CPRIT awards $4.7 million to Health Science Center

SAN ANTONIO (January 18, 2012) – Two University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio researchers today were awarded a total of $4.7 million by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

These awards for cancer prevention, along with $2.9 million to University Health System, make San Antonio the largest recipient of funds in this CPRIT funding cycle – 28 percent of the $26.3 million awarded.

Cynthia Mojica, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center, will use a $2 million award to partner with federally qualified health center CentroMed and community organizations to offer breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening to San Antonio residents otherwise unable to afford them.

“This grant allows us to greatly expand what we’ve been doing in terms of giving people in underserved populations the opportunity to be screened,” Dr. Mojica said.

A $2.7 million grant to Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., interim director of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute (GCCRI), allows her team to help health-care providers map out their patients’ cancer risks and to share information with the community about the importance of understanding family history. They will work with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and other groups. The grant will also support screening services for people at high risk who might not otherwise have access.

“A family history can yield strong clues to understanding a person’s risk for cancer,” Dr. Tomlinson said.

The awards reflect the kind of work that goes on at the Health Science Center, said William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of the Health Science Center.

“Extending better cancer screening opportunities and the latest expertise in genetic counseling to the people at greatest risk here in South Texas is the perfect expression of our mission at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio,” Dr. Henrich said. “Our researchers, working through the Cancer Therapy & Research Center here, are examples of the brightest minds in medicine making lives better. I am so proud that their work is recognized and supported by CPRIT.”

Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

“CPRIT is an incredible opportunity for all the people of Texas to benefit from,” said Mark E. Watson Jr., a member of CPRIT’s board of governors. “We have some outstanding scientists here, and also outstanding scientists outside of Texas that, with CPRIT’s support, we can attract here.”

The kind of education and prevention that these grants fund directly benefit Texans, Watson said.

“A large percentage of people in San Antonio and South Texas are very reticent to go to the doctor,” he said. “We need to reach out and help people understand how important this is. If we can catch cancer early, we can work miracles.”

CTRC director Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., noted that this is not the first time CPRIT has supported both researchers.

“Prevention is one of the most important ways to fight cancer,” said Dr. Thompson, professor of urology in the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center. “Dr. Tomlinson’s genetic research will give us the capability to bring a person’s potential cancer risk into sharper focus, helping them make decisions in advance to prevent the disease. Dr. Mojica’s community outreach will give our friends and neighbors the opportunity to be screened for cancers for which early diagnosis can mean a cancer cure. I am delighted that CPRIT continues to help them both help San Antonio and Texas.”

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

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