Yuri E. Nikiforov, MD, PhD
Professor of Pathology
Vice Chair of the Department of Pathology
Director, Division of Molecular & Genomic Pathology


Dr. Yuri E. Nikiforov, MD, PhD is Vice-Chair for Molecular Pathology and Director, Division of Molecular and Genomic Pathology. Dr. Nikiforov oversees the operations of the Molecular and Genomic Pathology laboratory in the Clinical Lab Building; he oversees and participates in clinical sign out in the Division. He also serves at Co-Director, Multidisciplinary Thyroid Center at UPMC.

Office Location:
Division of Molecular Genomic Pathology
Room 8031
Clinical Lab Building, 8th Floor
3477 Euler Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Contact Information:
Office Telephone: 412-802-6083
Fax: 412-802-6799
Email: nikiforovye@upmc.edu

Clinical Expertise

Dr. Nikiforov's clinical expertise is in surgical pathology of the thyroid gland and in molecular testing of thyroid, brain, colon, melanoma, pancreas, lung, and other tumors.

Research Interests

Dr. Nikiforov's research is focused on thyroid cancer genetics as well as mechanisms of chromosomal rearrangements and other mutations induced by ionizing radiation in thyroid cells and other cell types. His research lab is currently funded by a R01 grant, and 1 project of a SPORE grant from the National Institute of Health. Since 2000, Dr. Nikiforov's research activities have led to many scientific discoveries. These discoveries described below have resulted in more than 200 published peer-reviewed papers and form the basis of Dr. Nikiforov's current work.

Current research activities of Dr. Nikiforov's lab are centered on the discovery and characterization of novel mutations and gene fusions in thyroid cancer using next-generation sequencing (NGS) and applying the current knowledge in molecular genetics of thyroid cancer to the clinical management of patients with thyroid nodules. Specifically, the studies in progress aim to define the diagnostic utility of large NGS-based panels of molecular markers for preoperative diagnosis of cancer in thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies and to characterize several novel chromosomal rearrangements discovered in thyroid cancer as possible therapeutic targets for cancer treatment.

Recently his lab generated a new mouse model of multi-step thyroid cancer dedifferentiation with evidence of progression from PTC to PDTC and ATC. Further, PDTC in these mice showed two distinct histologic appearances correlated with levels of expression of thyroid differentiation and iodine metabolism genes, suggesting a possibility of the existence of two PDTC types with different functional characteristics and potential implication for therapeutic approaches to these tumors.

He also just published a study that confirms the increased prevalence of TERT promoter mutations and CNV in advanced thyroid cancers and describes novel functional alterations in the TERT gene promoter, including a point mutation and small duplication. These mutations, as well as TERT copy number alterations, may represent an additional mechanism of TERT activation in thyroid cancer.

    Major accomplishments from Dr. Nikiforov's research include:

  • The discovery of genes involved in recurrent chromosomal rearrangements in cancer cells are localized in proximity to each other in the nuclei of normal human cells at the time of exposure to ionizing radiation or other genotoxic stress (Science, 2000, 290:138-141)
  • The discovery that BRAF oncogene can be activated as a result of chromosomal rearrangement and demonstration that in thyroid cancer, chromosomal rearrangements represent the main mutational mechanism of tumorigenesis associated with radiation exposure (J Clin Invest, 2005,115:94-101)
  • The discovery that homologous chromosomes make contact at the sites of double-strand breaks in genes in somatic G0/G1-phase human cells, suggest that DNA breaks in genes can be repaired in G0/G1 cells by homologous recombination, utilizing the homologous chromosome as a repair template (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012, 109:9454-59)
  • The discovery of ALK activation in thyroid cancer via STRN-ALK fusion, which can serve as a therapeutic target (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA., 2014, 111:4233-8).
  • The discovery of THADA fusions to the regions upstream of the IGF2BP3 gene that lead to overexpression of IGF2BP3 and represents a mechanism of increased IGF1R signaling and carcinogenesis for thyroid cancers a possible therapeutic target for IGF1R inhibitors in thyroid and several other cancer types (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2017, 114:2307-2312).
  • Dr. Nikiforov led an international multidisciplinary group of pathologists and clinicians to reexamine a common type of low-grade thyroid cancer, the encapsulated follicular variant of papillary carcinoma. Based on the generated follow-up data, the group reclassified this tumor as non-invasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP), eliminating the word "cancer" from the diagnosis. The reclassification is expected to affect every year an estimated 10,000 patients in the U.S. and 45,000 worldwide who will lose the diagnosis of cancer (JAMA Oncol. 2016, 2(8):1023-9).

Molecular & Genomic Pathology Laboratory Website:   http://mgp.upmc.com

Awards and Honors

  • 2007 - Van Meter Award from American Thyroid Association
  • 2010 - Thomas Jefferson Medical College, 2010 Pathology Resident Award Lecture
  • 2012 - The Endocrine's Society International Award for Publishing Excellence in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) in 2011
  • 2014 - The Light of Life Foundation Honorary Award for Exemplary Work in Thyroid Cancer Research and Patient Care for 2014.
  • 2016 - The Aldo Pinchera Award from the Italian Thyroid Carcinoma Observatory
  • 2017 - The Sidney H. Ingbar Distinguished Lectureship Award from the American Thyroid Association

NIH Research

View Dr. Nikiforov's NIH RePORT on nih.gov

Selected Publications

View Dr. Nikiforov's publications on PubMed

  1. Efanov AA, Brenner AV, Bogdanova TI, Kelly LM, Liu P, Little MP, Wald AI, Hatch M, Zurnadzy LY, Nikiforova MN, Drozdovitch V, Leeman-Neill R,Mabuchi K,Tronko MD, Chanock SJ, Nikiforov YE. Investigation of the Relationship Between Radiation Dose and Gene Mutations and Fusions in Post-Chernobyl Thyroid Cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018 Apr 1;110(4):371-378.
  2. Nikiforova, M. N., Mercurio, S., Wald, A. I., Barbi de Moura, M., Callenberg, K., Santana-Santos, L., Gooding, W. E., Yip, L., Ferris, R. L. and Nikiforov, Y. E. Analytical performance of the ThyroSeq v3 genomic classifier for cancer diagnosis in thyroid nodules. Cancer. 2018 Apr; 124(8):1682-90. PMID: 29345728
  3. Nikiforov YE, Baloch ZW, Hodak SP, Giordano TJ, Lloyd RV, Seethala RR, Wenig BM. Change in Diagnostic Criteria for Noninvasive Follicular Thyroid Neoplasm With Papillary like Nuclear Features. JAMA Oncol. 2018 Jun 14.
  4. Nikitski AV, Rominski SL, Wankhede M, Kelly LM, Panebianco F, Barila G, Altschuler DL, Nikiforov YE. Mouse Model of Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma Driven by STRN-ALK Fusion. Am J Pathol. 2018 Aug 18.
  5. Nikiforov YE, Baloch ZW. Clinical validation of the ThyroSeq v3 genomic classifier in thyroid nodules with indeterminate FNA cytology. Cancer Cytopathol. 2019 Apr;127(4):225-230.
  6. Nikitski AV, Rominski SL, Condello V, Kaya C, Wankhede M, Panebianco F, Yang H, Altschuler D, Nikiforov YE. Mouse Model of Thyroid Cancer Progression and Dedifferentiation Driven by STRN-ALK Expression and Loss of p53: Evidence for the Existence of Two Types of Poorly Differentiated Carcinoma. Thyroid. 2019 Jul 12. PMID: 31298630.
  7. Nikiforova, M.N., Nikiforov, Y.E., & Ohori, N.P. GLIS rearrangements in thyroid nodules: A key to preoperative diagnosis of hyalinizing trabecular tumor. Cancer cytopathology. 2019 Sep;127(9):560-566.
  8. Panebianco F, Nikitski AV, Nikiforova MN, Kaya C, Yip L, Condello V, Wald AI, Nikiforov YE, Chiosea SI. Characterization of Thyroid Cancer Driven by Known and Novel ALK Fusions. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2019 Nov;26(11):803-814.