Ronald J. Buckanovich, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine



Dr. Buckanovich is a Professor of Medicine at Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh

Office Location:
Magee-Womens Research Institute
204 Craft Avenue - Suite B330
Eye and Ear Institute
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Clinic Location:
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
300 Halket Street
Suite 1750
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Contact Information:
Office Telephone: (412) 641-4721
Clinic Office: (412) 641-5411 Email: buckanovichrj@mwri.magee.edu

Research Expertise

Dr. Buckanovich is a physician scientist who performs bench to bedside translational research. He has studied cancer cells from patients with ovarian cancer, identified novel basic biological phenomenon, developed therapeutic approaches and translated these findings back into clinic trials. Dr. Buckanovich was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in September of 2017 to serve as the Director of the Ovarian Cancer Center of Research Excellence, Co-Director of the Women's Cancer Research Center, and Co-Director of the UPMC HCC Cancer Biology Program.

Dr Buckanovich's lab primarily studies ovarian cancer. His lab has three main research themes:

  1. Cancer Stem Cells. The Buckanovich lab has performed lineage tracing in human ovarian cancer cells and identified a population of cancer stem like cells (CSC) which drive a hierarchy of cancer cell differentiation. CSC are rare, inherently chemoresistant cells, which have the capacity to divide both symmetrically (creating more CSC) or asymmetrically (generating non-CSC cancer cells and tumor heterogeneity). CSC are hypothesized to be the primary source of cancer metastasis, recurrence and ultimately a patient's demise. To understand the biology of CSC we are using genomic approaches to understand drivers of asymmetric division and rare de-differentiation events where non-stem cells gain stem like traits.
  2. Tumor Microenvironment (TME). My lab has characterized numerous novel aspects of ovarian TME including novel vascular proteins, and a population of epigenetically re-programmed cancer associated mesenchymal stem cells (CA-MSC). We are now using the cellular components of the TME to understand how they influence CSC growth, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance. In addition, we are now evaluating how these components of the TME promote immune-resistance in ovarian cancer.
  3. Therapeutic Development. The primary objective of my lab is to develop ways to improve the care of patients with ovarian cancer. Based on the biology we learn in our studies of CSC and the TME, we now are generating several new therapeutic agents and approaches. For example, we have developed a drug which preferentially kills CSC, inducing an inflammatory cell death. We are now determining if we can use this drug to increase tumor inflammation to enhance immunotherapy. In a parallel approach we are testing new therapeutic approaches to disrupt the anti-inflammatory TME to promote anti-cancer immunity. To improve our ability to evaluate therapeutics preclinically, we are developing a humanized tumor model of cancer which will allow fully humanized tumor xenograft growth in mice with an intact human immune system. We believe this approach will better predict therapeutic response in patients. Finally, while not a therapeutic, we are using our knowledge to the tumor and TME to develop new diagnostic tests to detect ovarian cancer at a precursor stage.

Selected Publications

  1. McLean K, Gong Y, Choi Y, Deng N, Yang K, Bai S, Cabrera L, Keller E, McCauley L, Cho KR, Buckanovich RJ: Human ovarian carcinoma-associated mesenchymal stem cells regulate cancer stem cells and tumorigenesis via altered BMP production. J Clin Invest 121(8): 3206-19, 2011. PM21737876/PMC3148732
  2. Choi YJ, Ingram PN, Yang K, Coffman L, Iyengar M, Bai S, Thomas DG, Yoon E, Buckanovich RJ: Identifying an ovarian cancer cell hierarchy regulated by bone morphogenetic protein 2. PNAS 112(50): E6882-8, 2015. PM26621735/PMC4687560
  3. Bai S, Ingram P, Chen YC, Deng N, Pearson A, Niknafs Y, O'Hayer P, Wang Y, Zhang ZY, Boscolo E, Bischoff J, Yoon E, Buckanovich RJ: EGFL6 regulates the asymmetric division, maintenance, and metastasis of ALDH+ ovarian cancer cells. Cancer Res 76(21): 6396-6409, 2016. PM27803106/PMC5120866
  4. Raghavan S, Mehta P, Ward M, Bregenzer M, Fleck E, Tan L, McLean K, Buckanovich R and Mehta G: Personalized medicine-based approach to model patterns of chemoresistance and tumor recurrence using ovarian cancer stem cell spheroids Clinical Cancer Research.2017 Nov 15;23(22):6934-6945. PMID: 28814433
  5. Iyengar M, O'Hayer P, Cole A, Sebastian T, Yang K, Coffman L, Buckanovich RJ. CDK4/6 inhibition as Maintenance and Combination Therapy for High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer. Oncotarget. 2018 Feb 26;9(21):15658-15672. PMID: 29644000
  6. McLean K, Tan L, Bolland D, Coffman L, Peterson L, Talpaz M, Neamati N and Buckanovich RJ. Leukemia Inhibitory Factor Functions in Parallel with Interleukin-6 to Promote Ovarian Cancer Growth". Oncogene 2019 Feb;38(9): 1576-1584. Doi: 10.1038/s41388-018-0523-6. Epub 2018 Oct 10. PMID: 30305729
  7. Chefetz I, Grimley E, Yang K, Hong L, Vinogradova EV, Suciu R, Kovalenko I, Karnak D, Morgan CA, Chtcherbinine M, Buchman C, Huddle B, Barraza S, Morgan M, Bernstein KA, Yoon E, Lombard DB, Bild A, Mehta G, Romero I, Chiang CY, Landen C, Cravatt B, Hurley TD, Larsen SD, Buckanovich RJ. A Pan-ALDH1A Inhibitor Induces Necroptosis in Ovarian Cancer Stem-Like Cells. Cell Rep. 2019 Mar 12:26(11):3061-3075.e6, doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2019.02.032. PMID: 30865894
  8. Coffman LG, Pearson AT, Frisbie LG, Freeman Z, Christie L, Bowtell DD, and Buckanovich RJ. Ovarian Carcinoma-Associated Mesenchymal Stem Cells Arise from Tissue-Specific Normal Stroma. Stem Cells 2019 Feb;37(2):257-269. Doi: 10.1002/stem2932. Epub 2018 Nov. 2 PMID: 30353617