Researcher Wins Grant to Probe Obesity, Cancer

Stephen Hursting ’85 (MPH, ’92 PhD), a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, 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.

The NCI’s Outstanding Investigator Award recognizes and provides stable funding for cancer research with breakthrough potential.

Stephen Hursting ’85 (MPH, ’92 PhD)

Stephen Hursting ’85 (MPH, ’92 PhD)

“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,” Hursting said. “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. The grant will provide him with $5.34 million over a seven-year period to further his research on the mechanistic links between obesity and cancer.

Hursting returned to 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 he 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 provides long-term support for 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.