CHAPEL HILL -- University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Stephen Hursting has received a prestigious award from the National Cancer Institute to support research that seeks to understand, and potentially break, the link between obesity and cancer.
Hursting, PhD, a UNC Lineberger member and professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, has received a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award. This award recognizes and provides stable funding for cancer research with breakthrough potential.
“I am honored by, and very grateful for, this award,” Hursting said. “Given the strong links between obesity and many cancers, the rising rates of obesity and cancer worldwide, and the challenges for many people to lose excess weight, there is an urgent need to better understand how obesity impacts the cancer process and to find new ways to lessen that impact. This award will provide my group at UNC with unprecedented flexibility to pursue innovative research to identify and validate key molecular and metabolic targets and test new and effective mechanism-based interventions to reduce the obesity-associated cancer burden.”
Hursting was one of 43 researchers nationwide to receive the award from the NCI. The grant will provide Hursting with $5.34 million over a seven-year period to further his research on the mechanistic links between obesity and cancer.
Hursting received his doctoral degree in nutrition from the Gillings School in 1992. He returned to North Carolina in 2014 after serving as professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin from 2005 through 2014. He previously held positions at the National Cancer Institute and the UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and has been involved in various aspects of nutrition and cancer research for his entire 25-year career.
The Outstanding Investigator Award is a new type of grant bestowed upon experienced and highly productive cancer researchers that provide long-term support for their exceptional work. The funding will allow Hursting the freedom to take more risks in his lines of inquiry as well as more time to mentor junior investigators and develop the next generation of researchers in the increasingly important area of nutrition and cancer prevention.
“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, PhD, director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology. “With seven years of uninterrupted funding, NCI is providing outstanding investigators the opportunity to fully develop exceptional and ambitious cancer research programs.”
Hursting plans to use the funding to study the mechanisms underlying the obesity-cancer link. Specifically, he plans to address questions to try to arrive at new, effective interventions to offset obesity-linked increases in cancer, including: Does moderate weight loss alone, or with other interventions, reverse the cancerous effects of obesity, and what are the mechanisms of obesity-linked chemotherapeutic resistance and cancer metastasis?