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UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Researcher Receives Prestigious Award 

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PITTSBURGH- Tullia C. Bruno, Ph.D., a UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist and assistant professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been recognized for her scientific research by the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.

Bruno and her research team from UPMC Hillman will collaborate with scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Yale University School of Medicine on a study titled Harnessing Tertiary Lymphoid Structure Function for Improved Immunotherapeutic Strategies in Cancer Patients. It was selected as one of only four scientific projects to share $12 million in funding as part of the foundation’s 2022 Endeavor Awards

The awards are granted to multi-disciplinary teams pursuing innovative, unique approaches to understand and treat cancer. The selected 2022 Endeavor teams, which bring together investigators from top cancer research centers across two continents and eight U.S. states, will focus on cutting-edge topics in cancer research, including inflammation, the microbiome, metabolism and the humoral immune system.

“Over the past decade, tremendous progress has been made in developing cancer therapeutics that harness the power of the immune system,” said Bruno. “However, only a small subset of cancer patients responds favorably. We want to know why so we can increase the favorable response rate and develop new therapies. Our team believes that tertiary lymphoid structures are the next therapeutic target.” Tullia_Bruno

Specifically, the study will examine how tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), which are found in tissues of the body, affect the development and treatment of cancer. In normal lymphoid tissues, such as the spleen and lymph nodes, TLS are complex formations of B cells, T cells and antigen-presenting cells which all signal each other to develop an immune response. In some cancer patients, TLS can develop near the site of the tumor and are associated with better prognosis and tumor control. However, how TLS mechanistically control tumor progression remains poorly understood. 

“Collaboration is critical to success in science,” said Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., executive chairman of the board of the Mark Foundation. “We’re confident that the incredible projects selected for Endeavor Awards will have a direct and substantial impact on the lives of cancer patients.” 

Bruno received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Vanderbilt University and then earned her Ph.D. in immunology from Johns Hopkins University and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado. Her research lab at UPMC Hillman focuses on studying immunity within TLS of cancer patients with an overall objective of developing new immunotherapy treatments. 

Bruno has authored numerous publications and serves on national committees focused on immune-centric cancer treatments. In addition to her research, she is an active mentor and advocate for women in science and is committed to exceptional training of students and fellows. She is chair of the UPMC Women’s Taskforce and mentor for the MIDs program through the Department of Immunology.  Bruno is also a member of several organizations, including the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, and serves as the co-director of the Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy site for the UPMC Hillman Academy, an immersive program for high school students. 

PHOTO DETAILS: (click image for high-res version)


CAPTION: Tullia C. Bruno, P.h.D.


CREDIT: University of Pittsburgh