The Center for Translational Viral Oncology (CTVO) at LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center

September 1, 2023

The Center for Translational Viral Oncology (CTVO) was established to produce research outcomes that improve disease management and quality of life for patients suffering from cancer and other diseases caused by viruses across the diverse population in Louisiana. 

Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program, Phase Two of the CTVO is led by John T. West, Ph.D. Dr. West also conducts research on the HIV-associated viral cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, in sub-Saharan Africa alongside colleague, Charles Wood, Ph.D

Due to the success of Phase One of this program, under the leadership of Dr. K. Reiss (LSUHSC-DIO) and an infusion of new LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center faculty with extensive expertise in viral oncology, Phase Two focuses on continued growth in the field of viral oncology.  

The Impetus for the Center for Translational Viral Oncology

In Louisiana, the rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in non-Hispanic Black people is disproportionately high. In 2021, Black Louisianians accounted for 65% of newly diagnosed HIV cases, but only 32% of Louisiana’s overall population is Black. 

As a result, certain viral cancers — such as human papillomavirus (HPV)-induced cervical, anorectal, and oropharyngeal cancers and Kaposi Sarcoma — occur at higher than US averages in Louisiana and at much higher rates in health-disparate persons of color from Louisiana. 

These viral cancers indicate a major health disparity in the Gulf South region, and as such, are a focal emphasis of the CTVO. 

The CTVO’s immediate goal is to better understand how viruses play a role in the development of common cancers and how HIV or other environmental impacts can promote the production of tumors. The CTVO investigators study virus-host interactions and alteration of metabolic and immunity pathways. This improved virus-host understanding will lead to better-rationalized approaches to developing and testing preventative and therapeutic methods against viral cancers. 

Specific Aims of the Center for Translational Viral Oncology

To achieve its overarching goal, the CTVO has three specific aims.

Aim 1

The CTVO supports research programs of Junior Principal Investigators (JPIs) and essential core facilities to promote new research on virus-host interactions in cancer development and treatment.  

  1. CTVO sponsors the development of interdisciplinary teams made up of JPIs who are trained by both basic research and clinical mentors to ensure project productivity and translation to patient care.
  2. CTVO leverages existing research core facilities that provide technical expertise, data generation, and analytical support for research and clinical aspects of all projects.

Aim 2

The CTVO contains an administrative infrastructure to promote the success, career development, and independence of JPIs through: 

  1. Ensuring JPIs are familiar with and comply with NIGMS and LSU regulations, including project and budget management
  2. Promoting JPI advancement and career goals through an active Faculty Development Program
  3. Sustaining a dynamic pilot project program to select and support innovative, high-risk/high-reward research concepts on viruses and cancer

Aim 3

The CTVO coordinates thematic activities with NIH-funded Centers, programs, and like-minded investigators at participating institutions nationally. This includes: 

  1. Strategic partnerships with funded institutional centers of excellence and programs to facilitate access for JPIs to state-of-the-art clinical, research, and educational infrastructure
  2. Strengthening collaboration, networking, and mentorship opportunities between JPIs and an External Advisory Committee (EAC) composed of leaders in the field of viral oncology
  3. Conducting an annual CTVO symposium and seminar series that invites notable external speakers and colleagues with an emphasis on viral infection and viral oncology from across Louisiana. 

Center for Translational Viral Oncology Contributors

The CTVO relies on the expertise and dedication of many individuals across LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center. 

CTVO Program Director
John T. West, Ph.D.

LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center
Augusto Ochoa, MD, Deputy Director

LSU School of Medicine 
Steve Nelson, MD, Chancellor, LSU Health New Orleans

Administrative Core (AC)

Faculty Development Program - Krzysztof Reiss, Ph.D.

Pilot Project Program - Krzysztof Reiss, Ph.D. and External Advisory Committee

Clinical Lead - Mike Hagensee, MD/Ph.D.

Program Coordinator -  Dailyn Jackson and Susan Theodosiou

Financial Coordinator - Janice Williams-Lucas

External Program Evaluator - Erica Spears, Louisiana Public Health Institute 

Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) 

Augusto Ochoa, MD

Charles Wood, Ph.D.

Michael Hagensee, MD/Ph.D.

External Advisory Committee (EAC)

Scott McIvor, Ph.D.

Ethel Cesarman, MD/Ph.D. 

Dean Kedes, MD/Ph.D.

Research Cores

  1. Biostatistics/Bioinformatics Core (BBC): Lin, Hui-Yi, Ph.D.; Chindo Hicks, Ph.D.
  2. Cellular Immunology/Metabolomics Core (CIMC): Augusto Ochoa, MD.; Dorota Wyczechowska, Ph.D.
  3. Molecular Histopathology/Analytical Microscopy (MHAM): Luis Del Valle, MD; Adriana Zapata, MS.
  4. Translational Genomics Core (TGC): Jovanny Zabaleta, Ph.D.; Li Li, Ph.D.

Research Projects

  1. For Yue Tso, Ph.D. (LSUHSC-DIO) - “Revealing mechanisms of KSHV latency and neoplasia with CRISPR/Cas9.” 
  2. Monika Rak, Ph.D. (LSUHSC-DIO) - “Human Endogenous Retroviral Sequences (HERVs) in development and progression of human glioblastoma.” 

Pilot Projects

Pilot #1 - Omeed Moaven, MD - “A novel oncolytic virus for pancreatic cancer immunotherapy.”

Pilot #2 - Fokrhul Hossian, Ph.D., “Targeting triple-negative breast cancer with adeno-associated virus-medicated immunotherapy.” 



Apply For Membership

Find a Member