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Message from the Director

The NCI has made substantial contributions to AIDS research since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and today supports a broad and robust research program in this area. This major involvement in AIDS research stems from two major factors. One is that AIDS and HIV infection markedly increase the risk of certain cancers—in fact, a cluster of cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) in young men in New York and California was one of the earliest harbingers of the AIDS epidemic. The other is that when AIDS emerged as a new disease, NCI scientists were well poised to tackle this new epidemic. This was in part because the NCI had already made a major investment in virology and retrovirology as a result of the Virus Cancer Program. In addition, the NCI had a number of scientists with expertise in immunology, in drug development, in epidemiology, and in clinical trial methodology.

With this background, the NCI scientists made a number of crucial early advances in the fight against AIDS. Among these advances were the co-discovery of HIV and demonstration that this virus was the cause of AIDS, the development of the first blood tests, and the development of the first anti-HIV drugs that formed the background of effective combination antiretroviral therapy (cART).

With the wide use of cART, patients are now living much longer with HIV infection and AIDS, and they are less likely to die of classic AIDS malignancies such as KS within months after receiving an AIDS diagnosis. However, substantial challenges remain. As patients on cART are living longer with HIV infection, we are starting to see a broader array of HIV-related malignancies emerging. In fact, several studies have shown that cancer is now the leading cause of death in persons infected with HIV. Also, AIDS malignancies continue to be a major source of morbidity and mortality in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

The NCI is working hard to combat these challenges. Today, HIV malignancy and AIDS research is conducted in multiple Divisions and Offices of the NCI. The Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy (OHAM) was created in December 2007 to facilitate coordination and oversight of this institute-wide effort. In addition, OHAM directly manages certain research programs, such as the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC), the AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource (ACSR), and a training program to build research capacity in Africa.

On this website, you will find information about both the specific activities of OHAM as well as the spectrum of AIDS and HIV malignancy research conducted by the NCI. I hope you will find it a useful source of information.

Robert Yarchoan, M.D.
Director, Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy

About Dr. Yarchoan

Robert Yarchoan, M.D.

Dr. Robert Yarchoan received his B.A. from Amherst College with a major in biophysics and his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He trained in internal medicine at the University of Minnesota and Immunology in the Metabolism Branch, NCI. He then joined the laboratory of Dr. Samuel Broder, where he played a major role in the development of the first effective therapies for HIV infection, including zidovudine (AZT), didanosine (ddI), and zalcitabine (ddC). In particular, he led the first clinical trials of these drugs, was a co-inventor of didanosine and zalcitabine as AIDS therapies, and led initial studies of combination anti-HIV therapy. He was a Section Chief in the Medicine Branch from 1991 to 1996 and was named chief of the newly formed HIV and AIDS Malignancy Branch in 1996, a position he still holds. In his capacity as an intramural researcher in the NCI Center for Cancer Research, he studies AIDS-related malignancies, especially tumors caused by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), and HIV protease. Among other honors, he has been awarded the Assistant Secretary for Health Award and the U.S. Public Health Service Outstanding Service Medal, has been inducted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In December 2006, he was a recipient of the first NIH World AIDS Day Award, and in November 2007 he received the NCI HIV/AIDS Research Excellence Award along with Drs. Samuel Broder, Robert C. Gallo, and Hiroaki Mitsuya. In December 2007, Dr. Yarchoan was appointed as the first Director of the NCI Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy (OHAM). In 2009, Dr. Yarchoan received an NCI Director’s Award of Merit for leadership in promoting and supporting research in HIV/AIDS and HIV-associated malignancies at the National Cancer Institute.