CPRIT awards $10.9 million to Greehey institute for cancer research

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The Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at the Health Science Center garnered $10.9 million from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)―a larger amount than any other academic institution in the state.

The Health Science Center received 24 percent of the $45.3 million awarded to 13 academic institutions on May 18. The grant was the largest ever made by CPRIT to the university.

“This round of funding will help us focus on cancer in children and young adults, especially in our Hispanic population of South Texas. This group is underrepresented in research and, because of this, often has poorer outcomes from standardized cancer treatment,” said Peter Houghton, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and director of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute.

The funding includes:

• $5 million to develop animal models that can be used to test new therapies in children whose cancer has relapsed or who are from minority groups that typically have not responded well to current treatments. This funding was awarded to Dr. Houghton for the Health Science Center’s Texas Pediatric Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) Facility. “With this grant, we will establish a coordinated effort between the UT Health Science Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center to develop and characterize new PDX models from children, focusing on Hispanic and underserved groups in Texas. These models will be characterized using state-of-the-art molecular approaches, and they will be made available freely to pediatric cancer researchers in Texas and more broadly,” said Dr. Houghton, who holds the Greehey Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Hematological Malignancies and the Greehey Distinguished Chair for the Children’s Cancer Research Institute Director.

• $3.6 million to update and expand upon existing infrastructure to establish a Cancer Genome Sequencing and Computational Core available to the South Texas research community through the Health Science Center. The grant was awarded to Yidong Chen, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, director of the Division of Computational Biology & Bioinformatics at the Greehey CCRI and co-director of the CTRC Next-Generation Sequencing Shared Resource.

• $2 million for the recruitment of Myron Ignatius, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ignatius has developed a genetic model of a type of soft tissue cancer called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma that generally occurs in children.

• $200,000 to develop a strategy to target EWS-FLl-1, a fusion oncoprotein that causes Ewing sarcoma, a bone and soft tissue cancer in children. The grant was awarded to Yuzuru Shiio, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry.

“We are pleased to have received this significant amount of funding that will promote higher-level, cutting-edge projects to be conducted by scientists at the UT Health Science Center and research institutions throughout South Texas,” said Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., Cancer Therapy & Research Center director and professor of urology at the UT Health Science Center.

To date, the UT Health Science Center has received $65,612,142 in CPRIT funding since the program began.

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