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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the  Health Sciences

UPCI Cancer Researcher Honored with ASCO Career Development Award

CHICAGO, June 9, 2010 – Shannon Puhalla, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and breast oncologist with the Magee-Womens Cancer Program of UPMC Cancer Centers, has received a 2010 Career Development Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The award provides $200,000 over three years for physicians in their first to third year of practice to establish independent clinical research programs. This year, 14 physicians from across the country received the award.

“I am honored to receive this exciting award, which encourages bench-to-bedside research,” said Dr. Puhalla. “To have my work validated and supported by an organization like ASCO is humbling and inspiring.”

“This award recognizes Dr. Puhalla’s tremendous accomplishments while helping to support her upcoming research, something vitally important to researchers early in their careers,” said Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Centers. “Dr. Puhalla has already made a significant impact on our community as the leader of a phase one clinical trial for patients with BRCA or BRCA-like mutations, and she has an incredibly loyal and passionate patient base.”

Dr. Puhalla will use the award to fund a study investigating the combination of hormone therapy with a drug currently under development that may target breast cancer stem cells. According to Dr. Puhalla, some research demonstrates that hormone therapy treatment may cause certain types of breast cancer cells to spread. Her study will seek to discover whether a drug designed to inhibit the interaction between the cancer cells and the hormone therapy could successfully treat certain patients.

“Ideally, this treatment eventually could allow certain patients to avoid mastectomy or possibly even chemotherapy,” said Dr. Puhalla.

About the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is a recognized leader in providing innovative cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment; biomedical research; compassionate patient care and support; and community-based outreach services. UPCI investigators are world-renowned for their work in clinical and basic cancer research.

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