National Cancer Institute Selects Drs. Fiore, Sondel as Outstanding Investigator Award Recipients

News for Immediate Release

Contact: Chris Hollenback, (608)262-3902

Toni Morrissey, (608)263-3223


Two UW professors chosen for prestigious new grant program in cancer research


MADISON — The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has selected two UW-Madison faculty, Dr. Michael Fiore and Dr. Paul Sondel, as inaugural recipients of an Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA), which provides seven years of research support to investigators with outstanding records of productivity and achievement in cancer research. 

Together, the grants for Sondel and Fiore total $12.8 million. Both physicians are members of the UW Carbone Cancer Center and long-time faculty members at the School of Medicine and Public Health. Fiore is professor of medicine and director of the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) and Sondel professor of pediatrics, human oncology and genetics and head of the division of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone-marrow transplant.

The OIA allows funded investigators the flexibility to embark on long-term, transformative projects of unusual potential in cancer research; the opportunity to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their lines of inquiry; and sufficient time to develop new approaches to the most pressing problems in cancer research.

“Our goals are large,” noted Sondel. “Immunotherapy, which activates a patient’s own immune cells, has the potential to become an ideal cancer therapy: tumor-specific, able to eradicate primary tumors and metastases, prevent recurrence and have no side effects. Our research teams will identify and refine combinations of immunotherapies to move this science forward towards better treatment.”

Smoking maintains its grip on more than 40 million Americans, causing almost half a million deaths per year, including a third of all cancer deaths. Dr. Fiore’s work is designed to directly confront these grave statistics.

Thanks to this R35 award, Dr. Fiore will lead a partnership between UW-CTRI, Epic, and Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin to use the latest in health systems innovations, including electronic health records, to help patients who smoke to successfully quit and dramatically reduce their risk for cancer.

“We are incredibly proud of these two outstanding academicians,” said Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “It is quite remarkable that in the very first round of this new NCI award program, two UW faculty members were among the award recipients. Dr. Fiore’s passion for tobacco control and his leadership in reducing smoking, the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the nation, are unrivaled. And Paul Sondel, who began his cancer research career during his undergraduate years at UW, is at the forefront of the exciting new field of immunotherapy. The people of Wisconsin are most fortunate to have these leading cancer experts at their university. ”

Dr. Howard Bailey, director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center and associate dean for oncology at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said “It is no surprise to us that Drs. Fiore and Sondel were chosen for this prestigious award, since they have been and remain national leaders in directly applying cutting-edge research to prevent or treat the burden of cancer on our friends and families.”

The two grant awards are in effect Aug. 1.

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UW-CTRI is a nationally recognized research center founded in 1992 and committed to determining the nature of tobacco dependence and developing evidence-based treatments to assist smokers. UW-CTRI has generated more than $100 million in grant funding and assisted more than 200,000 smokers. UW-CTRI is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. For more information, visit

The UW Carbone Cancer Center is one of 41 nationally designated comprehensive cancer centers and the only one in Wisconsin. It is a national leader in patient care, research, education and community outreach.