Anette U. Duensing, MD
Assistant Professor of Pathology

Dr. Duensing is a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Office Location:
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Hillman Cancer Center Research Pavilion, Suite 1.8
5117 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Contact Information:
Office Telephone: 412-623-5870
Lab Phone: 412-623-7731
Fax: 412-623-7715


  • MD - University of Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany, 1997


Medical Board of Lower Saxony, Germany

Research Interests

The majority of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are caused by oncogenic mutations in the KIT or PDGFRA protein kinases. GISTs are the prototypical example of a solid tumor entity that was fatal in the past but that can now be successfully treated with a novel class of drugs, small molecule kinase inhibitors. Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec®) is the first and most prominent inhibitor belonging to this group. Although imatinib has revolutionized the treatment of GIST, the occurrence of imatinib-resistant tumors is a problem for a large number of patients. It is therefore imperative to find novel treatment options for these patients. Although an FDA-approved second-line therapy (Sutent®) and an array of potential third-line therapeutic options are in clinical and preclinical trials, most of these compounds also target the activated KIT or PDGFRA kinase. This "kinase-centric" approach to novel therapies is difficult, however, because the most prominent imatinib-resistance mechanisms involve secondary mutations in KIT/PDGFRA genes themselves. Our laboratory therefore uses a different approach to identify novel treatments. We are focusing on two major strategies:

Over the past several years, we have successfully applied a candidate approach to find new therapeutic targets. Using this strategy, we are dissecting the molecular mechanisms of action of imatinib in the induction of apoptosis and tumor cell quiescence. Having identified the molecular players that are involved in these processes allows us to target these molecules for therapeutic purposes. The second major line of research employs medium- to large-scale screening strategies. We are currently using siRNA-based screens to identify survival genes that could be targeted for therapy in GIST. Furthermore, we are screening drug compound libraries to rapidly identify novel therapeutic agents.

We are also applying the above-mentioned strategies to other soft-tissue sarcomas, such as leiomyosarcomas.


Medical Board of Lower Saxony, Germany

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow of the Dr. Mildred Scheel Stiftung für Krebsforschung, 1999-2000
  • Scholar-in-Training Award, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR - AstraZeneca), 2003
  • Member, Medical Advisory Board, GIST Cancer Research Fund, 2006-present
  • Member, GIST Collaborative Research Team, The Life Raft Group, 2008-present
  • Member, NIH Pediatric and wildtype GIST Clinic, Consortium for Pediatric and wildtype GIST Research (CPGR), 2010-present
  • Hillman Fellow for Innovative Cancer Research, 2010
  • UPCI Junior Scholar Award in Basic Cancer Research, 2010
  • Speaker, Laureate Society Dinner, American Cancer Society, 2011
  • Member, AACR Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) - Farrah Fawcett Foundation Human Papillomavirus Translational Research Team Grant Joint Scientific Advisory Committee (JSAC), 2013-2014
  • Jeroen Pit Science Award, The Life Raft Group, 2014
  • GIST Science Award, GIST Patient Group Switzerland, 2014
  • Discussant, Poster Discussion Session "Sarcoma", ASCO Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, 2015

Selected Publications

View Dr. Duensing's publications on PubMed

Heinrich MC, Corless CL, Duensing A, McGreevey L, Chen CJ, Joseph N, Singer S, Griffith DJ, Haley A, Town A, Demetri GD, Fletcher CDM, Fletcher JA. PDGFRA activating mutations in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Science 2003; 299:708-710.

Duensing A, Medeiros F, McConarty B, Joseph NE, Panigrahy D, Singer S, Demetri GD, Fletcher CDM, Fletcher JA. Mechanisms of oncogenic KIT signal transduction in primary gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). Oncogene 2004; 23:3999-4006.

Duensing A, Joseph NE, Medeiros F, Smith F, Hornick JL, Heinrich MC, Corless CL, Demetri GD, Fletcher CDM, Fletcher JA. Protein Kinase C theta (PKC ) expression and constitutive activation in gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). Cancer Res. 2004; 64:5127-5131.

Li FP, Fletcher JA, Heinrich MC, Garber JE, Sallan SE, Curiel-Lewandrowski C, Duensing A, van de Rijn M, Schnipper LE, Demetri GD. Familial gastrointestinal stromal tumor syndrome: phenotypic and molecular features in a kindred. J. Clin. Oncol. 2005; 23:2735-2743.

Liu Y, Tseng M, Perdreau SA, Rossi F, Antonescu C, Besmer P, Fletcher JA, Duensing S, Duensing A. Histone H2AX is a mediator of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) cell apoptosis following treatment with imatinib mesylate. Cancer Res. 2007; 67:2685-2692.

Liu Y, Parry JA, Chin A, Duensing S, Duensing A. Soluble histone H2AX is induced by DNA replication stress and sensitizes cells to undergo apoptosis. Mol. Cancer 2008; 7:61.

Liu Y, Perdreau SA, Chatterjee P, Wan L, Kuan, SF, Duensing A. Imatinib mesylate induces quiescence in gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) cells through the CDH1-SKP2-p27Kip1 signaling axis. Cancer Res. 2008; 68:9015-9023.

Bauer S, Parry JA, Mühlenberg T, Brown MF, Seneviratne D, Chatterjee P, Chin A, Rubin BP, Kuan SF, Fletcher JA, Duensing S, Duensing A. Pro-apoptotic activity of Bortezomib in gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) cells. Cancer Res. 2010; 70:150-159.

Reynoso D, Nolden LK, Yang D, Dumont SN, Dumont AGP, Conley AP, Zhou K, Duensing A, Trent J. Synergistic induction of apoptosis by the Bcl-2 inhibitor ABT-737 and imatinib mesylate in gastrointestinal stromal tumor cells. Mol. Oncol. 2011; 5:93-104.

Duensing A. Closing in on accurate risk prediction and disease management for patients with operable GIST. Lancet Oncol 2012; 13:220-221.

Boichuk S, Parry JA, Makielski KR, Litovchick L, Baron JL, Zewe JP, Wozniak A, Mehalek KR, Korzeniewski N, Seneviratne DS, Schöffski P, Debiec-Rychter M, DeCaprio JA, Duensing A. The DREAM complex mediates GIST cell quiescence and is a novel therapeutic target to enhance imatinib-induced apoptosis. Cancer Res. 2013; 73:5120-5129.

Kelly L, Bryan K, Kim SY, Janeway KA, Killian JK, Schildhaus HU, Miettinen M, Helman L, Meltzer PS, van de Rijn M, Debiec-Rychter M, O'Sullivan M; NIH Pediatric and wild-type GIST Clinic (Antonescu C, Demetri G, Duensing A, George S, Jose-Dizon JM, Khan J, Kummar S, LaQuaglia M, Lodish M, MacArthur G, Pappo A, Raygada M, Schiffman J, Stratakis CA, Trent J, von Mehren M, Weldon C, Wright J). Post-transcriptional dysregulation by miRNAs is implicated in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). PLoS One 2013; 8(5): e64102.

Boichuk S, Rausch JL, Duensing A. New developments in the management of gastrointestinal stromal tumours: Regorafenib, the new player in the team. Gastrointestinal Cancer: Targets and Therapy 2014; 4:1-10.

Boichuk S, Lee DJ, Mehalek KR, Makielski KR, Wozniak A, Seneviratne DS, Korzeniewski N, Cuevas R, Parry JA, Zewe JP, Brown MF, Taguchi T, Schöffski P, Debiec-Rychter M, Duensing A. Unbiased compound screening identifies unexpected drug activities and novel treatment options for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Cancer Res. 2014; 74:1200-1213.

DeCaprio JA, Duensing A. The DREAM complex in anti-tumor activity of imatinib in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Curr Opin Oncol 2014; 26:415-421.

Duensing A. Targeting ETV1 in gastrointestinal stromal tumors: Tripping the circuit breaker in GIST? Cancer Discovery 2015, 5:231-233.