Stories and More

CPRIT awards grants for cancer research, product development, and prevention to expedite innovation and product development in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

Below are some examples of successes made possible by CPRIT.

Gaining Momentum in the fight against Childhood Cancer

In its November 2016 round of approvals, CPRIT awarded seven childhood cancer grants totaling $8,035,738. Three research projects at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center create a unique opportunity for scientific collaboration. Dr. Kalkunte Srivenugopal will use a $1.2 million grant to study childhood brain cancer. Dr. Min Kang will put a $1.1 million grant to work by focusing on neuroblastoma – a type of cancer that starts in early forms of nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus – and on the same subject, Dr. Charles Reynolds will be utilizing a $1 million grant.


Addressing the Challenges of Childhood Cancer

In addition to the issue of funding, the number of pediatric cancer researchers is relatively small compared to its adult cancer counterpart. Not only that, the number of pediatric patients is also smaller compared to the number of adult cancer patients.


Supporting World-Class Pediatric Cancer Experts

We’re convinced that by bringing together the best and brightest investigators and clinicians, Texas can take the lead in answering the cancer question for kids. In fact, CPRIT scholar recruitment dollars along with research funding have several world-class pediatric cancer experts doing their work in the state.


Childhood Cancer: A CPRIT Priority

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month so this is an opportune time to ask a difficult question - why do kids get cancer?

“Honestly, for most we don’t exactly know,” says CPRIT Chief Science Officer, Dr. Jim Willson.

Genetics is one area of investigation; some children inherit DNA mutations from a parent that increase their risk of certain types of cancer, syndromes and other health or developmental problems. The reasons for DNA changes that cause most childhood cancers, however, are not well understood. Environmental factors including exposures and lifestyle behaviors may also be cancer-causing factors, however, their role in childhood cancers is still not clear.


On the Immunotherapy Frontier

How did Dr. Jim Allison, renowned researcher, member of the Parker Institute for Immunotherapy and winner of the 2015 Lasker Award wind up as the Chairman of Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center?

The answer is CPRIT.

In November 2011, Dr. Allison was recruited back home to Texas with the help of a CPRIT grant of $10 million. A native of Alice, Texas and the son of a country doctor, Allison returned to Texas from Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York to advance his groundbreaking research into checkpoint inhibitors, and translate that into drugs made of antibodies capable of unleashing a body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.


Promising New Chemotherapy

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin discovered that an inexpensive antifungal drug, thiabendazole, slows tumor growth and shows promise as a chemotherapy for cancer. Thiabendazole is an FDA-approved, generic drug taken orally that has been in clinical use for 40 years to fight fungal infections. The researchers found that the drug destroys new blood vessels. This is important because interfering with the growth of blood vessels can starve tumors of their blood supply. The next step is to move this drug into clinical trials.

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Hope for Hard to Treat Breast Cancer

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified a protein that aids in forming cancer stem cells. There are fewer cancer stem cells than other tumor cells but research has shown cancer stem cells are more resistant to treatment and more capable of growing and spreading. The discovery of this protein provides a new target for drug development. In addition, the researchers found that the cancer drug, sunitinib, stifles the growth of cancer stem cells and that sunitinib may have another use in treating a particularly resistant version of triple-negative breast cancer that is difficult to treat. Although additional studies are needed, this finding provides more immediate potential for a new treatment.

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Translating Discoveries to Patients

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have developed an approach to treat patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a malignant form of brain cancer, by directing the patients’ immune system to destroy the tumor. In this approach, T cells – a type of white blood cell with the capacity to kill cancer cells – are taken from patients’ blood and engineered to target the tumor before being reinjected into patients. Using this technology, T cells can be induced to migrate to tumor sites, expand, persist, and destroy tumor cells.

Improving Cancer Treatment

Apollo Endosurgery secured FDA approval for a flexible surgical device that creates space inside the GI tract wall, allowing for endoscopic treatment of cancerous lesions of varying stages and sizes in the colon, esophagus and stomach.  Because of this innovative device, patients no longer have to undergo more invasive surgery that could lead to lifelong digestive complications.

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New Prognostic Marker for Survival

Scientists at MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified a protein with the potential to block the spread of breast cancer cells, the most lethal aspect of the disease. This research on leukemia inhibitory factor receptor (LIFR) is significant because few genes that act to suppress the spread of breast cancer have been identified. This research is expected to lead to understanding how LIFR functions.

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Texas Agrilife Extension Services: Friend to Friend Program in Starr County

Agents representing the Texas Agrilife Extension Service (TAES) routinely go above and beyond the call of duty. Recently, the TAES agent, office staff and volunteers in Starr County, a community along the Texas-Mexico border, were struck by the deep impact of cancer on the community, noting the limited access to education, awareness and screening services. Spurred by the success of a "Friend to Friend" breast and cervical cancer awareness session, the agent wrote to her office staff, "We need 20 of these [events] per year." In follow up, the agent, her staff, volunteers and sponsors from a number of area businesses organized appointments for area women at clinics in neighboring communities, found a transportation service and even paid to transport the women to screening clinics in other counties.

The Bridge Breast Network

The Bridge Breast Network is an exceptional ally for Texans in the fight against cancer. Over the last 18 years, the network has provided access to and information about local breast health services to thousands of low-income, uninsured and under-insured Texans. During that time, the coordinated effort of over 200 medical providers and community-based organizations has not gone unnoticed. Program participants have remarked to Judy Quan, a Nurse Navigator at Hunt Regional Medical Center, that they didn't think anyone cared enough to provide breast cancer support in their area.


UNT: Dallas County Breast Cancer Education Prevention Program

It was a moment that physicians and researchers at the Dallas County Breast Cancer Education Prevention Program anticipated yet dreaded: An area woman, who had been convinced by the program's education and awareness sessions to receive her first mammogram in over two years, was diagnosed with breast cancer. UNT staff members were as prepared as they could be and sprung into action. Workers were available around the clock to answer the patient's questions, offer advice and provide her transportation during and after her diagnosis. The patient's words perfectly illustrate the importance of programs like this:

"If it had not been for the Breast Cancer Education Prevention Program, I would not have gone to my follow-up appointment. This is an emotional event and, when I asked, 'Why me?' the team reassured me that everything was going to be okay and I was going to get through this. I'm grateful that this team was here for my family and me."

Asian American Health Coalition Promotes Cancer Awareness

A 44-year old Vietnamese man with low income and no healthcare felt lost in Houston's 200,000-strong Asian American population. Like many in this demographic, financial and cultural limitations left him with limited access to cancer education and prevention programs. Through a friend, he learned about the Asian American Health Coalition and attended one of its HOPE Clinics, which incorporate a variety of activities to promote cancer awareness in the Asian American community. It was at this clinic where the man revealed that because of financial constraints he had never been to a doctor. Struck by the cancer-prevention and general health options made available to him through the HOPE Clinic, he seized the opportunity and registered for a multitude of cancer and chronic disease screenings. A perfect example of a project living up to its name.


Salud San Antonio! Helps Latinas With Cancer Prevention

San Antonio's Latina population certainly feels the effects of cancer, as studies show Latinas often detect breast and cervical cancers at an advanced stage. Often facing low income and little education on how to fight cancer, they don't have many places to turn for support. Fortunately, Salud San Antonio!, a program led by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center, seeks them out every day. One of these women, who attended a cancer prevention community event, shared that she had been diagnosed with precancerous cells in her cervix but could not afford to pursue treatment. With the assistance of Salud, the woman discovered that her healthcare costs were covered through Medicaid, and she has since received screening services that will lead to further diagnostic testing down the road. One woman at a time, Salud San Antonio! is creating a healthier San Antonio.


UT Southwestern Breast Screening and Patient Navigation

The audience at Wise County Community Clinic had no clue what they were in for on May 31, 2012. UT Southwestern's Breast Screening and Patient Navigation program (BSPAN) had scheduled two speakers for a session on cancer prevention who, incidentally, had never met: Nikia Hammonds-Blakely, a breast cancer survivor, and Sara Pirzadeh, a genetics counselor. As Nikia told her story of being diagnosed at the age of 16, with a recurrence at 34, Sara immediately recognized the signs of a genetic case of breast cancer and began an impromptu consultation, probing Nikia for more information. When it was Sara's turn to present, Nikia chimed in on how Sara's points related to her own journey. Their collaboration throughout each presentation made for a much richer, more informative program. In addition, Nikia now has an appointment with Sara for genetic cancer screenings that were not available when she was originally diagnosed. Serendipity!