Director, Virology and Global Oncology Programs
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Director, UNC Viral Genomics Core
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.
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
Damania and Dittmer honored with Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award
Blossom Damania, PhD, and Dirk Dittmer, PhD, are being recognized individually for their expertise in cancer virology and global oncology, and their service to the university and state.
Expertscape recognizes UNC Lineberger faculty as top-rated experts in their fields
Expertscape rated 12 UNC Lineberger faculty members as top-rated experts in their fields for its 2021 rankings.
NCI grant funds UNC-led consortium studying HIV-related cancers in sub-Saharan Africa
A team of UNC researchers are partnering with colleagues at three institutions in Africa to study HIV-associated malignancies: Kaposi sarcoma, cervical cancer and lymphoma.