Pitt cancer researchers win international prize


Yuan Chang, one of the award winners. | Courtesy photo

By Amanda Reed / Assistant News Editor

For the first time, two Pitt faculty members have won the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, an international award given to medical researchers who have made significant contributions to immunology, cancer research, microbiology and chemotherapy.

Doctors Yuan Chang and Patrick S. Moore, faculty members of Pitt’s School of Medicine, will receive 120,000 from the Paul Ehrlich Foundation, which sponsors the award, for their work in the field of cancer research.

Their lab — the Chang-Moore Laboratory, which is in the Cancer Virology Program at Pitt — specializes in studying how normal cells become cancerous. But Chang and Moore received the prize for discovering two of seven known human viruses that directly cause cancer.

The duo discovered the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, otherwise known as herpesvirus 8, in 1994. The virus causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is the most common AIDS-related cancerous tumor  and most frequently found in parts of Africa. They also identified Merkel cell polyomavirus — which causes an aggressive skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma — in 2008.

“We hope to use these tumor viruses as models and translate fundamental molecular discoveries into improved clinical outcomes for all patients with cancers,” Chang said in an email.

The Chang-Moore Laboratory was established at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in 1994 when Moore and Chang became assistant professors at the university. The lab moved to the Hillman Cancer Center when the pair, who are married, were recruited to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in 2002.

Chang, an epidemiologist and virologist, has been a faculty member in Pitt’s School of Medicine since 2002. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Stanford University in 1981 and Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Utah’s College of Medicine in 1987.

Moore became the director of the Cancer Virology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in 2002 after earning a Bachelor of Science in biology at Westminster College, a master’s degree in chemistry at Stanford University, a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Utah and a Master of Public Health degree at the University of California, Berkeley.

Patrick Moore, one of the award winners. | Courtesy photo
Patrick Moore, one of the award winners. | Courtesy photo

The pair of researchers have also received other honors in medicine, infectious disease and cancer research, like the 2012 Marjory Stephenson Prize from the Society of General Microbiology in the United Kingdom, the 2003 Charles S. Mott Award from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the 1998 Robert Koch Prize and the 1997 Meyenburg Prize.

“Drs. Chang and Moore’s contributions to cancer research have been significant and lasting, touching the lives of people around the world,” Arthur S. Levine, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen dean of the School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The pair will receive the award on March 14 in Frankfurt, Germany.

“It is a tremendous honor to have one’s work recognized internationally by esteemed colleagues in the field of medicine,” Chang said.

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