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Jason Pitarresi, PhD


By Merin C. MacDonald | Date published: February 22, 2023

February Researcher Spotlight: Jason Pitarresi, PhD 

In this month’s Researcher Spotlight, we highlight the work of Jason R. Pitarresi, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, who also has an appointment in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Cancer Biology.  

Dr. Pitarresi’s research focuses broadly on tumor cell plasticity. Specifically, he is interested in uncovering novel mediators of pancreatic cancer metastasis and disease progression, discovering new drivers of pancreatic cancer initiation and acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM), and elucidating the roles of intracellular calcium signaling in pancreatic cancer. He is currently the principal investigator on a National Cancer Institute K99-R00 project, “Dissecting the oncogenic and pro-metastatic roles of PTHLH-mediated calcium signaling in pancreatic cancer,”where he aims to define the effect of Pthlh deletion or inhibition upon pancreatic epithelial cell identity and metastatic colonization. He is also the Bern Schwartz Research Scholar in Pancreatic Cancer awardee; the American Gastroenterological Association’s flagship research grant awarded every 3 years to launch the career of one pancreatic cancer researcher. In these projects, he will explore the role that other regulators of calcium signaling play in these processes and identify novel downstream signaling components involved in calcium-mediated pancreatic cancer metastases. Additionally, he aims to understand the role of PTHLH in orchestrating the immune microenvironment and co-treat with immunotherapy. His goal is to elucidate the importance of the role of PTHLH-mediated calcium signaling in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer, thus leading to opportunities for new approaches to therapy. 

In addition to his research, Dr. Pitarresi is enthusiastic about mentoring. During his graduate and postdoctoral studies, he mentored trainees at all levels, including high school, undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, as well as research specialists and postdoctoral fellows. One of his primary goals in his own independent lab is to expand upon these skills to train the next generation of scientists and clinical researchers with a focus on scientific rigor, experimental design, effective communication, and academic citizenship.   

Dr. Pitarresi joined the faculty at UMass Chan in August 2022. He earned his PhD in Biochemistry from Ohio State University and completed postdoctoral studies in cancer biology in the laboratories of Drs. Anil K. Rustgi and Ben Z. Stanger at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been the recipient of many honors including the Young Investigator Award and the Best Paper Award both from the American Pancreatic Association (2022), and was recently awarded the NextGen Star award from the American Association of Cancer Research (2023). Dr. Pitarresi is indeed a talented early-career investigator and we are delighted that he has joined the Department of Medicine! 

Learn more about Dr. Pitarresi

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