UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

March Director's Message

The national quest against cancer has been much in the news over the last month. In early March, the Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer (1975-2012) showed that overall death rates for men and women combined decreased by 1.5 percent per year from 2003 to 2012 in the U.S. Incidence rates — new cancer cases that are diagnosed per 100,000 people in the U.S. — decreased among men and were stable for women during the same time period. This is good news but clearly not good enough. To improve on these statistics, Vice President Joe Biden recently hosted the first meeting of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force to focus on making the most of federal, private sector and philanthropic support for cancer research and progress in treatment and care.

As part of the federal effort to galvanize cancer research, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently awarded a new type of grant, the Outstanding Investigator Award. It supports accomplished leaders in cancer research who are providing significant contributions toward understanding cancer and developing applications that may lead to a breakthrough in biomedical, behavioral, or clinical cancer research. The award provides significant funds for seven years to allow substantial time for the recipients to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their research. Fewer than 60 of these prestigious and competitive awards to support high risk-high impact research were awarded in the U.S.Dr. Kensler

We are so pleased that two of these grants of $6.3 million each came to scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to support important initiatives in cancer etiology and prevention. Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology and co-leader of the UPCI Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program, will continue his life-long work on chemoprevention of cancer. His research is designed to offer practical opportunities to reduce risks associated with unavoidable environmental risk factors for cancer, using nature products that target the Nrf2 cytoprotective pathway. Read more in this press release and in Pitt Magazine.

Dr. MoorePatrick Moore, M.D, M.P.H., professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Innovative Cancer Research; and leader of the UPCI Cancer Virology Program, will advance his work on the identification and characterization of viruses that lead to human cancers. Together with lab and life partner Yuan Chang, M.D., Dr. Moore is the co-discoverer of two of the seven viruses that are known to cause human cancers, the Kaposi's sarcoma and Merkel cell viruses. Read more about his work.

We could not be more proud of our two leaders and the teams they lead. And we are delighted that we in Pittsburgh are providing a highly supportive environment for two exceptional scientists who are leading the efforts to prevent cancer. We hope their work will bend the declining curves for cancer incidence and mortality even more in future years.