Video Blog Archive
UPCI Research Focus: Pediatric Cancers
Linda McAllister-Lucas, MD, PhD — December 2015
UPCI investigators and physician-scientists within the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC are engaged in ground-breaking research, both in the laboratory and in the clinic.
Watch Linda McAllister-Lucas, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Professor of Pediatrics, discuss recent successes and ongoing work in this area.
SITC and Cancer Immunotherapy: When Vision Becomes Reality
Lisa Butterfield, PhD — November 2015
The Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) is the world's leading member-driven organization specifically dedicated to professionals working in the field of cancer immunology and immunotherapy. A number of UPCI investigators are active members of this research community, and Lisa Butterfield, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Surgery, and Immunology and Director of UPCI's Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products Laboratory, currently serves in a prominent leadership role as SITC's Vice President.
Watch the video below to learn more about this team of scientists and the evolution of cancer immunotherapy over the past 30 years.
Large NIH Grant Renewed for Pitt's Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation (CMCR)
Joel S. Greenberger, MD — October 2015
Last month, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and Pitt's School of Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health received a five-year, $18 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to continue work developing drugs that could provide protection from radiation in emergencies such as terrorism or reactor meltdowns.
Watch Joel S. Greenberger, MD, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation Chair and Professor of Radiation Oncology, explain the collaborative research projects and cores supported by this award.
Dr. Thomas Kensler Named Outstanding Investigator by NCI, Awarded $6.3M for Studying How Food Can Lower Cancer Risks
Thomas Kensler, PhD — September 2015
Thomas Kensler, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and Co-Leader of the UPCI Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program, was awarded a $6.3 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This new, 7-year award acknowledges experienced researchers and provides them with long-term support for their exceptional work.
Dr. Kensler's research focuses on chemoprevention, or how food can be used to lower the risk of developing cancer caused by unavoidable environmental toxins. Research has shown that controlling diet, increasing exercise and quitting smoking can decrease the risk of developing cancer; however, environmental toxins such as fossil fuel combustion products are more difficult to mitigate. Past studies by Dr. Kensler's team in China, where environmental controls are less rigorous, have examined the bioactive molecules in broccoli and how they may help people there detoxify air pollutants. He and his team will focus on a biological pathway known to play a role in detoxification, identify and validate biomarkers of its activity, and examine the molecular consequences of its chronic activation.
Watch Dr. Kensler discuss his work in the video, and read the press release here.
UPCI Academy Scholars Present Research Findings at Annual Poster Session — August 2015
The 2015 UPCI Academy summer session came to a close on Friday, August 7, as the high school students presented their laboratory findings through oral and poster presentations at the Hillman Cancer Center. Watch several UPCI Academy Scholars describe their studies and results in the video below.
Head and Neck Cancer Patients Receive Cutting-Edge Immunotherapies through UPCI Clinical Trials Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD and Julie E. Bauman, MD, MPH — July 2015
Multi-disciplinary clinicians and researchers at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter are utilizing the power of the body's immune system to fight tumors of the head and neck. Watch Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD and Julie E. Bauman, MD, MPH discuss one patient's story.
UPCI's Pittsburgh Genome Resource Repository (PGRR) Offers a Powerful Tool for
Rebecca Jacobson, MD, MS and William LaFramboise, PhD — June 2015
Publically available genomic datasets, such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), are highly informative and can be used for numerous research purposes including discovery of new biomarkers, validation of new methods, and development of new therapeutic approaches for precision cancer medicine. The Pittsburgh Genome Resource Repository (PGRR) is an invaluable tool that offers UPCI investigators a mechanism for accessing and analyzing TCGA datasets from a virtualized central location using common tools and platforms, providing data management and computing infrastructure to support biomedical investigation using this “big data.”
The PGRR was developed through a collaboration between experts from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Personalized Medicine (IPM), the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI), the University of Pittsburgh Center for Simulation and Modeling (SaM), the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), and UPMC.
Watch Rebecca Jacobson, MD, MS, Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Chief Information Officer of the IPM, and William LaFramboise, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Director of the UPCI Cancer Genomics Facility, discuss the PGRR and several examples of functional applications in cancer research.
Autophagy Inhibition as a Novel Treatment Strategy for Pancreatic Cancer
Herbert J. Zeh III, MD — May 2015
Autophagy is a programmed cell survival mechanism that plays a critical role in pancreatic cancer development and resistance to chemotherapy. In preclinical studies, Herbert Zeh III, MD, Chief of the Division of GI Surgical Oncology, and colleagues have shown that pancreatic cancer is extremely dependent on autophagy for survival, and that drugs that block autophagy increase the sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy. Dr. Zeh's research team is currently examining the promising clinical use of the autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine, best known for its activity as an anti-malarial drug, in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Watch Dr. Zeh discuss recent advances in these clinical studies.
Broccoli Sprout Extract Promising for Head and Neck Cancer Prevention
Julie Bauman, MD, MPH — April 2015
A new study led by UPCI head and neck cancer researchers has shown that broccoli sprout extract protects against oral cancer in mice and proved tolerable in a small group of healthy human volunteers. The promising results of this research, a collaboration between Julie Bauman, MD, MPH and Daniel Johnson, PhD, will be further explored in a human clinical trial, which will recruit participants at high risk for head and neck cancer recurrence later this year. This research is funded through UPCI's Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in head and neck cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
For more information, read the press release and watch Dr. Bauman discuss these findings.
UPCI Researchers Target Viruses that Cause Cancer
Patrick Moore, MD, MPH, and Yuan Chang, MD — March 2015
Of the many viruses that infect humans, only seven have been shown to cause cancer to date. Two of these known cancer-causing viruses, Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) and Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), were discovered by Patrick Moore, MD, MPH, and Yuan Chang, MD of the UPCI Cancer Virology Program. The Chang-Moore team developed a new technology for identifying human cancer viruses, called digital transcriptome subtraction, or DTS. Through the discovery of novel cancer viruses, and detailed investigation into their biology and mechanisms of action, the research team aims to develop effective targeted therapies for patients with virus-related cancers.
Watch Drs. Moore and Chang discuss their important work.
Video courtesy of the Carnegie Science Awards
UPCI's Tumor Microenvironment Center (TMC) Bridges Multiple Disciplines to
Study External Influences on Tumors
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, FACS and Dario A. Vignali, PhD — February 2015
Tumors do not grow in isolation, but are influenced by many surrounding factors in their environment. The Tumor Microenvironment Center (TMC) is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort that brings together preclinical and clinical scientists with the goal of translating basic knowledge of the mechanisms of interaction between cancer cells and their microenvironment, to enhance and accelerate direct patient-oriented interventions. Included in the microenvironment are the immune, inflammatory, and patient-specific factors that regulate cancer development, progression, and response to anti-cancer treatments. Watch TMC Co-Directors Dr. Robert Ferris (Professor of Otolaryngology, Immunology, and Radiation Oncology; Chief of Head and Neck Surgery; UPMC Chair in Advanced Oncologic Head and Neck Surgery; Co-Leader of the UPCI Cancer Immunology Program; UPCI Associate Director for Translational Research) and Dr. Dario Vignali (Vice Chair and Professor of Immunology; Co-Leader of the UPCI Cancer Immunology Program) discuss the TMC and its goal to provide more personalized and effective treatments for cancer patients.
Epigenetic Priming Shows Promise in Elderly Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Annie Im, MD — January 2015
Seventy percent of elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who were treated with a combination of drugs aimed to make chemotherapy treatments effective and less toxic achieved remission or a slowing of disease progression, in a clinical study led by UPCI's Annie Im, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in Pitt's Division of Hematology/Oncology. The research is important because most elderly patients diagnosed with AML can't tolerate the aggressive chemotherapy needed and tend to have more aggressive disease than younger patients, making prognosis poor.
To learn more, read the press release, and watch Dr. Im discuss the trial.
V Foundation for Cancer Research Supports Novel Head and Neck Cancer Studies at UPCI
Julie Bauman, MD, MPH — December 2014
The V Foundation for Cancer Research recently recognized University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute researcher Julie Bauman, MD, MPH with an award worth $600,000 over three years, to build on existing scientific knowledge and pioneer new treatments for head and neck cancer. Specifically, Dr. Bauman's team is studying gene mutations in patients whose head and neck cancer was caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) in hopes of finding a more effective, less toxic therapy for this often painful, disfiguring disease.
For more information, read the press release and watch Dr. Bauman discuss her research.
Carnegie Science Leadership in STEM Education Award Received for UPCI Academy
Michael Lotze, MD — December 2014
The UPCI Academy, a laboratory-based training program for high school students created by Michael Lotze, MD in 2009, recently received the Carnegie Science Leadership in STEM Education Award. The Summer Academy aims to foster interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers in research, provide education in content-specific areas, develop research and communication skills, and improve scholars' awareness of strategies and approaches for selecting, applying to, and succeeding in undergraduate and graduate institutions. The program also demonstrates outreach efforts that serve those from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds.
Watch Dr. Lotze discuss the importance of training the next generation of cancer scientists.
V Foundation for Cancer Research Recognizes University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Researchers
Kara Bernstein, PhD — November 2014
The V Foundation for Cancer Research recently recognized University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute researcher Kara Bernstein, PhD, with a V Scholar award, worth $200,000 over two years. This grant is in addition to the three-year, $600,000 grant that was awarded to Julie Bauman, MD, MPH, to build on existing scientific knowledge and pioneer new treatments for head and neck cancer.
Dr. Bernstein will use her award to investigate why people who have mutations in proteins known as RAD51 paralogues are more susceptible to getting cancer – particularly breast and ovarian – and to identify methods for treating their specific cancers.
Watch Dr. Bernstein talk about her research.
Free to Breathe Advocacy Summit Group Visits UPCI Lung Cancer Research Labs — October 2014
Members of the Free To Breathe Advocacy Summit Group recently toured the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), including Lung Cancer Program laboratories, to learn more about the approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer that UPCI researchers are developing and employing.
Dr. Nancy Davidson (Director, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) and Dr. Timothy Burns (Assistant Professor of Medicine and researcher in the UPCI Lung Cancer Program) welcomed about 70 members of the group Free to Breathe, which is an organization dedicated to funding lung cancer research, ensuring patients have access to clinical trials and advocating for the latest treatments for lung cancer patients. The group is made up of doctors, patients, caregivers and other advocates whose goal is to double lung cancer survival by the year 2022.
Targeted Radiation, Drug Therapy Combo Less Toxic for Treatment of Recurrent Head,
John Vargo, MD — September 2014
Physician-researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)/ UPMC CancerCenter report that patients with a recurrence of head and neck cancer who have previously been given radiation can be treated more quickly, safely, and with less side effects with high doses of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) in combination with the drug cetuximab.
Between July 2007 and March 2013, doctors treated 48 patients with the combination therapy. All of the patients were able to complete the treatments, which were administered in a span of about two weeks compared to traditional therapies which can take up to nine weeks. Severe toxicity was reported at 12 percent using the combination therapy, compared to upwards of 85 percent using conventional therapies.
The results of this study were presented at the 2014 American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in San Francisco. Watch John Vargo, MD, a radiation oncology resident at UPCI/ UPMC CancerCenter and one of the lead authors, discuss this study.
View Press Release
Potential Breast Cancer Drug Performs Well in Early Clinical Trials
Shannon Puhalla, MD — July 2014
A drug previously studied to improve chemotherapy may be effective in treating patients with cancers related to the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutations, as well as patients with BRCA-like breast cancers, according to a UPCI clinical trial. The drug, veliparib (ABT-888), is a PARP inhibitor, which means it lowers the resistance of cancer cells to treatment by targeting the polymerase (PARP) family of enzymes responsible for a wide variety of cellular processes in cancer cells, particularly DNA repair.
Watch medical oncologist Shannon Puhalla, MD discuss results of the phase I study, which were presented at the 50th annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.
View Press Release
UPCI Scientists Find Patients With Invasive Lobular Carcinoma May Benefit From Personalized
Steffi Oesterreich, PhD and Matthew Sikora, PhD — March 2014
According to a multidisciplinary team led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), the second-most common type of breast cancer, appears to be a good candidate for a personalized approach to treatment.
Patients with ILC are typically treated with surgery and chemotherapy or hormone therapy, or both. According to Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, and Director of Education at the Women's Cancer Research Center, a subset of patients with ILC receive less benefit from this treatment than those with ductal carcinoma. Dr. Oesterreich's team recently described a unique program of estrogen receptor-driven gene expression in ILC cells that may play a role in drug resistance.
These findings were recently published in the March 1 edition of Cancer Research.
Watch Dr. Oesterreich and Matthew Sikora, PhD, a postdoctoral associate at UPCI, discuss this study.
Accurately Identifying Neck Tumors Using Robotics Improves Treatment, Survival
Umamaheswar Duvvuri, MD, PhD — October 2013
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) recently found that by using robotic surgery done through the mouth to identify the cause of lumps in the neck, physicians can better target more personalized therapies for patients and dramatically improve survival.
In the study, researchers examined 206 head and neck robotic cases performed at UPMC between December 2009 and December 2012. Transoral robotic surgery was performed on 22 patients where there was a lump in the neck with unknown origin, also known as occult primary squamous cell carcinoma. Of these 22 patients, the primary tumor was identified in 19 cases.
In order to determine the impact of identifying the unknown primary tumor on overall survival, researchers matched 69 patients with undiscovered carcinoma of unknown primary (following clinical exam, imaging, and surgical evaluation) and 67 patients in which the primary was discovered at the initial surgical evaluation. They found a difference in overall survival between undiscovered (8.83 years) and discovered (10.19 years).
UPCI researchers presented their findings at the ASTRO annual meeting in Atlanta.
Watch Umamaheswar Duvvuri, MD, PhD, discuss the presentation.
The Importance of Personalizing Cancer Medicine to Maximize Patient Benefit
Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter Director — August 2013
UPCI Director Dr. Nancy E. Davidson discusses the importance of personalizing cancer medicine to maximize patient benefit.
For more information please visit the Personalizing Cancer Medicine section of the UPCI website.
The Personalized Cancer Medicine Information Management System (PCMIMS) Offers “Big Data” Technology for Research
Adrian V. Lee, PhD, and Rebecca S. Crowley Jacobson, MD, MS — June 2013
The Personalized Cancer Medicine Information Management System (PCMIMS) is a joint venture of the UPMC CancerCenter, UPCI, and UPMC Enterprise Analytics that will be the foundation for our evolving efforts in developing and delivering personalized cancer care. This vision includes providing an adequate Information Technology (IT) infrastructure which will enable clinicians and researchers to perform cohort discoveries, manage datasets and perform complex analysis all in a secure and traceable environment.
Watch Adrian V. Lee, PhD, and Rebecca S. Crowley Jacobson, MD, MS, discuss the benefits of this data sharing initiative.
Combination Vaccine Therapy Appears Effective in Advanced Melanoma
Julien Fourcade, PhD, PharmD — April 2013
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute recently presented early findings of cancer studies at this year's American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Watch Julien Fourcade, PhD, PharmD, a research instructor in the laboratory of Hassane Zarour, MD, associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, discuss the clinical trial where different immunization strategies for melanoma were tested.
UPCI Researchers Reveal Mechanism to Halt Cancer Cell Growth
Bennett Van Houten, PhD — February 2013
Watch Bennett Van Houten, PhD, the Richard M. Cyert Professor of Molecular Pharmacology at UPCI, discuss the progress of this study.
Cancer Specialty Care Centers of UPMC CancerCenter Provide Streamlined and Efficient
Care Using Cutting-Edge Treatments
David Bartlett, MD — January 2013
Cancer Specialty Care Centers of UPMC CancerCenter provide a seamless, coordinated care approach that focuses on getting patients examined, tested, diagnosed or confirmed, and treated in the quickest time possible.
Specialty Care Centers are organized by disease sites and offer efficient care by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, allowing experts to offer leading cancer treatments and therapies. The centers are for patients who:
- Have advanced or rare forms of cancer.
- Have metastatic disease.
- Seek a second opinion on their diagnosis.
Interim Findings of the Role of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Stereotactic Body
Radiotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer
Dwight Heron, MD, FACRO — November 2012
UPCI researchers evaluated the role of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for borderline resectable and locally-advanced pancreatic cancer, and presented their interim findings at the ASTRO annual meeting in Boston.
Watch Dwight Heron, MD, FACRO, Vice Chairman for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Director of Radiation Services at UPMC CancerCenter, discuss the presentation.
First-in-Human Trial of a STAT-3 Selective Inhibitor for Cancer Therapy
Jennifer Grandis, MD, FACS — July 2012
There has been evidence that signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT-3) is increased in cancers, where it drives cell transformation, tumor progression, and resistance to therapy. While STAT-3 is therefore considered a highly attractive therapeutic target, it has long been regarded as "undruggable."
Recently published in the new AACR journal Cancer Discovery, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and collaborators have developed a new strategy to block STAT-3 in cancers. Specifically, they developed a STAT-3 decoy oligonucleotide that effectively decreased levels of STAT-3 target genes in head and neck tumors in a phase 0 trial. Through chemical modification, the team enhanced the stability of this molecule to enable systemic delivery of the drug in patients.
Watch Jennifer Grandis, MD, FACS, Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Leader of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at UPCI, discuss the study and its results.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Screening Reduces Colorectal Cancer Incidence and Mortality
Robert Schoen, MD, MPH — July 2012
A new study of the multicenter Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial evaluated the effect of colorectal cancer screening by flexible sigmoidoscopy in comparison with usual care. Results of this large randomized trial indicate that screening with flexible sigmoidoscopy was associated with a 26% reduction in overall colorectal cancer mortality and a 21% reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer.
Watch Robert Schoen, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and lead author of the study, discuss these results that were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Chemoprevention Studies Uncover Cancer-Inhibitory Mechanisms of Dietary Constituents
Shivendra Singh, PhD — April 2012
While population-based studies have demonstrated that people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer, scientists are now beginning to uncover the specific dietary components responsible and their mechanisms of action. Recently, UPCI researchers discovered that the broccoli constituent analogue D,L-sulforaphane (SFN), a promising cancer chemopreventive agent, can induce cell death through a mechanism involving PKCβ-mediated phosphorylation of the p66Shc adaptor protein. In addition, the research team demonstrated that benzyl isothiocynate (BITC), a constituent of edible cruciferous vegetables, can induce breast cancer and colon cancer cell death through a PUMA-dependent mechanism.
Watch Shivendra Singh, PhD, Associate Director of Basic Research at UPCI and Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, discuss his recent findings:
Genomic Analysis of Kidney Cancers Reveal Shared Tumor Type-Specific Copy
William LaFramboise, PhD and Rajiv Dhir, MD — April 2012
In a collaborative research study, investigators at UPCI characterized several diagnostic subtypes of renal cell cancers based on the distribution of copy number variants (CNV) both within and across tumors spanning the entire genome. They found that despite immense genomic heterogeneity, distinct CNV segments were common within each of 4 tumor subclassifications. The subset of shared genomic amplifications or deletions that were identified for each subclassification could provide critical diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers of renal cell cancers.
This study was recently published in the American Journal of Pathology.
Watch William LaFramboise, PhD, Director of the UPCI Cancer Genomics Facility and Associate Professor of Pathology; and Rajiv Dhir, MD, Medical Director of UPCI Tissue and Research Pathology Services and Chief of Pathology at UPMC Shadyside Hospital, discuss their collaborative work.
UPCI Researchers Gain Better Understanding of Radiation-Mitigator Drug
Joel Greenberger, MD — April 2012
According to a UPCI/University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study, researchers may have a better way of understanding how a drug used to protect against and mitigate irradiation damage interacts inside human cells. The study involved the successful labeling and tracking of JP4-039, a drug that combats irradiation-induced cell death by assisting the mitochondria.
Results of the study will be presented at the AACR Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Watch Joel Greenberger, MD, Chairman of Radiation Oncology at UPCI and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, discuss the study findings.