Mays Cancer Center awards and honors
Mays Cancer Center Annual Report
Summarized below are a handful of the awards and honors received by Mays Cancer Center and its researchers during Fiscal Year 2022.
Cardio-oncology program recognized as a Center of Excellence
The cardio-oncology program at the Mays Cancer Center has been recognized by the International Cardio-Oncology Society (IC-OS) as a Center of Excellence, reflecting its expertise in cardiovascular care of cancer patients and survivors.
“This important recognition milestone represents the rapid coalescence of our diverse but aligned faculty in cardiology, and adult and pediatric oncology,” said Allen Anderson, MD, chief of the cardiology division at UT Health San Antonio.
The program is led by Prince Otchere, MD, director of cardio-oncology at the Mays Cancer Center, and an assistant professor of cardiology at UT Health San Antonio, and Gregory Aune, MD, a pediatric oncologist and researcher with the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute and associate professor at UT Health San Antonio.
“I fight cancer by protecting the heart from the cardiovascular side effects of cancer therapy. I provide hope to my patients — hope that they can overcome cancer and live fulfilling lives while undergoing therapy.”
— Prince Otchere, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Co-Director of Cardio-Oncology
“This honor is an important designation for our program as it recognizes our efforts in providing high-quality patient education and clinical care to patients,” Otchere said.
Cardio-oncology is a quickly developing field focusing on safe treatment of cancer patients who also have cardiovascular conditions. Radiation, chemotherapy and associated treatments can damage the heart and vascular system, with dysfunction occurring during or shortly after treatment, or years later.
UT Health San Antonio designated a rare disease Center of Excellence
Pheo Para Alliance, a patient advocacy organization dedicated to supporting those with pheochromocytoma (pheo) and paraganglioma (para), rare neuroendocrine tumors, has designated UT Health San Antonio and the Mays Cancer Center as a Pheo Para Center of Excellence. The program recognizes institutions worldwide for providing cutting-edge, quality, multidisciplinary care and participating in pheo, para and related research.
The UT Health San Antonio Pheo Para Multidisciplinary Clinic is a collaboration of departments across UT Health San Antonio and clinical partner University Health, which includes University Hospital.
“It is very important to have a team of professionals, as we do, who understand pheo and para, know their complexities and have experience guiding patients and families through the multidisciplinary care that they need,” said cancer biologist Patricia Dahia, MD, PhD, tenured professor at UT Health San Antonio and the clinic’s co-director and research principal investigator.
The clinic team includes expertise in adult and pediatric endocrinology, surgery, genetic counseling, adult and pediatric oncology, nuclear medicine, radiation oncology, interventional radiology, nephrology and pathology. The designation will enable the team to expand therapeutic research studies offered to Hispanics and other patients who are under-represented in most clinical trials, Dahia said. Hispanics are the majority population in San Antonio and are increasing in number throughout Texas and the U.S. Southwest.
Physician-scientist earns grant for first-in-human clinical trials
Daruka Mahadevan, MD, division chief of hematology and medical oncology at the Mays Cancer Center, together with SignalRx Pharmaceuticals Inc., have secured two National Cancer Institute business grants to further develop drugs on a pathway to first-in-human cancer clinical trials.
The internationally recognized physician-scientist and clinical translational researcher said the drugs simultaneously disrupt two or three molecular targets that are involved in the growth, survival and progression of cancer. In contrast, most cancer drugs are developed to disrupt just one cancer target at a time.
The Small Business Technology Transfer grants, which support cooperative research between small businesses and not-for-profit institutions with an eye toward commercialization, total approximately $300,000.
“With these two grants, we can unlock the potential of dual- or triple-targeted anti-cancer drugs that could significantly improve the lives of pediatric and adult cancer patients,” said Mahadevan. He also serves as director of the Institute for Drug Development and associate director for clinical research at the Mays Cancer Center.
“Targeting multiple cancer proteins in a tumor at once using just one small-molecule inhibitor drug, and without harming normal tissue, is an innovative approach to cancer therapeutics,” Mahadevan said. The small-molecule inhibitor drugs will undergo pre-clinical trials for the treatment of lung, pancreatic and breast cancer, and lymphoma.
Health disparities researcher selected to lead cancer research council
Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, Mays Cancer Center associate director of cancer outreach and engagement and an internationally recognized health disparities researcher at UT Health San Antonio, was selected to serve as the 2021-2022 chair of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The council organizes the activities of the more than 21,000 members of WICR by fostering career development, recognizing scientific achievements and advising AACR leadership. Ramirez served a three-year term on the council through December 2022.
For more than 30 years, Ramirez has developed research and communication models to improve health in Hispanics locally and nationally. She serves as professor and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
Ramirez currently directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Salud America!, a national multimedia program to empower its vast network of more than 400,000 community leaders to drive healthy policy and system changes to promote health equity and support for Hispanic families.
Ramirez also conducts breast cancer disparities research on quality-of-life and survivorship issues, and she leads the South Texas site of the National Cancer Institute-funded Avanzando Caminos study enrolling 1,500 Hispanic cancer survivors from South Texas to help investigate the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological and medical influences on post-cancer life.