 and AMPK pathways are essential for the proliferation and survival of primary effusion lymphoma cells. J Pathol. 2017 Jul;242(3):309-321

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 laboratories investigate viral causes of human malignancy and identify new cancer-causing viruses using digital transcriptome subtraction. They currently focus on two agents: KSHV (the viral cause of Kapoi’s sarcoma, and MCV (the viral cause for most Merkel cell carcinomas). (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. Shuda M, et al. Mitotic 4E-BP1 hyperphosphorylation and cap-dependent translation. Cell Cycle. 2015;14(19):3005-6.
  3. 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.

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. Caves EA, et al. Latent Membrane Protein 1 Is a Novel Determinant of Epstein-Barr Virus Genome Persistence and Reactivation. mSphere. 2017 Nov 8;2(6). pii: e00453-17.
  2. Wasil LR, et al. Epstein-Barr virus LMP1 induces focal adhesions and epithelial cell migration through effects on integrin-α5 and N-cadherin. Oncogenesis. 2015 Oct 19;4:e171.
  3. Wasil LR, et al. Regulation of DNA Damage Signaling and Cell Death Responses by Epstein-Barr Virus Latent Membrane Protein 1 (LMP1) and LMP2A in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Cells. J Virol. 2015 Aug;89(15):7612-24.

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.