Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Department of Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo Sawa Ito, MD, PhD



Education and Training
Doctor of Medicine, Hokkaido University School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan, 2002
Doctor of Philosophy, The Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo Japan, 2016
Internal Medicine Residency, Chief resident 2004-2005, Teine Keijinkai Hospital, Sapporo, JAPAN, 2006
Internal Medicine Residency, UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA, 2009
Hematology and Oncology Fellowship, Hematology Brant NHLBI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
Research Interest
Bone marrow stem cell transplantation is for many the only curative treatment for leukemia and lymphoma-blood cancers. We have learned from this technique that immune cells of the donor which are transferred in the transplant can eradicate blood cancer, so-called graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. My research work is directed to finding ways to harness this GVL immune effect to cure leukemia and lymphoma. I am particularly interested in preventing and treating post-transplant relapse which remains the major cause of transplant failure. This involves two approaches: The first is to improve the results of transplants for people with leukemia by increasing the GVL effect and decreasing the hazards of the transplant through biomarker-directed personalized medicine and adoptive cellular immunotherapy. The second is to find ways to create a GVL effect boost the patient's own immune system and thus avoid the complication of transplantation altogether.
Clinical Interest
Hematologic malignancies, stem cell transplantation, adoptive cell therapy, biomarkers in graft-versus-host disease and graft-versus-leukemia effect
Educational Interest
Physician-scientists (PS) play central roles in advancing translational science (TS) by bridging the gap between basic science and clinical practice. Over a hundred years ago, the concept of PS was introduced as a physician who "must have training fitting them to carry out investigations in conformity with the requirements existing in all pure sciences", noting that "clinical science will not thrive through chance investigations by friendly neighbors from the adjoining practical and scientific domains. "The words have greater significance in the current era of translational research. I am interested in training future PS in the fields of Hematology, Stem Cell Transplantation, and Cell therapy, Education in science is often bi-directional and interactive; the trainees themselves can advance the field of TS by generating novel questions in science, uncovering a totally different view of science and clinical medicine with modern techniques. I have a strong belief that the positive impact from trainees will outweigh the cost and time spent for medical education in TS.
Notable Achievements
UPMC Presyterian Shadyside, I. Arthur Mirsky Award, 2009
American Society of Hematology: Abstract Achievement Award, 2012
American Society of Hematology: Medical Educators Institute, 2016