Infection is the cause of nearly two million cancer cases, accounting for 18% of the worldwide cancer burden. Each year this number increases as new cancer-causing infectious agents are identified. Most infections can be prevented with vaccines and treated with antivirals and antibiotics, providing an extraordinary opportunity to eradicate certain cancers. Advancements in this arena have already been made: in groundbreaking work, researchers determined not only a connection between cancer and a specific virus, but successfully developed a vaccine. In 1995, the human papillomavirus (HPV) was thought to cause only cervical cancer. In 2005, evidence indicated that HPV causes multiple cancers. Today, with just one vaccine, we can prevent four different types of cancer affecting both women and men. As evidenced through this discovery, the possibilities within the field of infection research are global in scale. To further identify cancer-causing agents and revolutionize the standard of care for patients throughout the world, Moffitt Cancer Center has established the Center for Infection Research in Cancer (CIRC).
The purpose of the CIRC at Moffitt is to reveal the role of infectious agents in the origin of cancer and translate this knowledge into novel and effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Moffitt is uniquely positioned to create this premiere infection and cancer research center. Through work with the HPV vaccine, Moffitt has demonstrated its expertise and success in moving an infectious agent from the bench to vaccine FDA licensure and, ultimately, to the population. Ongoing specimen and data collection conducted through Total Cancer Care® allows Moffitt to conduct research on a massive scale, focused on the discovery of infectious agents causing cancer. The CIRC brings together existing strengths of the institution in laboratory, clinical, and population sciences to promote a transdisciplinary research effort and develop a more complete understanding of the relationship between specific infectious agents and the tumors they cause. This cohesive effort among laboratory scientists, population scientists, clinical scientists and others allows us to:
- identify new infectious agents and establish the causal link between known and newly identified oncogenic infectious agents with cancer
- develop novel approaches for prevention, early detection and treatment of cancers caused by infectious agents
- deliver new standards of care that tailor treatment based on infection status of the tumor utilizing novel therapeutic vaccines, lower dose radiotherapy, and new antiviral agents
- disseminate research findings to clinical practice and implement strategies to increase uptake of effective prevention and treatment interventions
Philanthropic support will allow Moffitt to capitalize on institutional strengths in epidemiology, bioinformatics, biostatistics, molecular oncology, and immunology. As Moffitt recruits new scientists to conduct research focused on the identification of infectious agents across multiple tumor types, these studies aim to determine the causal role of infectious agents in cancer and move from identifying the presence of the organism to evaluating the functional significance of the agents in a variety of tumor types. By prioritizing the most promising infectious agents and cancer sites for research and developing epidemiologic studies, we will assess cancer causality in both U.S. and international populations. Utilizing information from laboratory discoveries, novel clinical trials will be developed to test efficacy of anti-infectious agents (vaccines, antibacterials) to prevent specific cancers. Ultimately, through the development and testing of novel approaches to the treatment of infection-related cancers, protocols to increase national utilization of clinical practices to reduce the infection-related cancer burden will be implemented. Through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization, among others, findings will be disseminated to clinical practice and implemented to increase the effectiveness of interventions. Moffitt is already conducting research projects at multiple sites around the world, including Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India and Morocco. With proven, internationally-known investigators and multiple external collaborators, Moffitt is poised to have a global impact on cancer care through this highly promising area of research.
Director: Anna R. Giuliano, PhD