Several members of the UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty have just received Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) grants totaling $22 million to fund further research on immunotherapy, leukemia, liver cancer, and to recruit new faculty members to the institution. These UT Southwestern researchers were selected to receive 7 out of 32 CPRIT grants that amount to $65 million in funding for cancer-related projects awarded to promising ventures in product development, preventive health, and recruitment. The recipients were carefully selected through an intensive review, recommendation by their respective program review councils, and final approval by CPRIT’s Oversight Committee.
“The research projects selected at UT Southwestern represent the innovative approaches being taken by members of the Simmons Cancer Center to find new and better therapies for those facing a cancer diagnosis, and to better understand the biological processes involved,” said Dr. James Willson, Dean of Oncology Programs, Professor and Director of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, Professor of Internal Medicine, and holder of The Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology. “We are continually encouraged by the support that CPRIT provides UT Southwestern researchers to further the goal of eradicating cancer.”
The 7 grants aimed to help accelerate the translation of new discoveries against cancer into clinical updates and commercial development, include:
- $2 million to explore a new antibody treatment for leukemia,
- $1.35 million to target liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma
- $1.1 million to investigate a receptor for anti-cancer immunotherapy
The remaining 4 UT Southwestern grants, totaling $18 million, will be used for the recruitment and funding of both experienced and emerging, promising investigators who have made substantial contributions and progress in cancer research. New recruits are essential to strengthening not only the university’s, but the state’s capabilities in exploring and fighting cancer.
Dr. ChengCheng Zhang, an Associate Professor of Physiology and Developmental Biology and a member of the Simmons Cancer Center, will be investigating a novel antibody therapy for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). His research will be focusing on inhibiting molecular targets called LILRB, which have been observed in mice to drive leukemia development. Dr. Zhang believes this may be the key to inducing complete remission.
Dr. Hao Zhu, an Assistant Professor with the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, the Simmons Cancer Center, and Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, will be researching the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. He observed the suppression of this pathway aids hepatic regeneration and has the potential to prevent the development of liver cancer.
Dr. Kiyoshi Ariizumi, an Associate Professor of Dermatology, and Dr. Ponciano Cruz, Vice Chairman and Professor of Dermatology with the Simmons Cancer Center, are working on targeting the DC-HIL receptor for anti-cancer immunotherapy. They noted the presence of DC-HIL on the cell surface of MDSC in mice and patients with melanoma, which disabled the ability to kill cancer cells. They believe the solution to reactivating cancer-killing cells is by blocking this protein.