February 2018 — Pitt and UPMC Launch New Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC)
On February 13, Pitt and UPMC leaders announced plans to establish the new UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC), with much of its activity planned within an eight-story innovation hub—all part of a concerted effort to harness the power of the human immune system to treat and cure a wide range of diseases. As part of the collaboration, UPMC has made a $200 million commitment to ITTC, and the University will transform a century-old building at 5000 Baum Boulevard into a world-class space for labs, offices, startup companies, and industry partners.
Backed by decades of pioneering research at Pitt, UPMC’s initial three-year funding commitment for ITTC seeks to dramatically accelerate the pace at which medical teams can utilize new research. This investment will help pinpoint the most promising advances in immunology that are capable of enhancing human health. The center’s work will initially focus on three major areas: cancer, aging and chronic diseases, and transplantation.
Watch the video and visit the ITTC website to learn more.
January 2018 — Hillman Researcher Aims to Target Colorectal Cancer with a Multifaceted Approach
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide. While common oncogenic mutations in CRC have been identified, attempts to target these pathways have had limited success.
Jian Yu, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Radiation Oncology, is an expert in colon cancer biology and the signaling mechanisms that promote cancer cell growth and drug resistance. She was recently awarded a new R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute to examine the role of the eIF4E protein in colon cancer initiation and progression. Her preliminary data suggests that eIF4E can influence a cancer cell’s ability to grow despite stressful conditions through metabolic adaptation in which it can become “addicted” to certain nutrients. Targeting this metabolic pathway in concert with other pathways that induce cancer cell death and elicit an immune response could improve outcomes for colon cancer patients. Another related area of investigation in her lab is focused on developing methods to protect normal, healthy intestinal stem cells from cancer treatments, which would further improve therapeutic index and reduce side effects.
Watch the video to learn more about Dr. Yu’s research.
December 2017 — Ovarian Cancer Cells Manipulate Surrounding Normal Cells to Aid Tumor Growth
Tumors do not grow in isolation, but are surrounded by a rich microenvironment that contains blood vessels, fibroblasts, immune cells, and a multitude of other components. Cancer cells can influence their microenvironment through extracellular signaling mechanisms to enable and/or enhance their ability to grow and metastasize, such as through the promotion of angiogenesis and immune tolerance.
Lan Coffman, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is a medical oncologist and researcher who specializes in ovarian cancer. She is particularly interested in understanding how carcinoma-associated mesenchymal stem cells (CA-MSCs) develop within the tumor microenvironment, and how they act to promote ovarian cancer growth. Recent findings in her laboratory demonstrated that cancer cells are able to transform normal mesenchymal stem cells into CA-MSCs through epigenetic alterations.
To learn more, watch Dr. Coffman discuss her research in the video.