May 1, 2012 brought wonderful news to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute–the announcement that two of our members, Patrick Moore, M.D., M.P.H. and Yuan Chang, M.D. were elected to the National Academy of Sciences. This high honor came to only 105 scientists around the world in 2012. With their election, Drs. Moore and Yuan join an elite group of about 2600 distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research who are recognized for their scientific expertise and willingness to provide scientific advice to the U.S. government.
Members of UPCI since their arrival at Pitt in 2002, Pat and Yuan are “virus hunters.” Together they have the singular distinction of isolating and identifying two of the seven viruses known to cause cancer in humans–the Kaposi's sarcoma virus associated with Kaposi's sarcoma and the Merkel cell virus (MCV), the cause of a rare skin cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma. They have married sophisticated DNA sequencing techniques with expertise in public health and pathology to make these groundbreaking discoveries.
The Merkel cell virus story is a wonderful example of translational research and medicine. Over the four years since reporting its discovery, the Moore-Chang team has elucidated mechanisms of action for MCV, shown that it is highly specific as it is not associated with other types of cancer, and used high through put drug screening techniques to identify potential therapeutic agents that are going into clinical trials. This breathtaking pace is a testimony to the creativity and tenacity of the investigative team and the collaborative environment of UPCI.
This announcement was no surprise to those of us at Pitt familiar with their work. Indeed Pat and Yuan were both named Distinguished Professors at the University of Pittsburgh by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg at the February convocation to celebrate its 225th anniversary. In addition, their service as educators for so many students, fellows, and faculty members was noted through teaching awards from the Chancellor just a few weeks ago.
They are not alone in the spotlight. Late last month two distinguished members of our neurosurgery faculty who work in the challenging area of brain tumors were elected to the Association of American physicians, an organization founded in 1885 by seven physicians, including Sir William Osler, for the “advancement of scientific and practical medicine.”: They are Ian Pollack, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and and co-leader of the UPCI Brain Tumor Program, and Robert Friedlander, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and member of the Brain Tumor Program. Their election honors their contributions in basic and clinical science and the application of their findings to clinical medicine.
All of us at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter congratulate Drs. Moore, Yuan, Friedlander, and Pollack for their scholarship. We are especially grateful for their focus on experimental creativity and excellence, especially through the lens of what will improve the lives of our patients! They truly are engaged in “Life Changing Medicine.”