Department of Medicine

University of Pittsburgh

Timothy F. Burns, MD, PhD


Assistant Professor of Medicine

Department of Medicine

Division of Hematology/Oncology

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Office: Hillman Cancer Center Research Pavilion,
5117 Centre Avenue, Office: Suite 2.18e Lab: 2.7
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Phone: 412-623-7770
Fax: 412-623-7798
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BS with Honors, Cornell University, 1996
M.D./Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2005

Osler Medical Residency, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2008
Fellowship in Medical Oncology, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2012

Area of Specialization/Research Interest  
1. Development of targeted therapeutic strategies for KRAS mutant NSCLC.
2. Role of the basic-helix-loop-helix transcription factor, TWIST1 in oncogene driven NSCLC.
3. Role of TWIST1 overexpression in chemoresistance in NSCLC.
4. Development of targeted therapies against the TWIST1 pathway.
5. Hsp90 Inhibitors in KRAS mutant NSCLC

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide. Recent advances in the treatment of NSCLC have come from recognition that NSCLC is not a single disease entity but rather a collection of distinct molecularly driven neoplasms. This paradigm is typified by the recent progress made in the treatment of patients with EGFR mutant and EML4-ALK translocation driven adenocarcinomas of the lung with tyrosine kinase inhibitors targeting these oncogenes. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in the treatment of patients with the most frequently observed driver oncogene, mutant KRAS. KRAS is mutated in approximately 25% of all NSCLC and patients with this mutation have an increased risk of recurrence in early stage disease and have a worse prognosis with metastatic disease.

My research and clinical interests revolve around the development of targeted therapies for KRAS mutant NSCLC. My laboratory has two main areas of focus that both center on the eventually development of therapies of KRAS mutant NSCLC. The first line of research is on the role of the transcription factor TWIST1 in oncogene driven NSCLC. We have demonstrated the TWIST1 is essential in several for lung tumorigenesis for several key oncogenic drivers including mutant KRAS. We are currently working on defining the mechanisms through which targeting TWIST1 leads to oncogene induced senescence and apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we are interested in studying the prognostic significance of TWIST1 overexpression in mutationally defined patient samples and developing inhibitors of TWIST1 which we can translate to the clinic. The second line of research in my lab focuses on studying the mechanisms of resistance to the Hsp90 inhibitor, ganetespib in KRAS mutant NSCLC in the laboratory while in parallel developing a Phase I/II trial of the combination of an mTOR inhibitor and the ganetespib in patients with advanced KRAS-mutant lung adenocarcinoma. These preclinical studies will inform the biomarker analysis of the patient samples to be collected during our trial.

Lab Personnel and Web page
Myriam Attar, Ph.D. Saveri Bhattacharya, M.D. Suman Chatterjee, Ph.D. Sarah Chatley, B.S. Susheel Khetarpal, Zachary Yochum, B.S.
Recent Grants
Title: Kimmel Scholar Award
Role: PI
Amount: $200,000
Funding Agency: Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research
Start Year: 2015
End Year: 2017
Title: LUNGevity Career Development Award “Targeting KRAS-mutant NSCLC through inhibition of mTOR and Hsp90 pathways.”
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount: $100,000/yr
Funding Agency: LUNGevity Foundation
Start Year: 2013
End Year: 2016
Title: ALA Lung Cancer Discovery Award “Defining the role of TWIST1 in c-MET Driven Lung Adenocarcinoma”
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount: $100,000/yr
Funding Agency: American Lung Association
Start Year: 2013
End Year: 2015
Title: The UPCI LUNG SPORE Career Development Program Award “Development of TWIST1 inhibitors as treatment for lung cancer.”
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount: $50,000/yr
Funding Agency: NIH/NCI
Start Year: 2013
End Year: 2015
Title: "Targeting KRAS mutant Lung Adenocarcinoma through inhibition of TWIST1"
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount: $200,000
Funding Agency: V Foundation
Start Year: 2013
End Year: 2015

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