Head and Neck Cancer

Principal Investigators

Dr. Robert Ferris headshotRobert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Hillman Professor of Oncology
Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research
Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, of Immunology, and of Radiation Oncology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Phone: (412) 623-3205
Fax: (412) 623-3210

Heath D. Skinner, MD, PhD
Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Clinical Networks
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Phone: 412-623-4047


SPORE Patient Advocates:

Sandra Boody
Carl B. Frankel
John S. Nicotra
Mary Ann Caputo

SPORE Administrator:

Christine A. Platania
5117 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: (412) 623-3959
Fax: (412) 623-4840


The renewed SPORE from the University of Pittsburgh includes three projects to address three outstanding clinical questions in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC):

  1. Why does immunotherapy fail to benefit most HNSCC patients?
  2. What is the best strategy to decrease side effects using personalized treatment in human papillomavirus-positive (HPV+) HNSCC?
  3. What is the most rational way for integrating combination immunotherapy into currently available treatments?

To answer these questions, the SPORE provides critical infrastructure and resources, including an organ-specific database with detailed clinical and pathological information on over 12,000 patients followed for more than 30 years, four novel investigator-initiated clinical trials, and a team comprising both highly experienced and established investigators and accomplished early-stage investigators. 

Also included as part of the facilitating infrastructure are three SPORE-specific cores: (1) an Administrative Core to provide scientific and administrative oversight, support planning and evaluation, and oversee the organ specific database; (2) a Tissue/Pathology/Imaging Core to collect, characterize, and disperse biospecimens and clinical images; and (3) a Bioinformatics/Biostatistics Core to design and analyze sufficiently powered preclinical and clinical studies and integrate study results, including complex multi-omics data, into meaningful models. To ensure a continuous pipeline of diverse investigators and projects for advancing head and neck cancer research, the SPORE also includes a Career Enhancement Program and Developmental Research Program.

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