Research at Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is a “matrix” cancer center, which fosters routine interaction across scientific disciplines. This ensures research discoveries are broadly leveraged to promote new progress in the fight against cancer.
These transdisciplinary interactions, along with overall depth and breadth of research, are key attributes underlying Simmons’ designation by the National Cancer Institute as one of a select group of “Comprehensive” U.S. cancer centers.
The Simmons Cancer Center has more than 170 members. Member scientists include one Nobel laureate, 10 members of the National Academy of Sciences, five members of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), and eight Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators. Ten UT Southwestern researchers, including six Cancer Center members, were listed in 2014 by Thomson Reuters as among the world’s Most Influential Scientific Minds, based upon their ranking among the top 1 percent of scientists most cited in their subject field.
The Cancer Center benefits from a broad base of institutional, philanthropic, community, and governmental support. A unique state agency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, since 2010 has fueled vigorous scientific efforts against cancer across the state. To date, funding from the institute to UT Southwestern researchers has surpassed $250 million.
Scientific Programs and Resources
Five scientific programs are at the heart of the Cancer Center’s research endeavors:
- Chemistry and Cancer. The Chemistry and Cancer Program focuses on discovering drug-like chemicals that can impact processes that drive or inhibit cancer growth.
- Development and Cancer. In the Development and Cancer Program, researchers in developmental biology, cancer biology, and stem cell biology shed light on how developmental processes contribute to cancer’s progress.
- Cancer Cell Networks. Investigators in the Cancer Cell Networks Program are deciphering mechanisms in cell regulatory networks that go awry and contribute to cancer initiation and growth.
- The Experimental Therapeutics of Cancer Program provides a scientific framework for translating Cancer Center discoveries into therapeutic strategies, and for leveraging clinical data to form new hypotheses that inform basic cancer research.
- Population Science and Cancer Control. Researchers in the Population Science and Cancer Control Program are developing innovative strategies to improve cancer prevention and screening/early detection strategies, especially in populations that lack easy access to health care.
Shared Resources available to Cancer Center investigators include Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, High-Throughput Screening, Live Cell Imaging, Small Animal Imaging, and Tissue Management core facilities, as well as a range of other, University-wide support cores.
Simmons investigators are blazing new trails in numerous areas of cancer research, such as:
- The molecular biology of lung cancer
- Angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels that fuel tumors)
- Cancer metabolism
- Hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell
- DNA repair mechanisms
- Nuclear hormone receptors
- Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy
- Colon cancer screening
- The genetics of renal cell carcinoma and Wilms tumor
- Inhibition of activity of the mutated gene K-ras
- Noninvasive detection of gliomas
- The origin of plexiform neurofibromas
- A potential target, and novel potential drugs, for prostate cancer
- Liver cancer surveillance
The Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center has a centralized clinical research infrastructure, including a Phase I Clinical Trials Unit. The Phase I Unit facilitates the many steps between discovery and a drug trial, including animal studies, medicinal chemistry and drug scale-up, protocol development, identification of target patient populations, and collaboration with industry.