Heath D Skinner, MD, PhD

  • Chair & Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Clinical Networks, Radiation Oncology
  • Associate Professor

Heath D. Skinner, MD, PhD, is an associate professor at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, specializing in the study and treatment of head and neck and lung cancer. Dr. Skinner maintains an active, translational research laboratory focused upon identifying novel, clinically targetable biomarkers of resistance to radiation. His group utilizes "big data" approaches to clinical specimens as well as in vivo screening techniques to generate novel targets for study. These targets are then further investigated in vitro, to elicit insights regarding mechanisms of radioresistance. Dr. Skinner's research is designed to generate insights that led to the rational design of clinical trials using agents that are currently under investigation to minimize the time from bench to bedside.

Dr. Skinner is board-certified in radiation oncology. He completed a combined MD/PhD program at West Virginia University. During that time, Dr. Skinner published 6 manuscripts, received several medical and graduate school-wide awards and a prestigious Scholar-in-Training Award from the AACR for his work. Upon completion of medical school, he began a combined internship and residency in radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC). During his residency, Dr. Skinner was awarded a highly competitive research grant from the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and, in addition, published multiple manuscripts, including a first author publication in Clinical Cancer Research. Specifically, his work focused upon targeting specific classes of TP53 mutation to improve response to radiation, using the common diabetes drug metformin. These studies, along with the work of other researchers, directly led to multiple clinical trials combining radiation with metformin, including two led by Dr. Skinner - NCT02285855 and NRG-LU001. The latter trial, of which Dr. Skinner was one of two PIs, was an international, multi-institutional, randomized trial through the NRG, which completed accrual in late 2016.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Skinner has received eight peer-reviewed grants, including a two current R01s funding his research. He has published over 85 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Nature Cell Biology (in press), Cancer Cell, Oncogene, Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research. In addition, he has written 6 book chapters and 9 invited reviews and presented over 50 abstracts at national meetings. Dr. Skinner has also been invited to present his work at multiple domestic and international symposia.

In addition to his research, Dr. Skinner is dedicated to providing excellent and compassionate patient care. This dedication is borne out in patient experience measures, with his scores being almost uniformly in the 99th percentile for all categories asked. Moreover, his patients have rated him in the top 1 percent nationally on Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CGCAHPS) measures related to their experience with him in his clinic.

Representative Publications

Liu PH, Shah RB, Li Y, Arora A, Ung PM, Raman R, Gorbatenko A, Kozono S, Zhou XZ, Brechin V, Barbaro JM, Thompson R, White RM, Aguirre-Ghiso JA, Heymach JV, Lu KP, Silva JM, Panageas KS, Schlessinger A, Maki RG, Skinner HD, de Stanchina E, Sidi S. An IRAK1-PIN1 signalling axis drives intrinsic tumour resistance to

radiation therapy. Nat Cell Biol. 2019 Feb;21(2):203-213. doi:10.1038/s41556-018-0260-7. Epub 2019 Jan 21. PubMed PMID: 30664786; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6428421.


Liu X, Kumar M, Yang L, Molkentine DP, Valdecanas D, Yu S, Meyn RE, Heymach JV, Skinner HD. BAP1 Is a Novel Target in HPV-Negative Head and Neck Cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Feb 1;24(3):600-607. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-1573. Epub 2017 Nov 7. PubMed PMID: 29113987.


Skinner HD, Giri U, Yang LP, Kumar M, Liu Y, Story MD, Pickering CR, Byers LA, Williams MD, Wang J, Shen L, Yoo SY, Fan YH, Molkentine DP, Beadle BM, Meyn RE, Myers JN, Heymach JV. Integrative Analysis Identifies a Novel AXL-PI3 Kinase-PD-L1 Signaling Axis Associated with Radiation Resistance in Head and Neck

Cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Jun 1;23(11):2713-2722. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-2586. Epub 2017 May 5. PubMed PMID: 28476872; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5457365.


Weidhaas JB, Harris J, Schaue D, Chen AM, Chin R, Axelrod R, El-Naggar AK, Singh AK, Galloway TJ, Raben D, Wang D, Matthiesen C, Avizonis VN, Manon RR, Yumen O, Nguyen-Tan PF, Trotti A, Skinner H, Zhang Q, Ferris RL, Sidransky D, Chung CH. The KRAS-Variant and Cetuximab Response in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Oncol. 2017 Apr 1;3(4):483-491. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.5478. PubMed PMID: 28006059; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5470422.


Skinner HD, Giri U, Yang L, Woo SH, Story MD, Pickering CR, Byers LA, Williams MD, El-Naggar A, Wang J, Diao L, Shen L, Fan YH, Molkentine DP, Beadle BM, Meyn RE, Myers JN, Heymach JV. Proteomic Profiling Identifies PTK2/FAK as a Driver of  Radioresistance in HPV-negative Head and Neck Cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2016 Sep 15;22(18):4643-50. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-2785. Epub 2016 Apr 1. PubMed PMID: 27036135; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5061056.

Research Grants

R01DE028105-01        Krishnan & Skinner (MPI)          01/01/2019 – 12/31/2023        


Enhancing immune mediated head and neck cancer anti-tumor activity using nanoparticles.

Major goal: To utilize PD-L1 antibody tagged gold nanoparticles and high LET radiation to target radioresistant HNSCC.

Role: Principal Investigator


R01CA168485-06A1     Skinner (PI)                              03/01/2017 – 02/28/2022


Extension of Radiotherapy Research

Major goal: To investigate a novel signaling pathway involving p16 and TRIP12 associated with radiosensitivity in HPV positive head and neck cancer.

Role: Principal Investigator