Department of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh
Nancy E. Davidson, MD
Distinguished Professor of Medicine
5150 Centre Avenue, Suite 500
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Phone: 412-623-3205

Fax: 412-623-3210

B.A, Wellesley College, 1975M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1979 Intern, Internal Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1980Resident, Internal Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 1982Medical Staff Fellow, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 1985
Photo of Nancy E. Davidson, MD

Nancy E. Davidson, M.D. works as a physician-scientist in the biology and treatment of breast cancer, the most common non-skin cancer in American women.  Her lab was among the first to elucidate the role of apoptosis in the response of human breast cancer cells to estrogen deprivation and certain cytotoxic chemotherapies, both mainstays in the treatment of breast cancer in the clinic.  This work demonstrated that these two effective therapeutics are both anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic.  Second, her team has demonstrated the feasibility of targeting the polyamine metabolic pathway in human breast cancer cells.  In particular the ability of certain analogues of native polyamines to inhibit proliferation, promote apoptosis, and down regulate expression of critical molecules like the estrogen receptor a  (ER) protein led to the phase II testing of one such analogue in women with metastatic breast cancer.  This research has truly spanned the bench to the bedside. Finally, her lab was the first to show that the ER gene (ESR1) is epigenetically regulated and that epigenetic silencing may account for the absence of ER protein expression in a fraction of human breast cancers, thereby rendering these tumors unresponsive to endocrine approaches.  Her team showed that human breast cancer cell lines that lack ER expression show methylation of the CpG island in the 5’ region of the gene as well as aberrant histone modification, leading to a transcriptionally inactive chromatin conformation. These changes can be reversed by exposure to DNA methyltransferase or histone deacetylase inhibitors, leading to expression of ER protein and sensitization to the growth inhibitory effects of tamoxifen.  These preclinical findings are now being validated in early phase trials in women with breast cancer.

Important Publications
Huang Y, SN Vasilatos, L Boric, PG Shaw and NE Davidson.  Inhibitors of histone demethylation and histone deacetylation cooperate in regulating gene expression and inhibiting growth in human breast cancer cells.  Breast Cancer Res Treat 131:777-789, 2011.
Huang Y, S Nayak, R Jankowitz, NE Davidson and S Oesterreich.  Epigenetics in breast cancer:  What's new?  Breast Cancer Res 13:225, 2011.
Zhou Q, R Chaerkady, PG Shaw, TW Kensler, A Pandey and NE Davidson.  Screening for therapeutic targets of vorinostat by SILAC-based proteomic analysis in human breast cancer cells.  Proteomics 10:1029-1039, 2010.
Sparano JA, M Wang, S Martino, V Jones, EA Perez, T Saphner, AC Wolff, GW Sledge, WC Wood and NE Davidson.  Weekly paclitaxel improves survival in lymph node positive and high risk node negative operable breast cancer.  N Engl J Med 358:1663-1671, 2008.
Davidson NE and TW Kensler.  "MAPping" the course of chemoprevention in breast cancer.  N Engl J Med 364:2463-2464, 2011.

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