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June 24, 2004

People of the Times

Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the UPMC Cancer Centers, has been appointed chairman of the Pennsylvania Cancer Control Consortium (PAC3) board of directors. Following the release of the commonwealth’s first-ever comprehensive cancer control plan earlier this year, the board was established to foster the achievement of PAC3’s mission – to reduce the human and economic burden of cancer for all citizens of the commonwealth by working together as a collaboration of leaders from many organizations.

“By marshalling some of the state’s key leaders representing a wide array of stakeholders concerned about cancer, we intend to address the problem of cancer throughout the state,” said Herberman. “Our primary goals are to foster research partnerships to advance understanding of the problems of cancer and to make state-of-the-art strategies for cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and symptom management available to all citizens of the commonwealth and thereby make a real difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians.”

Herberman added that the state plan addresses the heavy and unequal cancer burden borne by the elderly, rural and urban poor; the inadequate organizational infrastructures to address needs; the lack of coordinated cancer control efforts, and the limited resources for cancer control.

With leadership from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the American Cancer Society, PAC3 is comprised of approximately 300 individuals and 100 organizations who are key cancer stakeholders across the state – academic and community cancer centers, health care providers, researchers, survivors/advocates, community based-organizations, insurers, foundations, pharmaceutical companies and industry.

In addition to Herberman, the PAC3 board of directors is comprised of some of Pennsylvania’s top health care leaders with interest in evidence-based cancer prevention and care. The board will guide the efforts of all these stakeholders and the Pittsburgh-based PAC3 coordinating office to implement the strategies identified in the state plan.


Stefan Duensing, 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.

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).

In his research, Duensing, who also is an assistant professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at Pitt’s 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, Duensing hopes to learn more about the mechanisms that cause genomic instability, abnormally high rates of genetic change and a hallmark of cancer.

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 Duensing’s 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 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, Duensing is researching other oncogenes that may be targets for cancer therapies.

Deunsing was recruited to UPCI in 2003 from the Harvard Medical School along with his wife, Anette Duensing, assistant professor of pathology, and also a faculty member in UPCI’s 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.

First given in 2001, The PNC Foundation Innovation Award consists of a $150,000 grant to be divided over three years to fund an individual investigator or team at UPCI.

“This award enables us to further expand and enhance our programs that are helping to advance our knowledge of cancer,” said Ronald B. Herberman, director of UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers. “We are very pleased that this year’s 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.”


Pitt has named Mike Pratapas as senior associate athletics director. In this capacity, Pratapas will focus on athletics fundraising efforts and administrative responsibilities. He comes to Pitt from Rice University, where he served as associate athletics director for development this past year.

While at Rice, Pratapas oversaw fundraising efforts that resulted in more than $2.5 million in commitments during his first 10 months. He implemented Rice’s first-ever priority-point system used to allocate tickets and donor benefits. Pratapas additionally oversaw the $5 million “Sustaining Excellence in Rice Baseball” capital fund drive for the Owls’ national-champion baseball team.

Prior to his stay at Rice, Pratapas worked one year in real estate investing, serving as president of CML Investments, LLC, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

From 1995-2002, Pratapas served as Wake Forest’s associate athletics director for development. In this position he was responsible for the oversight and management of all athletics-related fundraising, including capital campaigns, annual giving, endowment and special event fundraising.

A former center on the Wake Forest football team, Pratapas was also a color analyst for Wake Forest football radio broadcasts for seven seasons.

Pratapas earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1985 and a master’s degree in education in 1988 from Wake Forest. A four-year letterman for the Demon Deacons football team, he was awarded the Brian Piccolo Athletic Scholarship and also lettered once in baseball.

“The addition of a person with Mike’s proven track record in collegiate athletics and fundraising is an exciting development for our program,” said Pitt athletics director Jeff Long. “Generating resources for our student-athletes is of primary importance. Mike has worked at high-quality institutions and was a collegiate student-athlete himself. He is well tuned to the priorities and challenges of major collegiate athletics and will be a tremendous asset for the University of Pittsburgh.”

“I am excited about joining a university with such a rich athletic tradition. “The recent commitments made to upgrading the football and basketball facilities were a strong indication to me that Pittsburgh is committed to excellence in athletics,” Pratapas said. “I am looking forward to working closely with Jeff Long, the entire athletic department staff and its supporters to help broaden the donor base and ultimately generate the resources necessary to address other facility and scholarship needs that will give our student-athletes and coaches the best opportunity to compete at a championship level.”

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