Jean M. Tersak, M.D.

  • Principal Investigator, Children's Oncology Group (COG), UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Education & Training

  • Fellowship-University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Residency-University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
  • MD-University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA

Representative Publications

Research Interests

  • Late effects, quality of life and neurocognitive outcomes in survivors of childhood cancer
  • Evaluation and treatment of opsoclonus myoclonus in patients with neuroblastoma

Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Dr. Jean M. Tersak serves as PI of the COG research program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She is also the PI of the COG phase I program, making UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh one of the few hospitals in the country conducting clinical research on novel therapies for children with cancer. The PI of COG is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the clinical trials activity at the institution.

Clinical Research Infrastructure. Dr. Tersak is also the PI of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Grant for infrastructure support of phase I and phase II research at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, as well as a St. Baldrick’s Infrastructure Grant. New research infrastructure initiatives include enhancing the division Web site to improve the ability to communicate information regarding available clinical trials and utilizing a more extensive clinical trials management system for clinical trial activity.

Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. The majority of children and young adults diagnosed with cancer will be long-term survivors. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is one of 27 institutions participating in the study. The project initially followed more than 14,000 childhood cancer survivors who were diagnosed between 1970 and 1986. Realizing that therapeutic modalities have changed over time and that a static cohort will have limited long-term benefit to patient care and survivors, the cohort is being expanded to include an additional 14,000 patients diagnosed between 1987 and 1999. Areas of study include but are not limited to secondary malignancies, cardiac failure, pulmonary complications, neurocognitive deficits, hearing loss, metabolic syndrome, and quality of life of childhood cancer survivors.

Solid Organ Transplant in Five-year Survivors of Pediatric Cancer. Morbidity and death from cardiac, pulmonary, and other medical conditions occur in pediatric cancer survivors as early as five years from diagnosis. Some life-threatening late complications of treatment for childhood cancer are treated with solid organ transplantation. Long-term outcomes of childhood cancer survivors after a solid organ transplant are largely unknown. The Childhood Cancer Survivors Study cohort is large enough to provide data for a descriptive analysis of these rare transplants. The primary aim of the study is to evaluate outcomes following solid organ transplantation in five-year survivors of pediatric cancer diagnosed from 1970 to 1986, focusing on subsequent mortality, recurrence, and second malignant neoplasms. A matched group of subjects who did not receive solid organ transplantation will also be included in this descriptive analysis. Members of the cohort receiving heart, lung, kidney, or liver transplants will be included in the study.

The Leukemia Physical Functioning Study: Longitudinal Assessment of Peripheral Neuropathy and Motor Function in Children Treated for Average-risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This is a limited institution study embedded within a national COG therapeutic trial for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. At scheduled time points, participants will undergo a functional and parent-reported evaluation by a pediatric physical therapist in the pediatric oncology clinic. Peripheral neuropathy is a toxicity that was previously underappreciated and is only recently understood to impact long-term functioning and quality of life in cancer patients. Interventions are available to address these impairments and, if implemented early, may ameliorate long-term functional loss. Increased understanding of the pathophysiology causing these impairments is crucial to developing early-intervention programs to prevent these deficits in children diagnosed with cancer.

Web-Based Interaction to Improve Long-term Follow-up of Childhood Cancer Survivors. Advances in treatment and supportive care have resulted in long-term survival rates of about 80% for individuals diagnosed with cancer during childhood and adolescence. Scientific literature clearly documents that survivors are at risk of treatment-related adverse effects that become apparent months or years after completion of therapy. This project involves the development and use of a multifaceted, interactive Web site that will enhance patient education, provide peer-to-peer emphasis on the importance of follow-up through written and video testimony, and provide interactive capabilities, including appointment and testing reminders, as well as ongoing contact with providers. The goal of the project is to improve and make more accessible critical educational resources and follow-up information to a highly mobile, technology-efficient young-adult population.

Caring for Cancer Survivors at the Virtual Bedside. This project is funded through the Pitt Innovation Challenge grant and involves the development of a telemedicine model to improve the education of primary care providers regarding the unique medical needs of childhood cancer survivors. This novel approach permits simultaneous communication between the survivor and the survivorship team to optimize the information exchange and transition process. Measurable outcomes will be utilized in this pilot study to provide critical information regarding feasibility and efficacy for future research trials in this area.