UPCI / UPMC CC Press Releases

UPCI Director and Breast Cancer Oncologist Nancy Davidson, MD, to Present 2009 Bernard Fisher Lecture

Nancy E. Davidson, MD, Director, UPCI and UPMC Cancer CentersPITTSBURGH, February 12, 2009 – Nancy E. Davidson, MD, the new director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), will present the 2009 Bernard Fisher Lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 25, in tribute to Bernard Fisher, MD, the University of Pittsburgh's world-renowned pioneer in the biology and treatment of breast cancer.

The lecture, titled "Endocrine Therapy for Breast Cancer: A Translational Odyssey," will begin at 4 p.m. in Scaife Hall, Auditorium 6, at 3550 Terrace Street across from the Petersen Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

"As one of today's foremost researchers and clinicians in the field of breast cancer, Dr. Davidson walks closely in the footsteps of Bernie Fisher, whose legendary work in breast cancer research and treatment clearly ranks among the most important contributions ever made to oncology and, in particular, to women's health," said Arthur S. Levine, MD, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. Davidson most recently served as professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Her appointment as director of UPCI was effective Feb. 1, 2009.

"We're particularly pleased that Nancy Davidson could accept the invitation to present this year's Fisher Lecture because her work is an excellent fit for the theme of this event, and it's an ideal opportunity to introduce her to the extensive oncology community here in Pittsburgh," said Timothy R. Billiar, MD, George V. Foster Professor of Surgery and chair of the Department of Surgery, which sponsors the annual Fisher Lecture, now in its 10th year.

Dr. Davidson's career has been dedicated to advancing the understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of breast cancer and to pioneering new therapeutic approaches to the disease. Her laboratory research has focused on epigenetic regulation of the estrogen receptor gene in breast cancer, while the clinical and translational aspects of her work have led to national clinical trials to determine the efficacy of such treatments as chemoendocrine therapy for women with premenopausal breast cancer and antiangiogenesis therapy for those with advanced forms of the disease.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Davidson interned at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, did her residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and served a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute before returning to Johns Hopkins, where her career has unfolded until now.

Among the many honors she has received are the Brinker International Award for Breast Cancer Research, the Avon Foundation Medical Advancement in Breast Cancer Award, the AACR–Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship, the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award and the National Cancer Institute Rosalind E. Franklin Award. Dr. Davidson is the immediate past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Fisher, a 1943 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has served as distinguished service professor of surgery since 1986. He is a founding member and past chairman and scientific director of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, a research consortium headquartered in Pittsburgh. In 1953, he established the Laboratory of Surgical Research at the university, and the lab continued under his direction until 1994.

Dr. Fisher is best known for overturning the prevailing paradigm that breast cancer metastasizes in an orderly and sequential way from the breast to neighboring lymph nodes before any further spread�a paradigm that had led to radical mastectomy as standard treatment for this disease. Instead, after almost two decades of laboratory investigation related to the biology of tumor metastasis, he proposed that breast cancer is a systemic disease that metastasizes unpredictably. Using randomized clinical trials, Dr. Fisher found that radical mastectomy was no more effective than total mastectomy and, in turn, that total mastectomy was no more effective than lumpectomy in treating breast cancer.

Dr. Fisher went on to show the effectiveness of adjuvant chemotherapy and hormonal therapy (tamoxifen) in treating breast cancer as a systemic disease not cured by surgery alone. In subsequent studies related to breast cancer prevention, Dr. Fisher also found that tamoxifen can substantially reduce the incidence of breast cancer in high-risk women.

In conjunction with this year's Fisher Lecture, a special commemoration of Dr. Fisher's 90th birthday last August is planned.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 412-383-7382.

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