Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Emmanuel Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.S.L.D., has been appointed to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Coinfections and HIV Associated Cancers (HCAC) study section. As part of this group, Dr. Thomas will help review grant applications for cancer research associated with HIV and other viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
“As a virologist and cancer researcher, it is a great honor to be a part of the HCAC study section,” said Dr. Thomas, who is an associate professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and founded the oncology pathway for medical students. “I am honored to represent Sylvester, the Miller School, and the Department of Pathology at the NIH Center for Scientific Review. NIH peer review is critical to assuring that research in the United States is held to the highest standards.”
Dr. Thomas’s research focuses on HIV, hepatitis B and C, and their relationship to liver cancer. His lab has received a five-year Outstanding Investigator Award from the NIH to advance this work. He also helped establish HCVFree Florida, which seeks to eliminate hepatitis C infections in the state, and sits on the national board of directors for the American Liver Foundation.
“To be recognized by NIH and to serve as a member of a study section is a great honor,” said Wael El-Rifai, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of basic science at Sylvester, co-leader of the Tumor Biology Research Program, and John and Judy Schulte Senior Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. “Dr. Thomas is a valued member of Sylvester, and this invitation is a testimony of his scientific qualification and capabilities.”
“I study how viruses cause cancer,” said Dr. Thomas. “While most cancers are not driven by viruses, they contribute to around 20% of malignancies worldwide. My team is trying to understand first how viruses cause chronic infections, and then how infections can ultimately lead to cancer.”
Viruses can cause cancer in a number of ways. Hepatitis B carries oncogenes that can drive cancer in host cells. Hepatitis C, on the other hand, generates chronic inflammation that can take decades to cause cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the main culprit in cervical tumors, and Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to several other tumor types.
In addition to his cancer work, Dr. Thomas has played an integral role in the University of Miami’s response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, both studying the pathogen and helping implement variant testing protocols.
“I can contribute my expertise on how viruses can cause cancer,” said Dr. Thomas. “This can be quite important for patients with HIV, since some of these viruses appear as co-infections. I hope to provide molecular understanding of how viruses, either on their own or as HIV co-infections, drive organ-specific cancers.”