$18.4 million in state funding to enhance Simmons Cancer Center research

Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

DALLAS – March 13, 2019 – The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded UT Southwestern Medical Center more than $18.4 million for cancer research and faculty recruitment.

The state funding will advance scientific understanding of breast, lung, prostate, and other types of cancer.

“We are enormously grateful for the support from CPRIT, which is essential for our mission to prevent cancer and treat patients with cancer in our catchment area in North Texas, as well as recruit some of the best talent in the country to UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Carlos L. Arteaga, Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and holder of The Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology.

UT Southwestern will use $8 million to recruit new faculty, while $10 million will help UTSW researchers study cancer on the cellular, molecular, and genetic levels.

The amounts and focuses of the new CPRIT grants include:

  • $1.2 million to help Dr. Jacques Lux develop nanoparticles that encapsulate asparaginase, an enzyme that degrades asparagine, causing leukemia cancer cells to die without harming normal cells. His work is critical because although asparaginase is nearly universally used in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, it is highly allergenic in 30 percent of children. If successful, this new platform would prolong the functional life of the enzyme in the bloodstream while effectively hiding it from the child’s immune system to prevent allergic reactions. Dr. Lux is an Assistant Professor of Radiology.
  • $1,189,577 million to assist Dr. Ananth Madhuranthakam with clinical translation and evaluation of a novel whole-body imaging technique developed for improved detection and response assessment in multiple myeloma patients. If successful, this approach will provide timely management of cancer that can occur anywhere in the body and cause painful bone lesions. The new technique will also eliminate patients’ exposure to radiation and significantly reduce scan times. Dr. Madhuranthakam is an Assistant Professor of Radiology and in the Advanced Imaging Research Center.
  • $900,000 to help Dr. Hesham Sadek and Dr. Asaithamby Aroumougame study chest radiation and chemotherapy’s harmful effects on the heart. These treatments in young cancer patients substantially increase the risk of developing heart failure. Heart cells divide more slowly than other cells so the effects of cancer treatments on the heart are not well understood. Dr. Sadek, an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Biology, holds the J. Fred Schoellkopf, Jr. Chair in Cardiology. Dr. Aroumougame is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology.
  • $900,000 to help Dr. Jian Xu understand how acquired mutations in noncoding DNA sequences, which control when genes are turned on and off, can lead to acute myeloid leukemia. This research is a necessary step to uncover how leukemia develops and to find new treatments. Dr. Xu is an Assistant Professor at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern and of Pediatrics.
  • $900,000 to help Dr. Ram Mani’s lab construct three-dimensional maps of a protein that mediates looping interactions that genes use to interact with regulatory DNA elements. These looping interactions are often hijacked by cancer. Dr. Mani will study this process in prostate cancer. He is an Assistant Professor of Pathology and Urology.
  • $899,747 to help Dr. W. Lee Kraus tackle a new and uncharacterized class of RNA molecules that appears to play a role in the development of breast cancer. These molecules code for a short polypeptide involved in every important step in breast cancer: proliferation, tumor formation, migration, invasion and metastasis.
  • An additional $899,397 for Dr. Kraus’ lab to study the interplay between the estrogen receptor, a protein involved in the hormone-dependent growth of many breast cancers, and PARP-1, a protein that serves as the target of novel PARP inhibitor drugs recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. His lab will focus on the molecular mechanisms through which these two proteins control gene expression. Dr. Kraus, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pharmacology, holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Reproductive Biology Sciences.
  • $896,892 to help Dr. Gary Hon’s lab perform analyses on the cellular and molecular functions of changes in DNA sequences related to breast cancer. The study will look at enhancers, genes, and pathways contributing to breast cancer, and it could lead to earlier breast cancer detection. Dr. Hon is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Bioinformatics.
  • $881,433 to assist Dr. Diego Castrillon’s study of the most aggressive form of endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer. He will focus on a change in a gene that leads to the formation of cancer of the uterus. Dr. Castrillon, a Professor of Pathology, holds the Vernie A. Stembridge, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Pathology.
  • $885,185 to help Dr. Guanghua Xiao develop artificial intelligence models to correlate tumor tissue images from lung cancer patients with molecular profiling data. This approach will give doctors a much sharper picture of the patient’s cancer and a computer model that they can use to test therapies. Dr. Xiao is an Associate Professor of Population and Data Sciences and Bioinformatics.
  • $864,000 to help Dr. Cheng-Ming Chiang’s lab investigate the role of a new class of compounds targeting breast cancer-associated gene expression and their selectivity between cancer and normal cells. Dr. Chiang is a Professor in the Simmons Cancer Center and of Pharmacology.

About the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Texas, includes 12 major cancer care programs with a focus on treating the whole patient with innovative therapies, while fostering groundbreaking basic and translational research that can improve patient care and prevent cancer worldwide. In addition, the Center’s education and training programs support and develop the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians. The Simmons Cancer Center is among only 30 U.S. cancer research centers to be named a National Clinical Trials Network Lead Academic Participating Site, a prestigious designation by the NCI, and the only cancer center in North Texas to be so designated. The designation and associated funding is designed to bolster the cancer center’s clinical cancer research for adults and to provide patients access to cancer research trials sponsored by the NCI, where promising new drugs often are tested.

About Children’s Medical Center Research Institute

Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is a joint venture of UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the flagship hospital of Children’s Health. CRI’s mission is to perform transformative biomedical research to better understand the biological basis of disease. Located in Dallas, Texas, CRI is home to interdisciplinary groups of scientists and physicians pursuing research at the interface of regenerative medicine, cancer biology, and metabolism. For more information, visit: cri.utsw.edu. To support CRI, visit: cri.utsw.edu/support/.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,500 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 3 million outpatient visits a year.