Researchers awarded more than $10 million in CPRIT funding

By Jeff Carlton

UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators have received nearly $10.5 million in funding for 10 cancer research and prevention projects in the latest round of Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awards announced in November.

That brings total institutional funding  by CPRIT to nearly $115 million for 71 projects over the past two years.

Dr. James K.V. Willson

Dr. James K.V. Willson, Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the CPRIT money will fund “game-changing research,” including a $4.4 million grant to Dr. Hamid Mirzaei, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, for his research examining the role of proteins in cancer.

Dr. Luis F. Parada, Chairman of Developmental Biology, said he was grateful for a nearly $1.5 million award that will “allow us to proceed at full speed” in developing new approaches for treating brain tumors. Another award for about $1 million went to Dr. Woodring Wright, Professor of Cell Biology, for research into telomerase inhibition cancer therapy, which would target an enzyme necessary for long-term proliferation of tumor cells.

Nearly $1 million was awarded to Dr. Jinming Gao, Professor of Pharmacology and in the Simmons Cancer Center. He is working with Dr. Baran Sumer, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, on a new method of imaging blood-rich tumors in the head and neck region using fluorescent nanoparticles.

The medical center received six additional awards totaling about $3.6 million that went to Dr. Yuh Min Chook, Associate Professor of Pharmacology; Dr. Qiu-Xing Jiang, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology; Dr. Bethany Janowski, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology; Dr. George DeMartino, Professor of Physiology; Dr. Sandra Hofmann, Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics; and Dr. Cheng-Ming Chiang, Professor of Pharmacology and Biochemistry and in the Simmons Cancer Center.

CPRIT was established after voters approved a 2007 constitutional amendment authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. It awarded nearly $118 million in grants on Wednesday to Texas cancer research projects and has awarded more than $550 million in funding over the past two years. 

“CPRIT is a very special program,” Dr. Willson said. “This is the next chapter in a string of awards meant to bolster research and innovation at leading cancer centers across the state. We appreciate the people of Texas for having the vision and compassion to invest in research that has the promise to reduce the burden of cancer for all.”