The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Texas A&M Health Science Center to support the development of a research program focused on colorectal screening. The grant will enable the continuation of the program for three years, as well as its expansion to 10 central Texan counties.
The Cancer Screening, Training, Education and Prevention (C-STEP) program is being conducted by the center for two purposes: Not only will it offer financial support to low-income patients in order to enable them to receive colonoscopies, but it also educates young clinicians from the family medicine residency program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine to conduct the procedure.
This is not the first time that CPRIT has funded the program, as it was initiated in 2011 using a $2.7 million grant from the institute to be invested over three years. During the initial period of C-STEP, family medicine residents working with the program conducted over 1,200 colonoscopies, about 800 of which were financed by CPRIT.
In addition, the program was able to find polyps in 275 people as well as 11 cancer cases through colonoscopies. The new grant will be used to expand the program, which is expected to reach a total of 17 counties including Brazos, Burleson, Robertson, Leon, Madison, Grimes, Walker, Montgomery, Washington, Waller, Lee, Milam, Falls, Limestone, Freestone, Houston and Trinity. To the current screening location in Bryan, Texas, will also be added a second clinic in Crockett, Texas.
The main purpose of the program is to reduce the burden of colorectal cancer, which is currently estimated to be the third type of cancer with higher incidence and mortality rate in both women and men in the US. Medical authorities recommend colonoscopies every 10 years after reaching 50 years old. However, only about half of patients actually get screened for colorectal cancer, most often due to a lack of coverage by Medicaid, since the procedure can cost between $800 and $3,000.
Despite the fact that the C-STEP program is not meant to treat cancer, it is thought to be a step forward towards earlier detection of the disease, increasing the possibilities of survival. The representatives of the program expect it to become a model in the United States for other programs dedicated to decreasing the incidence of colon cancer, as well as increasing cancer prevention, screening and education of the disease and its treatment.
CPRIT has also recently awarded the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center with another $1.5 million grant to spread a genetic screening program from six to 22 North Texas counties. Making genetic testing accessible geographically and economically is expected to improve patient outcomes, especially because they increase the probability of getting an earlier diagnosis.
One of CPRIT and UT Southwestern’s main goals is to effectively diagnose patients with Hereditary Breast-Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) and Lynch syndrome, which are two of the most common genetic cancer predisposition syndromes. Patients carrying these mutations have a lifelong risk of 85% for breast, ovarian, colorectal, and uterine cancer.