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Alice Yu, MD., PhD

asco award yu

Principal Investigator
Emeriti Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Hematology/Oncology

Dr. Yu’s has more than 40 years of experience in developing cures and understanding the biology of childhood cancer research, has pioneered anti-GD2 therapy, and has either led or significantly contributed in numerous clinical trials to bring novel cancer therapeutics to market. She obtained her Medical Degree in 1968 from National Taiwan University & Hospital, and then continued her studies in the United States, earning a Master’s degree in 1969 in Immunology and Microbiology from Yale University and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1973, also in Immunology and Microbiology. Dr. Yu joined the faculty of UCSD in 1977 and has been here ever since. She is board certified in Pediatrics with a subspecialty in Hematology/Oncology.  Dr. Yu is a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, the Children’s Oncology Group, the American Association of Cancer Research, American Society of Hematology, International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and the Society for Glycobiology. She has been recognized worldwide for her accomplishments, and in 2020 was awarded the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Pediatric Oncology Award, which recognizes the career and achievements of an individual who has contributed outstanding scientific work of major importance to the field of pediatric oncology.

Dr. Yu led the highly successfully Phase III clinical trial of dinutuximab (anti-GD2) for the post-frontline treatment of children with high risk neuroblastoma, which resulted in the first significant improvement in survival of these children in more than a decade. The significance of this clinical trial is reflected by its 2009 inclusion as one of the 15 major advances, and top 5 personalized medicine /targeted therapy in clinical cancer care. Subsequently, Dr. Yu has also helped develop the successful use of dinutuximab in patients after they have failed other therapies, and is part of an ongoing trial testing dinutuximab as a frontline approach to high risk neuroblastoma therapeutics as well as its use in other GD2-expressing cancers.

Retirement has allowed Dr. Yu to expand her interests beyond pediatrics and her research now includes breast cancer, stem cell, DNA vaccines and glycobiology. She has also been a part of novel clinical trials in breast cancer where she also has INDs. 

Mitchell Diccianni, PhD

Retired Research Scientist
Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology

Dr. Diccianni obtained his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry in 1982 from Stony Brook University in New York. He obtained a Ph.D. Pharmacology In 1989 at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, switching his focus to cardiovascular pharmacology. He was a visiting scientist at Tokyo University from 1990 – 1992, where he changed direction and researched the regulation of multidrug resistance in hepatic cancer. In 1992, he made his final career direction switch and joined the laboratory of Dr. Yu at UCSD in the Department of Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology. At UCSD, his focus has been on the molecular biology of childhood cancers, where he began his pediatric cancer research career by characterizing tumor suppressor gene profiles in T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. With the success of Dr. Yu’s anti-GD2 immunotherapy of high risk neuroblastoma, he changed his focus to lead her labs research in the identification, characterization and exploitation of biomarkers of immune system modulators of cancer immunotherapy. He has authored >40 publications in top research journals with collaborations that include scientists at UCSD and throughout the USA, and internationally with scientists from Europe and Asia. Dr. Diccianni is a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, the Children’s Oncology Group, the American Association of Cancer Research and American Society of Hematology.  His seminal discoveries in leukemia and neuroblastoma also include independently developed projects on long non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, phosphatases, tumor suppressor genes, novel fusion proteins and polyamine regulation in cancer therapy In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded the “Eminent Scientist of the Year” award in 2006. In retirement, he continues his research activities, writing manuscripts and guiding Dr. Yu’s laboratory research team at a reduced level.

Ayse Batova, PhD

Retired Project Scientist
Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology

Dr. Batova received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of South Carolina and obtained post-doctoral training at Telios Pharmaceuticals and at UCSD. Prior to retirement, Dr. Batova was a Post-doc and a project scientist with Dr. Yu researching the molecular basis of cancer and investigating novel chemotherapeutic agents. She validated numerous targets for cancer therapeutics including but not limited to MTAP and GD2. She has investigated novel target-selective therapeutic agents, both small molecules as well as biologics. Among these agents, AN-9, ch14.18, mAb1A7 entered clinical trials. Dr. Batova is a co-founder of Visionary Pharmaceuticals Inc., which where she expanded her research efforts to include targets involved in inflammation and auto-immune disorders. In retirement, her contributions have become minimal though she retains an interest in helping out when she can. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the Center of Drug Discovery Innovation at UCSD.

Lab Members


From left to right: Matteo Liebman (former SRA), Jesse Gan (former student), Varsha Matthew (current SRA), and Dr. Mitchell Diccianni (Not shown Dr. Alice Yu and Dr. Ayse Batova)

Varsha Matthew

SRA: Varsha Matthew