University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

Mission Statement

Genetically- or virally-induced malignant transformation and the immunological and stromal interactions that shape cancer neogenesis, tumor progression and metastases are intimately intertwined, yet little is known about many of these fundamental interactions and the molecular processes that shape them. Emerging tumor genomics data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), of which UPCI was a major contributor nationally, permit detailed analyses of complex interactions that drive tumor cell interactions with the surrounding populations.

VirusThe primary mission of the Tumor Microenvironment Center (TMC) of the UPMC/UPCI will be to develop an in depth mechanistic understanding of tumor microenvironment to provide novel opportunities for translational application of scientific findings into patient care. Our vision is to create a synergistic environment that would combine the disparate disciplines of immunology, cancer biology, cell/stromal biology and computational/systems biology with a common focus; the tumor microenvironment. TMC program scientists will be challenged to enhance our understanding of tumor cell, immune, inflammatory, metabolic, viral and patient-specific factors that regulate tumor development, progression and patent responsiveness to treatment to develop a greater understanding of the tumor microenvironment and develop novel therapeutic strategies.

There will be two central themes of the TMC. First, to develop a cell extrinsic, mechanistic understanding of how different components of the tumor microenvironment converge to shape tumor neogenesis, progression and metastasis. Second, to translate basic knowledge and mechanisms of interaction between malignant cells and their microenvironment into novel therapeutic approaches to enhance and accelerate direct patient-oriented interventions.

The Center is intended to be highly interactive, both intra- and inter-programmatically, including recruiting new faculty members, to promote integrative and transdisciplinary research. It is anticipated that the Center will continue to play a pivotal role in identifying novel microenvironmental targets for therapeutic intervention that will be tested in combination with more conventional treatments in patients with a variety of cancers. In particular, translating fundamental discoveries made in the laboratory to the bedside through funding internal high-reward seed projects with human specimen analyses and potential for direct patient benefit.

Goals

  1. To develop and promote the translation of fundamental observations into novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
  2. To coalesce basic research, preclinical and clinical scientists into an integrated collaborative center.
  3. To recruit a mix of outstanding tumor immunologists, cancer biologists, stromal cell biologists, genomics and computational/systems biologists that have a strong interest in addressing multidisciplinary questions and interacting with other members of the center. These might include, but are not restricted to, the following areas:
    1. cancer cell-stromal/inflammatory cell interactions,
    2. tumor- and/or immune cell-mediated alterations in inflammatory/innate immune cell phenotype and function,
    3. metabolic alterations in the tumor microenvironment,
    4. tumor- and/or immune cell-mediated alterations in angiogenesis/lymphangiogenesis,
    5. systems biology approaches to gain a holistic understanding of the impact of genomic alterations on the tumor microenvironment,
    6. host response and biomarkers of progression in patients with virus-associated malignancy, and
    7. inflammatory, viral and stromal-specific therapeutic strategies.
  4. Significant emphasis will be placed on faculty programs that are:
    1. highly innovative, novel and/or risk encouraging,
    2. directed towards high impact science,
    3. focused on identifying better prognostic indicators that can be tested in preclinical models by TMC members and in human clinical trials in collaboration with other translational disease site programs, and/or
    4. focused on developing innovative therapeutic approaches.
  5. TMC members will either be direct recruits at the Assistant Professor level or current UPMC/UPCI faculty invited to join based on having programs or interests consistent with its goals.
  6. To assist in the development of a strong extramural funding base for TMC members through individual grant applications and development of multi-PI program applications.
  7. To investigate the possibility of obtaining development/endowment support with possible naming rights for the TMC.

Interested UPCI researchers can download an application (PDF) for a translational collaborative grant proposal.