Mega Doctor News
By Saira Cabrera
EDINBURG, Texas – UTRGV and the prestigious Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) gathered in McAllen on Friday with community leaders and key legislators to celebrate a five-year, $6 million award from CPRIT to the university’s South Texas Center of Excellence in Cancer Research.
The ST-CECR grant is the first of its kind and amount for the academic medical institution and the border community, and is part of CPRIT’s Texas Regional Excellence and Cancer Award (TREC) geared to support centers that are not National Cancer Institute-designated and outside the range of proximity of a larger cancer center, such as those in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
“This grant fits exactly what we’re doing here,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said at a press conference at the university’s offices at Rio Bank in McAllen. “It’s so hard without resources and startup funds to develop the kinds of cancer research needed here in the Valley. But now, through this award, we can continue our fight against cancer, specifically those most prevalent in our region.”
The purpose of the grant is to help continue research and discoveries at the ST-CECR and contribute to transforming the health of the Valley and beyond.
Dr. Michael B. Hocker, senior vice president for UT Health RGV and dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine, said the grant will have a direct impact on what is getting done at the UTRGV School of Medicine and will accelerate life-changing research to transform the health of the region, one of the school’s primary missions.
“The Valley has some of the nation’s highest cancer and mortality rates in the country, especially in Texas,” Hocker said. “UTRGV’s efforts are vital to South Texas, and beyond.
“This historic funding is a major step forward in our fight against cancer,” Hocker said. “Our patients and their families deserve world-class care. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, they shouldn’t have to leave their homes and families to find the care they need and deserve.”
The CPRIT grant will increase the school’s impact on biomedical and clinical research, he said, and will facilitate synergies in research that further the focus on health and disease in underrepresented populations.
CHAUHAN: ADDRESSING CANCER DISPARITIES
The CPRIT award will support the UTRGV Surgery and Cancer Center’s operations and accelerate cancer research at the university and across South Texas. It also will support liver cancer research projects and other cancers prevalent in the region, including cervical and colorectal cancer.
Dr. Subhash Chauhan – founding director of the ST-CECR, principal investigator of the CPRIT award, and professor of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the UTRGV School of Medicine – said he is excited about what the award will mean in terms of support in the Valley.
“This TREC funding is exceptional and a great recognition for our UTRGV School of Medicine and our efforts against cancer,” Chauhan said. “This means a lot to us. This phenomenal funding will certainly put UTRGV on the Texas map and position us as a distinguished research group on the national stage. It will allow our cancer research team to continue addressing cancer disparities needed in this geographical region.”
FIGHTING CANCER IN TEXAS
Though this is the first award of its kind and amount for the Valley, CPRIT has awarded five TREC awards totaling $30 million dollars to the fight against cancer.
Dr. Michelle Le Beau, CPRIT chief scientific officer, said the award makes a strong statement that whether the institution is located in Houston, El Paso, Dallas, or McAllen, all areas of Texas can and will contribute to making the Lone Star State a national leader in the fight against cancer.
“Though cancer death rates have fallen by 33% over the last three years,” Le Beau said. “The Texas border region has the nation’s highest cancer incidence and mortality rate and consequently bears a disproportionate amount of the cancer burden.”
“We all represent the face of cancer. And together, we can accelerate efforts to understand the biology of these diseases and use that information to accelerate discoveries designed to expand prevention and early detection research, such as those conducted at academic institutions like UTRGV.”
Other dignitaries present at the event include Texas Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa; Texas Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra; CPRIT Oversight Committee Member and Mayor of the City of Pharr Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez; and CPRIT Chief Executive Officer Wayne Roberts.
Other UTRGV research collaborators include Research Project Leaders Sheema Khan, Ph.D., Manish Tripathi, Ph.D., Nirakar Sahoo, Ph.D., Debasish Bandyopadhyay, M.Sc., Ph.D.; and Project Coordinator Murali M. Yallapu, Ph.D.
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