Nancy Davidson

Physician-Scientist and Director, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

The hardest part of her diagnosis, says Harriet Legum, was opening the door at home to tell her son and daughter that she had breast cancer. The Baltimore-area mother of two received the diagnosis in 1987, when breast cancer was still very much a disease of whispers, of unknowns.

“But the reassurance from my oncologist made me feel that I was going to be OK,” she says, “or at least that everything was finally being done the right way for me.”

The oncologist who empowered Legum to continue living her life to its fullest was Nancy Davidson, then working at Johns Hopkins University. “There wasn’t a phone call she didn’t return or a conversation she didn’t have time for, even if I asked the same questions in three different ways,” says Legum.

Today, Davidson continues to empower others against cancer in her role as director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). She arrived at Pitt in 2009 and, at UPCI, she manages all aspects of cancer research and education, which have grown exponentially at this top-tier U.S. cancer center—the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. She is the Hillman Professor of Oncology and a Distinguished Professor of Medicine in Pitt's School of Medicine.

Davidson is a world-renowned breast cancer researcher, with expertise in clinical and translational research, cancer biology, and the role of hormones in gene expression and cell growth. She also has guided important national clinical trials of potential new cancer therapies. In 2016, she was elected president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

A distinguished professor and scientist, Davidson is among the many University of Pittsburgh faculty whose work attracts, collectively, more than $700 million annually in outside research funding into the City of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.