University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

Ahmad A. Tarhini, MD, PhD

Ahmad Tarhini
Associate Professor of Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science

Contact Information

Contact Information

UPMC Cancer Pavilion
5150 Centre Ave
Suite 555
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Email: tarhiniaa@upmc.edu

Administrative Assistant
Name: Christine Platania
Phone: 412-648-6578
Email: cplatania@mail.magee.edu
Fax: 412-648-6579

Research Keywords

Research Keywords

Melanoma; drug development; immunotherapy; targeted therapy; biomarkers of immunotherapeutic benefit and toxicity risk; cancers of the respiratory system; clinical trials

Research Summary

Research Summary


Ipilimumab induces tumor infiltration by fully activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and memory T cells. PLoS One 2014;9(2).

Identification of biomarkers for therapeutic response, toxicity prediction, and disease prognosis is a major focus of Dr. Tarhini’s research. He led an effort that demonstrated that serum S100B is a significant prognostic factor in melanoma. He reported on a baseline serum signature consisting of TNFRII, TGFa, TIMP1, and CRP that is significantly prognostic of worse survival in high-risk resected melanoma. He also recently reported that an early-on treatment signature of pro-inflammatory serum markers (IL2Ra, IL-12p40, and IFNa) significantly predicted survival in patients treated with adjuvant IFNa2b. Dr. Tarhini led a neoadjuvant study of CTLA4 blockade with ipilimumab in patients with melanoma nodal metastases (UPCI 08-144) and reported significant mechanistic findings in the circulation and the tumor microenvironment (TME) with therapeutic predictive value. These and other related significant biomarker findings have formed the basis for his recently renewed NIH-funded Skin Cancer SPORE Biomarker Project 1 nested within the US Intergroup E1609 adjuvant phase III trial, where Dr. Tarhini is testing the therapeutic predictive significance of markers of the pro-inflammatory immune response and immune suppression within the circulation and the TME based on common systems biology. In parallel, Dr. Tarhini is leading ongoing work to evaluate autoimmunity and its immunogenetic markers as potential predictors of IFNa therapeutic benefit. Dr. Tarhini has an interest in understanding the immune biology of the regional lymph nodes in melanoma that are often the first organs to develop metastasis. In this regard, he is leading two projects in patients with intermediate risk melanoma and has reported significant findings.

As a clinical and translational physician-scientist, a major objective of Dr. Tarhini’s research has been to test novel targeted therapeutic strategies selected on the basis of a continuously deepening understanding of the molecular circuitry and immune biology of melanoma. These include the testing of potent vaccine adjuvants in an effort to improve cancer vaccine immunogenicity (NCI 7357). This is in addition to the targeting of melanoma angiogenesis, its links to immunosuppression and whether anti-angiogenic therapy may reverse immunosuppression and promote antitumor immunity (NCI 7522 and 8628). Further, his work is focused on overcoming melanoma immune tolerance through combinations of novel immunotherapeutic strategies that involve cytokines and inhibitors of unique checkpoints of immune regulation (UPCI 05-125, ECOG-ACRIN E3611, UPCI 11-063). Dr. Tarhini is the chair of US Intergroup E1609 adjuvant trial testing ipilimumab at 3 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg versus standard IFNa, and the ECOG-ACRIN co-chair of the proposed US Intergroup S1404 anti-PD1 adjuvant trial. He is co-chair of the E3612 trial testing ipilimumab in combination with bevacizumab.

Selected Publications

Selected Publications

  • Tarhini AA, Cherian J, Moschos SJ, Tawbi HA, Shuai Y, Gooding WE, Sander C, Kirkwood JM. Safety and efficacy of combination immunotherapy with interferon-alfa2b and tremelimumab in patients with stage IV melanoma. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2012 Jan 20;30(3):322-8. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, TARPS
  • Tarhini AA, Leng S, Moschos S, Lin Y, Gooding W, Yin Y, Sander S, Kirkwood, JM. Safety and immunogenicity of vaccination with MART-1 (26-35, 27L), gp100 (209-217, 210M), and tyrosinase (368-376, 370D) in-adjuvant with PF-3512676 and GM-CSF in metastatic melanoma. Journal of Immunotherapy 2012 Oct;35(8):650. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS
  • Tarhini AA, Butterfield L, Kalinski P, Shuai Y, Gooding WE, Kirkwood JM. Differing patterns of circulating regulatory T-cells and myeloid derived suppressor cells in metastatic melanoma patients receiving anti-CTLA4 antibody and interferon-alpha or TLR-9 agonist and GM-CSF with peptide vaccination. J Immunother. 2012 Nov-Dec;35(9):702-10. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS, IMCPL
  • Tarhini AA, Edington H, Butterfield LH, Lin Y, Shuai Y, Tawbi H, Sander C, Yin Y, Holtzman M, Johnson J, Rao UN, Kirkwood JM. Immune monitoring of the circulation and the tumor microenvironment in patients with regionally advanced melanoma receiving neoadjuvant ipilimumab. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 3;9(2). PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS, IMCPL
  • Tarhini AA, Stuckert J, Lee S, Sander C, Kirkwood JM. Prognostic significance of serum S100B protein in high-risk surgically resected melanoma patients participating in Intergroup Trial ECOG 1694. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009 Jan 1;27(1):38-44. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: IDS
  • Tarhini AA, Kirkwood JM, Gooding WE, Cai C, Agarwala SS. Durable complete responses with high dose bolus IL-2 in patients with metastatic melanoma who have progressed after biochemotherapy. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2007 Sep 1;25(25):3802-7. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS
  • Tarhini AA, Belani CP, Luketich JD, Argiris A, Ramalingam SS, Gooding W, Pennathur A, Petro D, Kane K, Liggitt D, Championsmith T, Zhang X, Epperly MW, Greenberger JS. A phase I study of concurrent chemotherapy (paclitaxel and carboplatin) and thoracic radiotherapy with swallowed manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) plasmid liposome (PL) protection in patients with locally advanced stage III non-small cell lung cancer. Human Gene Therapy. 2011 Mar;22(3):336-42. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS
  • Tarhini AA, Frankel P, Margolin KA, Christensen S, Ruel C, Shipe-Spotloe J, Gandara DR, Chen A, Kirkwood JM. Aflibercept (VEGF Trap) in inoperable stage III or stage IV melanoma of cutaneous or uveal origin. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011 Oct 15;17(20):6574-81. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: IDS
  • Tarhini AA, Lin Y, Yeku O, LaFramboise WA, Ashraf M, Sander C, Lee S, Kirkwood JM. A four-marker signature of TNF-RII, TGF-alpha, TIMP-1 and CRP is prognostic of worse survival in high-risk surgically resected melanoma. Journal of Translational Medicine. J Transl Med. 2014 Jan 23;12(1):19. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, CGF, IDS
  • Tarhini A, Kotsakis A, Gooding W, Shuai Y, Petro D, Friedland D, Belani CP, Dacic S, Argiris A. Phase II study of everolimus (RAD001) in previously treated small cell lung cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Dec 1;16(23): 5900-7. PubMed Link
    Shared Resources Used: BF, IDS

See all pubs (Pubmed)

UPCI Shared Resource Usage

UPCI Shared Resource Usage

  • Biostatistics Facility
  • Cancer Bioinformatics Services
  • Cancer Genomics Facility
  • Cancer Proteomics Facility
  • IMCPL
  • Investigational Drug Services
  • Tissue and Research Pathology Services

Affiliated Graduate Programs

Affiliated Graduate Programs

  • Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Department Website









Last modified: 7/14/14