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UT Southwestern investigators awarded $48.2 million in latest round of CPRIT grants

Texas Business reports: DALLAS—The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded $48.2 million in new grants to investigators at UT Southwestern Medical Center to support cancer-related projects and to recruit pre-eminent cancer researchers.

These awards to UT Southwestern, made after a rigorous peer-review process, were part of $114 million allocated for 45 projects and scientific recruits at Texas-based academic institutions and private firms.

“Our scientists and clinicians are dedicated to the fight against cancer,” said UT Southwestern president Daniel K. Podolsky in a prepared statement. “These awards will allow our investigators, in many instances working closely with colleagues at other institutions, to pursue high-impact work that addresses the most important unanswered questions that will lead to better treatment and prevention.”

CPRIT was established in 2007 after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment that authorized the state to fund cancer and prevention programs. In this latest round of CPRIT grants, UT Southwestern received the most funding of any individual Texas institution.

The new grants include seven Multi-Investigator Research Awards – five involving UTSW – which allow "dream teams" of scientists handpicked from multiple academic institutions to work collaboratively on cancer research projects.

It also provides funding for 14 projects to expand access to critical cancer prevention programs across Texas. For instance, to broaden access to screening services, Dr. Samir Gupta, assistant professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences, was awarded $2.2 million in support of evidence-based colorectal cancer screening for the uninsured.

A total of $19 million also was awarded for the recruitment of cancer investigators for multiple-site projects at UT Southwestern and other institutions.

With this round of funding, a total of 429 grants to date have been recommended by CPRIT's peer-review experts, presented to the institute's 11-member board, and then approved. Over three years of operations, all grants recommended to the Oversight Committee have been funded.

“This latest CPRIT decision recognizes UT Southwestern researchers for top-flight investigations in prostate cancer, childhood sarcoma, and stereotactic radiation,” said James Willson, director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern. “It also provides us with two program grants that build on our science to discover novel cancer therapeutics. The latest grants are another bold step forward in attacking the disease, and will accelerate cancer research here.”

Among the grants awarded to UT Southwestern researchers were:

$8.2 million to David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, for development of nuclear receptors and co-regulators as diagnostic and therapeutic targets of breast and lung cancer.

$7.9 million to Michael A. White, professor of cell biology, for innate immunity and cancer.

$6.9 million to Stephen Skapek, professor of pediatrics with an appointment in the Simmons Cancer Center, for molecularly targeted therapy for soft- tissue sarcoma.

$6.3 million for Zhi-Ping Liu, assistant professor of internal medicine and molecular biology, for epigenetic mechanisms and therapeutic strategies for targeting prostate cancer.

$4.1 million to Robert Timmerman, professor of radiation oncology and neurological surgery, for exploiting the radiobiology of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy for lung cancer.

One of the highlights is a collaborative effort among UT Southwestern, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Baylor College of Medicine aimed at identifying and tracking genetic changes, as they occur in real time, in sarcoma patients across Texas.

Additionally, 20 CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research awards – designed to attract leading cancer scientists to Texas – were funded.

Since its creation, CPRIT has awarded $760 million in grants. UT Southwestern has received 91 awards totaling $173.5 million.