The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded UT Southwestern researchers more than $34 million for cancer research and faculty recruitment, including support for programs in pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma.
UTSW received $20 million for recruitment, $6 million of which was used to recruit and support the research of breast cancer specialist Dr. Carlos L. Arteaga, who joined UT Southwestern on Sept.1 as the new Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The grants also include $3.94 million for UT Southwestern-led research projects.
"These CPRIT awards will support translational and clinical research initiatives at UT Southwestern that hold great potential to improve cancer treatments, " said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern, who holds the Philip O'Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.
CPRIT funding helped to recruit Dr. Arteaga to UT Southwestern as the second Director of the Simmons Cancer Center. Dr. Arteaga, formerly at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, is internationally recognized for his work in laboratory-based translational research and for advancing the care of breast cancer patients.
"My vision is for UT Southwestern to become one of the top institutions in the nation for conducting translational cancer medicine," said Dr. Arteaga, who aims to greatly expand the number of National Institutes of Health-sponsored and other clinical trials for cancer patients at UT Southwestern.
UT Southwestern's total CPRIT award of $34,265,689 also includes the following grants for research and facilities:
Core Facility Support Awards
Dr. Xiankai Sun, Associate Professor of Radiology and with the Advanced Imaging Research Center, who holds the Dr. Jack Krohmer Professorship in Radiation Physics
- Support for a cyclotron and radiochemistry facility for pediatric oncology to facilitate increased use of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, currently underutilized in childhood cancers – $5,648,027
Dr. Daniela Nicastro, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Biophysics
- Support for the cryo-electron microscopy facility, which uses advanced microscopy tools to determine protein structures in detail. The award will support operations; purchase of new equipment to increase efficiency of cryo-sample preparation and optimization; and more – $5,498,714
Individual Investigator Awards
Dr. Kenneth Westover, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and Biochemistry
- Research to discover small-molecule inhibitors to inactivate a mutant form of the KRAS gene, which is commonly found in lung cancer and was one of the first-identified genetic drivers of cancer – $823,500
Dr. John Abrams, Professor of Cell Biology
- Investigation of how a mutation of the p53 gene acts as a driver of cancer – $816,171
- Studying the function of a regulator of the molecule NF-kB, which is associated with inflammation and a variety of cancers including breast, colon, lung, and lymphoma – $679,458
High-Impact, High-Risk Awards
Dr. Vincent Tagliabracci, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, who is a Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Medical Research
- Research into how secreted kinases affect cancer cell growth and metastasis through the regulation of extracellular signaling – $200,000
Dr. Benjamin Tu, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, who holds the Martha Steiner Professorship in Medical Research
Dr. Yingfei Wang, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics
- Exploring the role of PAAN, a newly identified nuclease, in the development and treatment of triple-negative breast cancer – $200,000
Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, who holds the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at Children's Research Institute at UT Southwestern and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics
- Studying whether an ion transporter promotes melanoma growth, and if so, if it could represent a new therapeutic target for melanoma – $199,828
Other CPRIT funding included $2 million each to recruit the following first-time, tenure-track faculty members: Dr. Jeffrey Woodruff, coming from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics to join the Department of Cell Biology; Dr. Dustin Hancks, coming from University of Utah, School of Medicine, to join the Department of Immunology; Dr. Todd Aguilera, coming from Stanford University to join Radiation Oncology; Dr. Jun Wu, from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Dr. Ping Mu, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, both joining the Department of Molecular Biology; and Dr. Daehwan Kim, from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Dr. Bo Li, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health, both joining the Department of Bioinformatics.
The recent round of CPRIT awards comprised 60 grants, with $59 million in grants going to University of Texas institutions and an overall total of $102 million in grants. CPRIT was established in 2009, and since that time the organization has awarded $1.89 billion to Texas institutions to help in the fight against cancer.