Skip to main content

Dirk P. Dittmer, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member with research interests in understanding viral tumorigenesis, specifically, cancers that are caused by Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.

Co-Leader, UNC Lineberger Virology Research Program
Director, UNC Viral Genomics Core
UNC-Chapel Hill

Area of Interest

The overarching goal of my research is to understand cancers that develop in the context of immunodeficiency and HIV/AIDS. As a student in Dr. A. Levine’s group, I worked on the tumor suppressor protein p53 and its role as the “guardian of genome integrity.” I was the first to describe that “hot-spot” mutations in p53 are not merely inactivating but represent a gain-of-function phenotype. This was followed by postdoctoral studies in virology; first in Dr. E. Mocarski’s group working on human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), then in Dr. D. Ganem’s group working on Kaposi’ sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). I have been working on Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) as a model for endothelial dysfunction ever since.

My group focuses on fundamental aspects of the interaction points between the virus and the host. Our most recent studies related to the role of the microRNAs and a class of extracellular vesicles called exosomes. We were the first to describe KSHV exosomes/extracellular vehicles and that the viral miRNAs are found at high levels in human plasma. My group also seeks to develop targeted therapies against KS.

The UNC Vironomics core, which I direct, supports clinical trials in the US and globally. All-in-all, these endeavors with unique scientific and technical expertise, but equally important prepared me for long-term project management, budget development, and multi-investigator collaborative enterprises.

Find publications on PubMed

Awards and Honors

  • Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award, 2021
  • Fellow, American Society of Microbiology (ASM), 2016
  • Fellow American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • Member UNC Center for AIDS research (CfAR)
  • Chair of network laboratories for the AIDS malignancies clinical trials consortium (AMC)

News and Stories

View all related posts