Associate Professor | Molecular & Cellular Oncogenesis Program

The Wistar Institute Ellen & Ronald Caplan Cancer Center

Associate Director for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity

Scientific Director, Animal Facility

Dr. Jessie Villanueva is Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Oncogenesis Program, and Associate Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Wistar Institute’s Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center.

Dr. Villanueva’s long-term research goal is to develop effective precision therapies for melanoma that can lead to durable responses. Her research focuses on understanding the molecular pathways that are disrupted in melanoma to uncover novel targets for therapy, particularly for NRAS mutant melanoma, an aggressive and difficult-to-treat tumor type. A particular focus of the Villanueva lab is to define mechanisms of drug resistance in melanoma and identify novel strategies to overcome it.

Dr. Villanueva received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in her native Perú. She then enrolled in the graduate program at University of Miami School of Medicine and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology. She pursued postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where she began her research on melanoma. Jessie joined The Wistar Institute as a postdoctoral fellow in the Herlyn laboratory and was later appointed as a faculty member in the molecular and cellular oncogenesis program. Among other honors, she has received an AACR Minority Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research award, V Foundation for Cancer Research Scholar Award, Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) Career Development Award, and Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Young Investigator Award. Jessie is a former NCI CURE Scholar, leads a fully funded research program and co-leads several NIH/NCI-funded program projects including the Wistar/UPENN SPORE in Skin Cancer, melanoma P01, and PDX (patient-derived xenografts) Development and Trial Center.

As the Associate Director for DEI, Dr. Villanueva leads the development and implementation of evidence based institutional DEI initiatives, works closely with senior leadership, participates in faculty search committees and advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of education, training, outreach, and faculty recruitment. Dr. Villanueva is committed to mentoring the next generation of translational cancer researchers and is particularly devoted to enhancing the recruitment and promotion of women and underrepresented scientists and into translational cancer research.

Institute for Clinical Research Education
200 Meyran Avenue, Suite 300
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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