Cancer Research Consortium Holds Inaugural Meeting

Published January 15, 2021

The first meeting of the University at Buffalo’s Cancer Research Consortium was conducted virtually Dec. 10, where it was reported that faculty are working on 97 active cancer research awards totaling $7.4 million in annual direct funding.

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Roberto Pili, MD

The main message conveyed during the meeting is that UB is home to a rich and growing portfolio of innovative, externally funded cancer research projects across multiple academic units.

“Those awards give us a snapshot of the existing breadth and depth of cancer research at UB,” says Roberto Pili, MD, associate dean for cancer research and integrative oncology, and professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, who moderated the meeting.

He notes that of that total, $3.5 million represents the annual direct funding by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, which he calls “remarkable.”

Multidisciplinary Collaborations a Strength

During the half-day meeting, 10 UB faculty members presented their research. Topics ranged from smoking and DNA methylation in the lungs, and cancer risk and obesity to the gene regulatory network of oral squamous cell carcinoma and drug-delivery strategies in pancreatic cancer.

It was noted that a chief strength of cancer research at UB are the multidisciplinary collaborations in the:

Building Academic Infrastructure for Research

Pili, who has a secondary appointment in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, says that additional opportunities exist at UB for strong collaborations in immunotherapies, epigenetics, drug discovery delivery, lifestyle dietary interventions and other cancer research areas.

The meeting began with a welcome by Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, and Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health.

“In his role as associate dean, Dr. Pili will be building an academic infrastructure for innovative and collaborative cancer research at UB with our partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and beyond,” says Cain, who adds that Pili also serves as vice president for oncology services at Great Lakes Cancer Care Collaborative.

Director of SNAC Center in Jacobs School

“Cancer remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality across the world,” Wactawski-Wende says. “We have such a richness of opportunity at UB to explore cancer further.”

She adds that Pili’s expertise in nutrition and cancer provides an important complement to UB’s existing research strengths. 

Pili is the inaugural director of UB’s new Sciences, Nutrition and Cancer (SNAC) Center in the Jacobs School, which will constitute a building block to establish a program for integrative oncology, where dietary interventions, exercise and mind-body medicine will be integrated into cancer patient care.

Plans are underway for a two-day symposium on cancer research to be hosted by UB in the summer of 2021.