Fighting back against cancer
The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas awarded more than $2.7 million to fund four projects promoting the fight against cancer at UT Health San Antonio.
Tobacco cessation programs
A $1.3 million grant will enhance tobacco screening and treatment for two groups of patients—those who receive their primary care through the UT Health Physicians medical practice and those who receive their oncology care through
the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“In addition to providing tobacco cessation services to thousands of patients in these two settings, we will establish a model for innovation in tobacco control delivery that can be readily adopted by other provider systems across Texas,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
During patient visits, provider teams will prompt and guide patients who use tobacco to enroll via their smartphones in SMS text messaging or social media direct messaging services.
Preventing HPV-related cancers
In an effort to prevent HPV-related cancers in pediatric cancer survivors, a $1 million, three-year grant was awarded to pediatric oncologist Allison Grimes, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and investigator with the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at UT Health San Antonio.
HPV contributes to more than 30,000 new cancers in the U.S. every year, yet only 43 percent of young females and 32 percent of young males are being vaccinated.
“Childhood cancer survivors represent a particularly high-risk population,” Dr. Grimes said. “Compared to the U.S. general population, pediatric cancer survivors experience significantly higher rates of HPV-related malignancies—40 percent more in females and 150 percent more in males. Despite these increased risks, young survivors have very low HPV vaccination rates. Our project will address this issue across a wide area of the state.”
In South Texas, the majority of children with cancer receive their treatment as part of the South Texas Pediatric Minority Underserved National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program. This network operates as a consortium of five regional pediatric institutions: UT Health San Antonio with clinical partner University Hospital, Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso.
The area for this network encompasses 113 counties and has a population approaching 10 million. The goal is to increase HPV vaccination rates within the network.
Innovative bench research awards
A $200,000 award will support research by Edward P. Hasty, D.V.M., professor of molecular medicine. The BCR-ABL protein, which is generated from the improper fusion of two genes, has unregulated activity that can increase genomic mutations and the risk of cancers including leukemia.
Dr. Hasty will use a new class of drugs developed in his laboratory to fight resistance that arises to drugs that treat cancers expressing BCR-ABL.
CPRIT also awarded $200,000 to a separate UT Health San Antonio research project that targets this protein. Hai Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular medicine, seeks to develop small molecules that would rapidly destroy BCR-ABL.
“The study would lead to new anti-BCR-ABL drugs for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia patients,” Dr. Rao said.