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Simmons Cancer Center awarded nearly $19 million in CPRIT funding

UTSW grants from Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to advance knowledge, diagnosis, treatment options

Deep distilling
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded nearly $13 million in grants to scientists and physicians at UT Southwestern this year for academic research and prevention efforts, plus $6 million for recruitment.

DALLAS – March 04, 2024 – Nine scientists and physicians in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center have been awarded nearly $13 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to support research and prevention efforts on a wide range of cancer issues.

“This latest round of CPRIT funding will lead the way to discoveries that advance our understanding of cancer and to better care for cancer patients in Texas and beyond,” said Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., Professor and Director of the Simmons Cancer Center and Associate Dean of Oncology Programs at UT Southwestern.

These annual grants bring the total that UT Southwestern has been awarded from CPRIT for academic research and prevention to more than $362 million since 2010.

UT Southwestern also was awarded two recruitment grants totaling $6 million this year to attract two high-profile cancer researchers to Texas.

John Abrams, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology, was awarded $1,039,356 to test whether the loss of a tumor suppressor gene known as p53 drives cancers by reactivating mobile elements called retrotransposons. The research would also examine a conditional cancer-prone platform to define the mechanism by which p53 silences the mobile elements.

Keith E. Argenbright, M.D., Director of UTSW’s Moncrief Cancer Institute in Fort Worth and Professor of Family and Community Medicine and in the Peter O’Donnell Jr. School of Public Health, was awarded $2,487,342 to increase access to a large-scale colorectal cancer (CRC) screening program for rural and medically underserved populations across 67 counties, reduce existing disparities, and improve CRC-related health outcomes in these communities through public education, outreach, and navigation for follow-up services.

Jef De Brabander, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, was awarded $1,049,754 to test a novel molecule known as MM017 that shares characteristics with a drug currently used in colorectal cancer treatment called oxaliplatin. The drug works by blocking ribosome biogenesis. The research would investigate more specific and targeted inhibitors of ribosome biogenesis that might be better tolerated among patients with colorectal cancer.

Raquibul Hannan, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Radiation Oncology as well as Immunology and Urology and Chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology Service, and his team of investigators from the Kidney Cancer Program were awarded $1,999,993 to conduct a clinical trial, which is also supported by the Kidney Cancer SPORE grant, to evaluate the impact of stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy combined with a novel drug called IMSA101 to harness the immune system in patients with metastatic kidney cancer.

Gerta Hoxhaj, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern as well as Biochemistry and Pediatrics, was awarded $1,050,000 to advance the understanding of the metabolic functions of NADK2, an enzyme amplified in lung cancer cells. Research has already shown that without NADK2, lung cancer cells cannot produce an amino acid called proline needed for them to grow. The next step is to determine whether targeting NADK2 could be an effective way to treat lung cancer.

Lee Kraus, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pharmacology, and Assistant Dean for Research Development, was awarded $1,049,743 to study the molecular underpinnings of ovarian cancer. The proposal aims to discover new insights for the use of PARP-16 inhibitors in cancers with enhanced PARP-16 activity.

Shuang Liang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Immunology, was awarded $1,049,997 to study molecular mechanisms to advance the understanding of how obesity promotes chronic liver inflammation, which is strongly associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. The answers could guide the development of new preventive strategies and early detection methods to alleviate the burden of liver cancer in people who are obese.

Asal Rahimi, M.D., Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Associate Vice Chair for Program Development, Medical Director of the Simmons Cancer Center Clinical Research Office, and Chief of Breast Radiation Oncology Service, was awarded $1,999,963 to conduct a clinical trial using a preoperative ablative radiation approach for patients with early-stage breast cancer that could potentially eliminate surgery. The research will include preoperative stereotactic ablative radiation therapy followed by evaluations using a microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound and optoacoustic ultrasound imaging.

Qing Zhang, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, was awarded $1,049,997 to study a pathway called JMJD6-DGAT1 that may contribute to tumor formation in clear cell renal cell carcinoma and investigate a specific DGAT1 inhibitor as a way to slow tumor growth and eliminate metastasis.

Dr. Arteaga holds the Annette Simmons Distinguished University Chair in Breast Cancer Research. Dr. Kraus holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Reproductive Biology Sciences.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center 

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty members have received six Nobel Prizes and include 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 3,100 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 more than 80 specialties to more than 120,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 5 million outpatient visits a year.