Department of Medicine

Department of Medicine

  Division of Hematology/Oncology

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photo Nancy E. Davidson, MD

Director, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Hillman Professor of Oncology

Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research

Distinguished Professor of Medicine


Phone: 412-623-3205

Office: 5150 Centre Avenue
Suite 500
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Phone: 412-623-3205
Fax: 412-623-3210
Administrative Assistant:
Lola Thompson
Address: 5150 Centre Avenue
Suite 500
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Phone: 412-623-3205
Fax: 412-623-3210
Education and Training
B.A., Wellesley College, 1975
M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1979
Intern, Internal Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 1980
Resident, Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1982
Medical Staff Fellow, National Cancer Institute, 1985
Research Interest
Dr. Davidson’s laboratory provided the first description of epigenetic regulation of the estrogen receptor (ER) alpha gene (ESR1) through DNA methylation and/or histone modification in human breast cancer cells and demonstrated that inhibitors of DNA methyltransferase and/or histone deacetylases could lead to functional ER re-expression. These early studies set the stage for work by many labs, including her own, to define the role of epigenetic gene modifications in hormone resistance in breast cancer. Recognition of the importance of epigenetic changes (in addition to genetic changes) to breast cancer progression as well as their reversibility (which makes them suitable therapeutic targets) led her lab to define the mechanisms by which inhibitors of DNA methyltransferases as well as histone modifying enzymes can suppress breast cancer growth in vitro. These preclinical studies were advanced to a proof of principle “window” trial of the histone deacetylase inhibitor, vorinostat, in women with early breast cancer which confirmed that vorinostat could decrease markers of proliferation. This provides support for further development of epigenetic modifiers as potential therapies for breast cance
Clinical Interest
Dr. Davidson has led or co-led key phase III clinical trials that helped to establish the role of endocrine therapy for the treatment of premenopausal and postmenopausal women with early stage hormone-responsive breast cancer. Because of her expertise in this field, she has helped to author many guidelines for evidence-based approaches to breast cancer including the appropriate use of endocrine therapy in early breast cancer. Dr. Davidson has contributed to design, execution, and analysis of many clinical trials of optimal chemotherapy for breast cancer and its combination with targeted therapies. These studies have helped to define the best way to use taxanes in the adjuvant setting, the value of using trastuzumab in addition to chemotherapy for early stage HER-2- positive breast cancer, and the impact of obesity and race on outcomes in early breast cancer. Dr. Davidson has served as an opinion leader in the field of breast cancer biology and treatment by authoring editorials, commentaries, and reviews to provide perspective for key research papers as well as critical areas in breast cancer biology or treatment.
Educational Interest
Dr. Davidson serves as a guest lecturer for formal courses at the University of Pittsburgh. She also provides mentorship for faculty and trainees at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Cao C, Vasilatos S, Bhargava R, Fine JL, Oesterreich S, Davidson NE, Huang Y. Functional interaction of histone deacetylase 5 (HDAC5) and lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) promotes breast cancer progression. Oncogene. 2016; In press.
Wang P, Bahreini A, Gyanchandani R, Lucas PC, Hartmaier RJ, Watters FJ, Jonnalagadda AR, Trejo Bittar HE, Berg A, Hamilton RL, Kurland BF, Weiss KR, Mathew A, Leone JP, Davidson NE, Nikiforova MN, Brufsky AM, Ambros TF, Stern AM, Puhalla SL, Lee AV, Oesterreich S. Sensitive detection of mono- and polyclonal ESR1 mutations in primary tumors, metastatic lesions, and cell-free DNA of breast cancer patients. Clinical Cancer Research. 2016; 22(5): 1130-7.
Kensler TW, Spira A, Garber JE, Szabo E, Lee JJ, Dong Z, Dannenberg AJ, Hait WN, Blackburn E, Davidson NE, Foti M, Lippman SM. Transforming cancer prevention through precision medicine and immune-oncology. Cancer Prevention Research. 2016; 9(1): 2-10.
Sparano JA, Zhao F, Martino S, Ligibel JA, Perez EA, Saphner T, Wolff AC, Sledge GW, Jr, Wood WC, Davidson NE. Long-term follow-up of the E1199 Phase III trial evaluating the role of taxane and schedule in operable breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015; 33(21): 2353-60.
Dowsett M, Lonning PE, Davidson Ne. Incomplete estrogen suppression with gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may reduce clinical efficacy in premenopausal women with early breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2016; 34(14): 1580-3.
Solin LJ, Gray R, Hughes LL, Wood WC, Lowen MA, Badve SS, Baehner FL, Ingle JN, Perez EA, Recht A, Sparano JA, Davidson NE. Surgical excision without radiation for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast: 12-year results from the ECOG-ACRIN E5194 study. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015; 33(33): 3938-44.
Schnipper LE, Davidson NE, Wollins DS, Tyne C, Blayney DW, Blum D, Dicker AP, Ganz PA, Hoverman JR, Langdon R, Lyman GH, Meropol NJ, Mulvey T, Newcomer L, Peppercorn J, Polite B, Raghavan D, Rossi G, Saltz L, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology Statement: A conceptual framework to assess the value of cancer treatment options. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015; 33(23): 2563-77.
Francis PA, Regan MM, Fleming GF, Lang I, Ciruelos E, Bellet M, Bonnefoi HR, Climent MA, DaPrada GA, Burstein HJ, Martino S, Davidson NE, Geyer CE, Jr, Walley BA, Coleman R, Kerbrat P, Buchholz S, Ingle JN, Winer EP, et al. Adjuvant ovarian suppression in premenopausal breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015; 372(5): 436-46.
Pathiraja TN, Nyak SR, Xi Y, Jiang S, Garee JP, Edwards DP, Lee AV, Chen J, Shea MJ, Santen RJ, Gannon F, Kangaspeska S, Jelinek J, Issa JP, Richer JK, Elias A, McIlroy M, Davidson NE, Schiff R, et al. Epigenetic reprogramming of HOXC10 in endocrine-resistant breast cancer. Science Translational Medicine. 2014; 6(229): 229ra41.
Vasilatos SN, Katz TA, Oesterreich S, Wan Y, Davidson NE, Huang Y. Crosstalk between lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) and histone deacetylases mediates antineoplastic efficacy of HDAC inhibitors in human breast cancer cells. Carcinogenesis. 2013; 34(6): 1196-207.
Notable Achievements
President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2007-2008
7th Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science, National Cancer Institute, 2010
American Society of Clinical Oncology Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award, 2010
Association of American Physicians, 2010
National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), 2011
Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers 2014, 2014-2015
Fellow, American College of Physicians, 2016
Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, 2016
President of the American Association for Cancer Research, 2016-2017