Third Annual PNC Foundation Innovation Award Given To Stefan Duensing, M.D., From University Of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
PITTSBURGH, June 18, 2004 Stefan Duensing, M.D., a researcher in the molecular virology program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), is the third recipient of The PNC Foundation Innovation Award to support novel research projects in cancer, it was announced today.
Dr. Duensing receives $60,000 for his research on the mechanisms involved in the development of cervical cancer a disease primarily caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV).
PNC is committed to supporting research at UPCI and Dr. Duensings efforts to determine the underlying causes of cancer, said Sy Holzer, president, PNC Bank, Pittsburgh, and chairman of the UPCI Council. This is yet another prime example of determined research that is imperative to understand the causes of various forms of cancer, and to develop very specialized treatments that make a real difference in the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.
We are extremely grateful to The PNC Foundation for its continued support of our research programs, said Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., director of UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers. This award enables us to further expand and enhance our programs that are helping to advance our knowledge of cancer. We are very pleased that this years award will facilitate a research project that promises to improve the ways we deal with cervical cancer, which is one of the forms of cancer caused by a virus and is very common worldwide.
In his research, Dr. Duensing, who is an assistant professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, focuses on defining the process by which HPV infects a cell and disrupts the cell cycle, causing genetic imbalance. Through the examination of viral oncogenes, mutated forms of proteins, Dr. Duensing hopes to learn more about the mechanisms that cause genomic instability, abnormally high rates of genetic change and a hallmark of cancer.
Dr. Duensing is particularly interested in an HPV oncogene called E7 that causes inaccurate distribution of genetic material and at the same time, disrupts pathways that normally protect cells from DNA damage. E7 is a versatile protein and a driver of genomic instability. The goal of Dr. Duensings research is to develop ways to identify the mechanisms through which E7 causes genomic instability.
In order to effectively treat cancer, we need to understand the mechanisms by which tumors develop, said Dr. Duensing. Cervical cancer is a good model for learning more about how cancer causes genomic instability because of its simplicity it has only two oncogenes that drive tumor formation. Only through understanding the mechanisms of instability, are we able to develop ways to subvert the genetic damage caused by cancer and develop therapies to outsmart it.
In addition to studying E7, Dr. Duensing is actively researching other oncogenes that may be targets for cancer therapies.
Dr. Deunsing was recruited to UPCI in 2003 from the Harvard Medical School along with his wife, Anette Duensing, M.D., assistant professor of pathology, also a faculty member in UPCIs molecular virology program. Together, they have received numerous awards and honors and most recently received Scholar-in-Training Awards from the American Association for Cancer Research.
The PNC Foundation Innovation Award consists of a $150,000 grant to be divided over three years to fund a different individual investigator or team at UPCI. The award was first given in 2001 to Shi-Yuan Cheng, Ph.D., and Xiao Xiao, Ph.D., for their research on the use of gene therapy in treating brain cancer, and then to Tao Cheng, Ph.D., in 2002 for his research on adult acute myeloid leukemia.
The PNC Foundation ranks among the largest corporate foundations in Pennsylvania. Last year, more than $12 million in contributions by The PNC Foundation, along with thousands of hours of employee volunteer time, executive leadership, and other skills and services, were combined to support numerous non-profit organizations in the communities where PNC conducts business.
The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, (NYSE: PNC) is one of the nations largest diversified financial services organizations, providing regional banking, corporate banking, real estate, finance, asset-based lending, wealth management, asset management and global fund services.
World-renowned for innovative approaches to cancer prevention, detection and diagnosis, UPCI relocated to the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Shadyside Hospital in 2002. The Hillman Cancer Center is the flagship facility for both UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers - a network of more than 30 office-based medical oncology practices and regional cancer centers that provide the highest standard of care for patients throughout western Pennsylvania. UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers program in cancer currently ranks 11th in the country.