Tullia C Bruno, PhD

Tullia C Bruno, PhD


Campus: UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Office: Office 2.18A

Lab: Suite 2.19

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Ph: 412-623-1780

Fax: 412-623-4840



  • University of Colorado and National Jewish Health, Postdoc
  • Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, PhD
  • Vanderbilt University, BS

Academic Affiliation

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Immunology
  • Member, Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Member, Tumor Microenvironment Center, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Co-director, UPMC Hillman Summer Academy
  • Scientific Director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Flow Facility

About Research

About Dr. Bruno:

I have dedicated the last 12 years of my life to becoming a strong tumor immunologist with an emphasis in studying human tumors. My original laboratory training with human specimens came from Vanderbilt University when I was an undergraduate student. The lab I worked in specialized in human immunology, and they provided a thorough training on processing and analyzing human samples. At that time, we were particularly interested in the TH1 and TH2 paradigm so I received extensive training in cell culture of primary human T cells, flow cytometry, and functional assays. I had further training when I arrived at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as a graduate student (in the laboratory of Dr. Charles Drake). I was offered the opportunity to characterize CD4+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) from prostate cancer patients for the defined TH subtypes, TH1, TH2, TH17 and Treg. Since I possessed a background in human immunology research, I was able to successfully isolate the T cells, analyze them by flow cytometry, and differentiate positive controls of the TH subtypes.  Working on this study was a gateway to collecting human prostate cancer specimens for the purpose of studying CD8+ TILs. With the CD8+ TILs, I specifically studied the effects of PD1 and LAG3 blockade on their function using an in vitro mixed lymphocyte reaction.  For my postdoctoral fellowship, I was recruited to develop a translational, patient-focused tumor immunology program in the laboratory of Dr. Jill Slansky at UC Denver. My extensive training allowed me to jumpstart her project on CD8+ TILs in breast cancer patients and develop my independent project on B cells in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

In 2015, I was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh as research faculty by Dr. Dario Vignali to direct the research in his translational tumor immunology lab at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. While Dr. Vignali was specifically interested in translating much of his T cell work in murine models to a human system, I also continued my independent research on B cells. I have been able to secure internal and extramural funding to study these immune cells in patient tumors. In particular, I am interested in how B cells impact T cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME) within tertiary lymphoid structures. Further, I am interested in the role of B cells in cancer progression. Due to the successes of my research program, I have been promoted to an Assistant Professor in the tenure stream. As a result, I have my own laboratory space and am responsible for four students, one clinical fellow and one technician. I have the drive and motivation to be an effective mentor for students and fellows that join the lab, and I will continue to utilize my background on mentoring to properly guide these individuals while they are working on scientific questions in the lab. 

Understanding B cells and tertiary lymphoid structures in human tumors:

We are utilizing a multi-pronged approach to understanding tumor infiltrating B cells (TIL-Bs) in the tumor microenvironment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), head and neck cancer squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), and ovarian cancer. In particular, our approach includes (but is not limited to) single cell RNAseq of all immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, high level flow cytometry using a Cytek Aurora, multispectral spatial analyses (via Vectra, Codex, and Nanostring GeoMax) and small scale in vitro immune assays. In particular, we are interested in how TIL-Bs impact T cells and overall organization of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) in the tumor microenvironment, and how this interaction could be biologically different depending on the tumor type. Further, our overall hypothesis is that TIL-Bs provide an anti-tumor advantage to cancer patients when contained within organized (germinal center containing) TLS by presenting tumor antigens and influencing overall T cell phenotype and function. 

Want to learn more about the importance of B cells in tertiary lymphoid structures? Check out my recent News and Views in Nature!


Understanding the Balance of the Immune System in Patient Tumor

More useful information about Dr. Bruno:

Complete Listing of Publications

Active Collaborations

Apply for the Hillman Academy

Research Interests

  • tumor immunology, B cells, tertiary lymphoid structures