University of Pittsburgh scientist honored for major accomplishment in cancer research

October 26, 2003

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 26 - Yuan Chang, M.D., professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been awarded the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for her work investigating Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), the most recently discovered virus linked to human cancer.

KSHV is the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma, a common cancer among AIDS patients, and also is linked to other immune disorders including a type of B-cell lymphoma and Castleman's disease, a noncancerous but severe disorder characterized by enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Dr. Chang will share the $125,000 Marks Prize with two other scientists under the age of 45 who have made significant contributions to the basic understanding and treatment of cancer.

"Yuan Chang's discovery of KSHV was a seminal breakthrough that has enabled all subsequent understanding of how the virus causes disease, as well as the diagnosis and potential treatment of KSHV infection," said Elliott D. Kieff, M.D., Ph.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School. "Her basic and clinical research has transformed our understanding of the most common malignancy in people infected with HIV."

Dr. Chang, 43, co-discovered KSHV, also known as human herpesvirus 8, along with her husband, Patrick Moore, M.D., M.P.H., professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the molecular biology program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Prior to their discovery, Kaposi's sarcoma was believed to be caused by an infectious agent, but the cause of the disease remained unknown.

Since discovering KSHV in 1994, Dr. Chang has continued to study the biology of the virus to understand the basis for its ability to cause cancer. In 1996, she and her colleagues published the DNA sequence of KSHV, revealing that the virus has pirated several cellular genes that have proven useful in understanding the properties of other tumor viruses.

"We are studying the genes in KSHV to gain insights into the processes in cells that lead to cancer," Dr. Chang said. "The virus carries genetic material that causes cancer into cells. We are finding that the same pathways affected by these viral genes also are altered in cancers not caused by viruses," she said.

The Marks Prize, named after Paul A. Marks, president emeritus of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, recognizes significant contributions to the basic understanding and treatment of cancer by scientists no more than 45 years of age. The winners were selected by a committee chaired by Jeffrey M. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., of the Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Jocelyn Uhl
PHONE: 412-647-3555
FAX: 412-624-3184

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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