AUSTIN – The governing board of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, known as CPRIT, said it approved more than $90 million in new cancer research and prevention grants at its quarterly meeting near the Texas Capitol on Wednesday.
What the funding aims to do
CPRIT called the funding move “a major step forward in the fight against cancer,” in its news release, adding that “the slate of 40 projects from across Texas fund a wide range of innovative research and prevention efforts at major research hubs like Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, but also invests in rapidly developing cancer research programs in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.”
“Today’s grants are an illustration of how CPRIT is fulfilling the original promise made to Texans at our founding,” CPRIT CEO Wayne Roberts is quoted as saying in the news release. “From recruitment and prevention grants to boosting the development of cancer research in critical areas of Texas, today’s awards strengthen Texas’ position as a national leader in cancer research.”
Where the money is going
Houston research institutions received 26 grants totaling $39.6 million. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Texas A&M Health Science Center, and the University of Houston all received grants.
The Oversight Committee awarded $18 million in Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer (TREC) awards to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UT RGV) in McAllen, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, and Texas A&M University System Health Science Center in Bryan. CPRIT said it established the TREC award to strengthen cancer research at institutions located far away from the major research hubs in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
A $6 million grant to UT RGV will support the South Texas Center of Excellence in Cancer Research, the first CPRIT-supported cancer research center in the region. The center’s focus is reducing cancer health disparities in the border region, which has the nation’s highest cancer incidence and mortality rate and, consequently, bears a disproportionate share of the cancer burden.
“In supporting the regional expansion of research efforts through our TREC awards CPRIT made a strong statement today that whether the institution is located in Houston or El Paso, Dallas or McAllen, all areas of Texas contribute to making the Lone Star State a national leader in the fight against cancer,” Roberts is quoted as saying.
The board also approved almost $7 million in grants focused primarily on fighting cancer in children and adolescents. Among the grants, CPRIT awarded Dr. Melanie Bernhart and Baylor College of Medicine a $1.4 million grant to improve treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children. Latino children are more likely to be diagnosed with ALL, and unfortunately are also more likely to have severe side effects from the medicines used to treat this cancer. This grant will examine the disparity in these side effects for Latino children with the goal of new treatments to improve survival and increase quality of life.
The Oversight Committee also approved three new recruitment grants totaling approximately $6 million to continue to bring the best and brightest cancer researchers to Texas from around the country.
“The CPRIT Scholars program has awarded $819 million since 2009 to bring 288 stellar cancer investigators to Texas from all over the country – and in the case of today’s award, the globe,” a news release read. “CPRIT awarded a $2 million grant to Houston Methodist Research Institute to bring Dr. Ewan McRae from Cambridge University, England, to Texas. Dr. McRae is an accomplished young scientist focused on RNA biology, a new frontier in cancer research.”
What else happened
The Prevention Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancers also presented their annual report at the meeting.
The CPRIT Oversight Committee also recognized Kassidy Buth, representing Travis County Emergency Service District 12, which created a pink “Fired Up For A Cure” T-shirt to raise money for CPRIT and cancer research.
Want to watch?
Video of the meeting will be available here, CPRIT said.
A little more about CPRIT
If you’re not initiated into what CPRIT is, it’s the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, created by the Texas Legislature and approved by a statewide vote in 2007 to lead the Lone Star State’s fight against cancer.
In 2019, Texas voters again voted to support CPRIT with an additional $3 billion for a total $6 billion investment in cancer research and prevention.
To date, the agency said it has awarded over $3 billion in grants to Texas research institutions and organizations through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. CPRIT said it has also recruited more than 288 distinguished researchers to Texas, supported the establishment, expansion, or relocation of 51 companies to Texas, and supported more than 8.2 million prevention services reaching all 254 counties in Texas.
The Oversight Committee is composed of appointees from the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House, and meets at least once every quarter to set the priorities for the agency as well as vote on proposed, peer-reviewed cancer research and prevention grants to institutions throughout the state.