Community of Scholars seminar focuses on bladder cancer


Published November 3, 2021

“Tumor heterogeneity at the morphologic and molecular levels is really a central facet in all types of cancer.”
David DeGraff, PhD
David DeGraff, PhD.
“I was lucky to meet Dr. DeGraff at Penn State, and he always had insightful questions that helped advance others’ research.”
Kathleen Kokolus, PhD

The 2021 University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Community of Scholars (COS) Seminar Series, which invites speakers to explore topics addressing health disparities and clinical and translational research, returns on Tuesday, November 16, with a noteworthy speaker and an important topic.

David DeGraff, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine/Department of Urology/Department of Surgery, Penn State College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, will present “Implications of Tumor Heterogeneity in Bladder Cancer on Immunotherapy” from 1 to 2 p.m. online via Zoom; register for the free seminar here.

In the November 16 seminar, DeGraff will discuss the integrated genomic analyses of mixed histology bladder cancers to identify drivers of tumor heterogeneity, and will show how these mechanisms possibly contribute to immunotherapy resistance.

“Tumor heterogeneity at the morphologic and molecular levels is really a central facet in all types of cancer,” DeGraff explains. “I think bladder cancer is a great disease to study if you are interested in tumor heterogeneity. This is because intratumoral — that is, within a single tumor — heterogeneity is readily observable under the light microscope and is associated with molecular differences.”

In addition, DeGraff says intratumoral heterogeneity is very common in bladder cancer.

“Presence of therapeutically-resistant subclones during treatment can result in intrinsic resistance (and therefore suboptimal response) and a way of developing therapeutic resistance over time,” he says.

DeGraff says understanding mechanisms responsible for heterogeneity are important for designing rational treatment strategies.

“Rational design of treatment strategies is required for patients with complex disease,” he states. “Understanding tumor heterogeneity provides a framework for design of treatment strategies to increase response to single agents (i.e., immunotherapy or chemotherapy), as well as for the development of combinatorial treatment strategies.

In addition to discussing the science behind his work, DeGraff says he looks forward to sharing his career-related perspective with the COS audience.

Community of Scholars Seminar Series speakers are nominated by a CTSI K Scholar. The program offers research mentoring, career and professional development, and funding to outstanding junior faculty and senior fellows transitioning to independent faculty positions. Nominating DeGraff as a Community of Scholars Seminar speaker was Kathleen Kokolus, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Kokolus is a 2020 K Scholar.

“I was lucky to meet Dr. DeGraff while I was a postdoc at Penn State, where we were both studying immunotherapeutic approaches to cancer treatment,” Kokolus says. “We interacted at various seminars and journal clubs because of our similar research interests, and he always had insightful questions that helped advance others’ research.”

Kokolus says the training awards DeGraff received while he was junior faculty make him a particularly insightful choice of speaker for the Community of Scholars series.

“When I was the President of the Penn State Hershey Postdoc Society, he volunteered his time for workshops and other events geared for postdocs interested in writing K awards,” she explains. “In fact, some of his advice was instrumental in my successful KL2 application last year.”

For questions about the CTSI Community of Scholars Seminar Series, write to or call 716-829-4718.