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Endowments at UVA

The Gerald D. Aurbach Professorship Fund

1998

The Gerald D. Aurbach Professorship in Endocrinology honors the lifetime achievements of the late Gerald D. Aurbach, M.D. (College '50, Medicine '54). A distinguished researcher in the field of endocrinology, Dr. Aurbach was best known for his pioneering study of metabolic bone disease. From 1973 until his death in 1991, he served as chief of metabolic disease research at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Aurbach's widow, Hannah Aurbach, led the effort to solicit support for this professorship, which was funded by a number of Dr. Aurbach's friends and colleagues as well as several pharmaceutical companies.

The Board of Visitors elected Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD, to the Gerald D. Aurbach Professorship in Endocrinology in 2011. Professor Shupnik is a member of the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, with a secondary appointment as a professor of physiology. She has been at UVA since 1988 and served as the School of Medicine's senior associate dean for research since 2010.

Professor Shupnik co-leads the Women's Oncology Program in UVA Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated cancer center. As part of the five-year (2017–22) renewal of the Cancer Center's designation by the NCI, the center received a $1.75 million NCI Cancer Center Support Grant, 10 percent of which is tagged for the Women's Oncology Program. Professor Shupnik and fellow program leaders will use the support to advance the program's translational efforts and to coordinate the translational, clinical and population studies on women's cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine).

An eminent scholar in the field of endocrinology, Professor Shupnik's research focuses on steroid hormone action and women's health. In 2016–17, researchers in her laboratory continued to uncover important links between metabolism and estrogen as they relate to the development of endometrial cancer. There are 90,000 new cases of endometrial cancer per year in the United States; more than 40 percent of cases are directly attributable to obesity, and obese women who contract the disease are much more likely to die from it. Professor Shupnik's research team identified several groups of genes overexpressed in endometrial tumors. One in particular, called “GLUT6,” is a unique type of glucose transporter that shows low to no expression in normal endometrial tissue, but was found overexpressed in uterine tumors of women who were both postmenopausal and obese. In a forthcoming article, Professor Shupnik and her colleagues describe their hypothesis for this: direct action of sex steroids, namely estradiol and progesterone, which respectively increase or suppress GLUT6's expression. The team has developed a mouse model of this condition. The model and the research are supported by the NCI. The team is seeking further funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These studies are very promising because GLUT6 is unlike any other glucose transporter and thus may serve as an excellent target for drug therapy in those with endometrial cancer.

In 2016–17, Professor Shupnik and her team presented their work at various seminars and symposia, including the 17th International Congress of Endocrinology in Beijing in September 2016 (a joint event of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Chinese Society of Endocrinology).

In her senior associate dean role, Professor Shupnik organized the successful submission of two major research grant applications to the UVA Strategic Investment Fund over the past year: a $16.9 million grant for the Virginia Precision Individualized Medicine for Diabetes (PrIMeD) Project, and a $15.7 million grant for a cross-disciplinary initiative called Bold Research Advances in Neurosciences (BRAIN). Both grants run until 2020. The former represents UVA's expanding efforts in research and care of patients with both types of diabetes, whereas the latter complements the University's pioneering efforts in neuroscience centered in its newly established Brain Institute.

A leader in the international community of endocrinologists, Professor Shupnik serves as an associate editor of the “Journal of the Endocrine Society.” In 2016–17, she was also a reviewer for the NIH and a study section member of the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

History of Past Recipients and Projects