Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researchers in the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine have received $13,107,956 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for six new grants focused on evidence-based cancer prevention services, the recruitment of an established investigator, individual investigator and early translational research and core facility support.

CPRIT launched in 2009 following a constitutional amendment to commit $3 billion in the fight against cancer over 10 years. This year, CPRIT has awarded 60 new grants to support academic research, prevention, product development research and the recruitment of outstanding cancer scientists to academic institutions in Texas.

“We are thrilled to have the support of CPRIT again this year, and these new grants are supporting a range of key initiatives in cancer research here at Baylor,” said Dr. Adam Kuspa, senior vice president and dean of research at Baylor. “This funding will allow us to grow our expert faculty with the recruitment of Dr. Chris Amos, will support crucial prevention efforts and drive innovative research in targeted cancer therapies.”

To aid in the recruitment of an established investigator to Baylor, Dr. Christopher Amos was awarded $6,000,000. Amos, a bioinformatician and expert in the genetic epidemiology of lung cancer, will serve as director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and the associate director for quantitative sciences in the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Maria Jibaja-Weiss, director of the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities, received $1,347,590 in the evidence-based cancer prevention services program to expand a community network for cancer prevention to improve cervical and colorectal screenings and follow-ups among an urban, medically underserved population. This project builds on previous CPRIT funding, continuing the outstanding progress made by the Office in early detection of these cancers in Houston’s underserved populations.

Dr. Michael Lewis, professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, was also awarded a $3,822,860 core facility support grant to support the Patient-Derived Xenograft and Advanced in Vivo Models (PDX-AIM) Core Facility.

In a grant from core facility support awards, Dr. Carl Allen, assistant professor of pediatrics in the section of oncology, was awarded $200,000 for his work with the Individualized Pediatric Tumor Analysis Center of Texas (INPACT).

“In the past, core facility grants have been key to the development of new cancer research programs at Baylor, and CPRIT funding allows us to focus on a range of cancers, both adult and pediatric,” said Dr. Kent Osborne, director and professor of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “In particular, the CPRIT grants supporting our core facilities will drive the collection of live tumor cells from pediatric cancers for laboratory studies in order to improve the personalized treatment of children with cancer, and the development of adult laboratory models of cancer for more accurate testing of new cancer treatments.”

Receiving an early translational research award, Dr. Bert O’Malley, chair and professor of molecular and cellular biology, will use the $914,006 award to aid in the development of next generation steroid receptor coactivator small molecule inhibitors as novel agents to target therapy-resistant breast cancer.

Dr. Jeffrey Rosen, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor and leader of the breast cancer program within the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, received an individual investigator award for $823,500 for his work in targeting therapy resistance using epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) pathways in preclinical claudin low breast cancer models.

In addition to these six grants, Baylor faculty are involved in an additional two CPRIT-funded projects, including high impact high risk and product development.

Dr. Michael Mancini, professor of molecular and cellular biology, is the principal investigator for the GCC Center for Advanced Microscopy and Image Informatics, a joint center grant with Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. As a joint center project, half of the funded amount will be directed to Baylor.

Finally, Dr. Ann Leen, associate professor of pediatrics in the section of hematology and oncology and gene therapy, is primary investigator of the grant application and chief scientific officer, which has received $8,998,067 to support the development of its product to improve the outcome of stem cell transplants for cancer treatment using multi-virus specific T cells. This grant is awarded on behalf of the ViraCyte.

“Funding from CPRIT continues to be very important for current and future patients with cancer in Texas and elsewhere by expanding our knowledge of the behavior of various cancers and then translating that information  to better screening, prevention, diagnosis and treatment in the clinic,” said Osborne.

See the full list of CPRIT grants.