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Researcher Named UPCI’s 2nd NCI Outstanding Investigator, Awarded $6.4M for Discovering Cancer Viruses

March 15, 2016

Patrick Moore, MD, MPH, has received the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award, a top honor given to accomplished cancer researchers, and was awarded $6.4 million to further his work into the link between viruses and cancer. This NCI grant recognizes exceptional past achievements to provide seven years of secured support, giving the investigator freedom from the pressure of ongoing grant competitions.

Dr. Moore’s award makes him the second researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to receive this highly coveted recognition, given to just 60 people in the country since the grant program was created in 2014. UPCI’s Thomas Kensler, PhD, who studies chemoprevention, or how food can be used to lower the risk of developing cancer caused by unavoidable environmental toxins, was awarded the honor last year.

Dr. Moore is a distinguished professor and leader of the UPCI Cancer Virology Program, holding The Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Innovative Cancer Research at Pitt. Together with his research partner and wife, Yuan Chang, MD, Dr. Moore identified two different viruses that cause Kaposi sarcoma and Merkel cell carcinoma.

“To have the NCI recognize not just one but two of our faculty really reflects the strength of our research here at UPCI,” said Nancy E. Davidson, MD, director of UPCI, partner with UPMC CancerCenter. “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.”
The award will fund Dr. Moore’s research in three key areas:

  1. Understanding the mechanism by which the virus that causes Merkel cell carcinoma turns normal cells into cancer.
  2. Investigating unusual ways that the virus causing Kaposi sarcoma makes oncoproteins.
  3. Identifying new ways to find viruses that cause cancer in humans.
Recently, the Moore-Chang lab found a new mechanism that cancer viruses use to regulate how cells translate RNA into proteins and developed an assay to discover a class of viruses called polyomaviruses.

“I am hopeful this research will help provide new insights into methods to reliably determine the role of viruses in human cancers and to uncover new common cancer pathways that are at work in both infectious and noninfectious tumors,” Dr. Moore said. “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.”

The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award provides funding to investigators with outstanding records of productivity in cancer research to continue or embark upon new projects of unusual potential in cancer research over an extended period of seven years. The award was developed to provide investigators with substantial time to break new ground or extend previous discoveries to advance biomedical, behavioral or clinical cancer research.

“The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award addresses a problem that many cancer researchers experience: finding a balance between focusing on their science while ensuring that they will have funds to continue their research in the future,” said Dinah Singer, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology. “With seven years of uninterrupted funding, NCI is providing investigators the opportunity to fully develop exceptional and ambitious cancer research programs.”