Second annual Battle Award recognizes groundbreaking cancer research

Friday, May 22, 2009 — Nancy Raab-Traub, Ph.D., Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Microbiology and immunology, has been awarded the second Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award in recognition of her work.

The award, established in 2007 by the Battle Foundation of Rocky Mount, recognizes exceptional cancer research at the medical school and comes with a $25,000 prize. The Battle Award fund is a permanent endowment held by The Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.

Raab-Traub, a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is an internationally-recognized scientist in the area of virology and cancer. She was recently appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Her research focuses on the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is linked to the development of several human cancers. Her work identified the viral genes that are expressed in these cancers and has been instrumental in proving that EBV causes cancer, through a mechanism where the viral genes take over the cell and induce cancerous growth.

Raab-Traub's enthusiasm for her research is based on her belief that virally-induced cancers are more likely to be eliminated or cured.

"Many people do not realize that a significant number of human cancers are caused by viruses. As cancer is thought to develop because of altered genetic expression, it is much more feasible to block viral infection or develop specific inhibitors of the viral genes than try to inhibit all of the genetic changes within a cancer. The vaccine for blocking human papilloma virus infection to eliminate cervical cancer is an excellent example of the success of this approach," she said.

“The Battle Award is intended to recognize truly distinguished work. Dr. Raab-Traub’s research has helped change how we think about cancer as a disease and has led to a high-potential path for inquiry that may provide tremendous benefit for public health,” said Bill Roper, MD, MPH, Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine.

Hyman L. Battle (1896-1972) established The Battle Foundation in 1946. Like his grandfather Kemp Plummer Battle, who was an early president of UNC-Chapel Hill, Hyman was deeply interested in education.

UNC Lineberger contact:  Dianne Shaw, (919) 966-7834 or dgs@med.unc.edu

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