NCI Names Thomas Kensler, PhD, Outstanding Investigator

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Thomas Kensler, PhD

Thomas Kensler, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and Co-Leader for the Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), was awarded a $6.3 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This new award acknowledges experienced researchers and provides them with long-term support for their exceptional work.

Dr. Kensler’s research focuses on chemoprevention, or how food can be used to lower the risk of developing cancer caused by unavoidable environmental toxins.

“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 7 years of uninterrupted funding, NCI is providing investigators the opportunity to fully develop exceptional and ambitious cancer research programs.”

The 7-year grant is 1 of just 60 awarded in its inaugural year.

Research has shown that controlling diet, increasing exercise, and quitting smoking can decrease the risk of developing cancer; however, environmental toxins such as fossil fuel combustion products are more difficult to mitigate. Past studies by Dr. Kensler’s team in China, where environmental controls are less rigorous, have examined the bioactive molecules in broccoli and how they may help people there detoxify air pollutants.

“Pollution is a global problem, and its effects are seen most often among the elderly, disabled, children, and minorities. We need effective and affordable interventions, and using food-based strategies could be the ideal way to address this,” Dr. Kensler said.

He and his team will focus on a biologic pathway known to play a role in detoxification, identify and validate biomarkers of its activity, and examine the molecular consequences of its chronic activation.  ■





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