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Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Hillman Cancer Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Titles and Affiliations

Professor, Department of Surgery
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Director, National Cancer Institute Cooperative Group Clinical Trials
University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center
On behalf of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)

Research area

Understanding what drives treatment response and resistance in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.


Therapies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin®) have revolutionized the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer. Trastuzumab and other HER2-targeted therapies block the pro-tumorigenic actions of HER2 on cancer cells and stimulate an immune response directed against the cells. Nevertheless, only a subset of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer experience a robust response and there is a pressing need to understand why some do not. Dr. Wolmark is leading research by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) to discover immune biomarkers to better define which patients benefit from anti-HER2 therapies.

Progress Thus Far

The team has identified immune markers that are associated with the disappearance of invasive cancer as well as an increased amount of a type of immune cell in patients treated for early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. They also found a gene signature that is predictive of trastuzumab benefit.

What’s next

Now, the team will further explore the association of specific immune markers with breast cancer subtypes and patient outcomes in HER2-positive, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Dr. Wolmark and team will also begin to develop a custom discovery panel of immune markers in HER2-positive breast cancer using digital spatial profiling technology to gain exceptional detail about the interactions between each tumor cell and the immune environment surrounding it, and ultimately aid in predicting tumor response to HER2-targeting therapies.


Dr. Norman Wolmark, MD, is Chairman of  NSABP Foundation, a not-for-profit academic research organization with a nearly 60-year history of conducting ground-breaking research studies in breast and colorectal cancer.

He is also Professor and Chairman of Human Oncology at Drexel University School of Medicine. Dr. Wolmark received his medical degree from McGill University of Montreal, and he completed his residency at the University of Pittsburgh. He served a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and he later became a cancer expert at the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Wolmark belongs to numerous prestigious organizations including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Association of Cancer Research, and the American Surgical Association.

Over his near 45-year tenure as a cancer researcher, Dr. Wolmark is extensively published, with more than 400 scientific journal articles and book chapters in print.  He is a widely sought-after speaker and lecturer in his field and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Women’s CancerThe Journal of Clinical Oncology, and numerous advisory boards, and as an advisor to oncology programs, societies, and institutes throughout the United States and abroad.

Devoted to the evolution of large randomized clinical trials for the treatment and prevention of breast and bowel cancers, he is also a reviewer for The Journal of Clinical Oncology and the New England Journal of Medicine, and he is an editorial board member of the Journal of Women’s Cancer and Clinical Breast Cancer.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus

Treatment Tumor Biology