Cancer researcher wins millions

By Dale Shoemaker / News Editor

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With a new, multi-million dollar grant awarded Tuesday, a Pitt cancer researcher’s work into the link between viruses and cancer just got a bit easier.

The National Cancer Institute chose Patrick Moore, the leader of Pitt’s Cancer Institute Cancer Virology Program, for its Outstanding Investigator Award. The award will give Moore a grant worth $6.4 million to further explore two viruses he and Yuan Chang, a professor in Pitt’s pathology department, an American Cancer Association researcher and his wife, had previously discovered cause certain types of cancer. The NCI allows institutions, like Pitt, to submit applications and nominate researchers for the award.

Though Moore was given the award, he and Chang co-operate the Chang-Moore laboratory at Pitt, where they study cancer-causing viruses, in Pitt’s Cancer Institute. Moore’s grant will fund the work he does in that lab for seven years, alleviating the stress of having to constantly apply for smaller grants.

Moore is the second cancer researcher from Pitt to win the Outstanding Investigator Award. Thomas Kensler, who studies how different foods can help lower the risk of developing certain cancers, won last year. Since the NCI created the award in 2014, only 60 people have received grants.

The award is granted to researchers who have outstanding records of productivity in cancer research and who plan to continue or embark upon “new projects of unusual potential” in cancer research.

“To have the NCI recognize not just one but two of our faculty really reflects the strength of our research here at UPCI,” Nancy Davidson, the director of Pitt’s Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “We have a strong bench of talent here, and the work Dr. Moore is doing is making a real difference in our quest to end cancer.”

Together, the husband-wife team will work to understand three key elements of their earlier discovery.

First, Moore and Chang’s team will research how the virus that they found causes Merkel cell carcinoma — a rare type of skin cancer — turns normal cells into cancer cells. Moore will then investigate how the second virus that causes Kaposi sarcoma — a cancer that causes the body to develop lesions on soft tissues like internal organs — to make proteins that are linked to tumors.

Finally, Moore will research new ways to find other viruses that cause cancer in people.

Moore said he hopes the forthcoming research will lead to new insights into what role viruses play in cancer.

“This is an exciting time in cancer research based on past discoveries, and I’m honored that the NCI has chosen to recognize my work with this award,” Moore said in a statement.

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