The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the UT Health Science Center were among the Texas-based research facilities to receive awards in the most recent series of grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The funding, which will be be invested in research projects on colorectal cancer, head and neck cancer, precision oncology decision support, and liver cancer, amounted to over $9 million to MD Anderson, while UTHealth garnered over $5 million.
CPRIT, which was created in 2007 by a constitutional amendment following the votes of Texas residents to allow state funding for cancer research and prevention programs, awarded a $2,588,774 grant to MD Anderson Cancer Center which was part of CPRIT’s Evidence-Based Cancer Prevention Services, and meant to support its Alliance for Colorectal Cancer Testing (ACT) in Southeast Texas.
In addition, the institute has awarded the center’s researchers with a $1,263,342 Evidence-Based Prevention Programs grant to fund the Media-Rich Mobile Dissemination of a Dysphagia Prevention Program for Head and Neck Cancer Patients during Radiation, while the center’s Precision Oncology Decision Support Core was granted $5,999,996, from the Core Facilities Support Awards (CFSA).
At the UT Health Science Center, the funding was granted to investigators in the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC). The professor and chairman of molecular medicine at the Health Science Center and deputy director of the CTRC, Tim Huang, PhD, was awarded $3.3 million to support a single cancer cell analysis that aims to understand the role of single cancer cells from urine and saliva in the development of non-invasive cancer detection techniques.
Barbara J. Turner, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.A., MACP, professor of medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and director of the Center for Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH), was awarded with $1.5 million to support a liver cancer prevention program focused on hepatitis C infection, called Screen, Treat, or Prevent (STOP) hepatocellular/liver cancer (HCC), and is particularly meant for the low-income inhabitants of 10 different counties in Texas.
A project to study an estrogen receptor (ER beta) with anti-tumor effects in breast cancer and understand its effectiveness in preventing colon cancer was given a $200,000 grant awarded to the professor of molecular medicine at the UT Health Science Center, Rong Li, PhD. The researcher’s team discovered a molecular switch in ER-beta able to turn on anti-tumor activity and now wants to study its function in colon cancer, and eventually a drug able to target the disease in its early stages.
In addition, the professor and chair of biochemistry in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, Bruce Nicholson, PhD, was awarded $200,000 funding to support research focused on strengthening the body’s defenses and preventing cancer recurrence. To do so, the investigator will study the way in which microRNAs are transferred from osteocytes, healthy bone cells, to metastasized breast cancer cells, resulting in suppression of proliferation.
“I’m not surprised but I’m delighted,” said in a press release CTRC director Ian M. Thompson Jr., MD. “These grants demonstrate the breadth and depth of our researchers’ talents at every level.” Since the beginning of its operations, in 2009, the CPRIT has already granted over $1 billion in grants designed to support researchers, institutions, non-profit organizations and private enterprises in Texas.
The last round of funding was announced last week, when the institute awarded a total of over $89 million to support research projects focused on treating and preventing cancer, as well as develop novel products to fight the disease. The 42 Texas-based projects were divided into 28 new academic research projects, 11 prevention projects and two other projects focused on product development.