University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

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October 2013 — Accurately Identifying Neck Tumors Using Robotics Improves Treatment, Survival
Umamaheswar Duvvuri, MD, PhD — October 2013

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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

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UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter 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, MD, MS — June 2013

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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, MD, MS, discuss the benefits of this data sharing initiative.

Learn more about PCMIMS.


Combination Vaccine Therapy Appears Effective in Advanced Melanoma
Julien Fourcade, PhD, PharmD — April 2013

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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

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Watch Bennett Van Houten, PhD, the Richard M. Cyert Professor of Molecular Pharmacology at UPCI, discuss the progress of this study.

View Press Release


Cancer Specialty Care Centers of UPMC CancerCenter Provide Streamlined and Efficient
Care Using Cutting-Edge Treatments
David Bartlett, MD — January 2013

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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.
Watch David Bartlett, MD, Director, Cancer Specialty Care Centers, discuss how the centers work.


Interim Findings of the Role of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Stereotactic Body
Radiotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer
Dwight Heron, MD, FACRO — November 2012

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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

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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

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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

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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.

These studies were recently published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry and PLoS One.

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
Number Variations
William LaFramboise, PhD and Rajiv Dhir, MD — April 2012

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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, Co-Director of the UPCI Cancer Biomarkers 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

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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.

View press release


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