As CPRIT looks ahead to the next decade, we are guided by our three-part mission: investing in the research prowess of Texas institutions; creating and expanding the state’s life science ecosystem; and expediting innovation and enhancing the potential of breakthroughs in research, prevention, and cures.
Breakthrough discoveries create promising cancer-fighting opportunities, but scientists need specialized equipment and expertise to turn their discoveries into treatments and cures. CPRIT’s Core Facility Support Award grants make it possible for Texas institutions to build state-of-the-art facilities, acquire cutting-edge equipment, and recruit leading experts. The network of 67 CPRIT-funded core research facilities across 22 Texas institutions fosters partnerships and connects scientific disciplines and departments working on a wide variety of cancer-related projects.
CPRIT’s Core Facilities bring together sophisticated technologies and innovative projects, bolstering Texas’ life science ecosystem. By assuring access to specialized equipment and expertise, CPRIT provides Texas researchers efficient, collaborative, cost-effective means for advancing innovations in cancer medicine. With CPRIT’s support, Texas scientists are conducting first-of-its-kind cancer studies, creating the most expansive cancer databanks in the world, and collaborating with the brightest minds in cancer research and prevention.
The Gulf Coast Consortia Combinatorial Drug Discovery Program (CDDP) is a multi-institutional core facility based at the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology. The CDDP provides cancer researchers across Texas with access to state-of-the-art equipment, drug libraries, and expertise to support cancer-related drug discovery research.
One focus for the CDDP is helping researchers find new ways to use existing drugs to treat different types of cancer. The advantage of redirecting “old" drugs to "new" uses - known as drug repurposing - is that a great deal is already known about the properties of established drugs, making it much cheaper and faster to get them into the clinic than if they were brand new drugs. The CDDP also specializes in phenotypic screening studies using high-throughput, high content, flow cytometry, and metabolic imaging screening platforms.
As a world-class pre-clinical imaging facility, the North Texas Multimodal Small Animal Imaging Core provides invaluable opportunities for Texas scientists to advance the study of human disease. Located in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, this CPRIT-funded core facility, under the direction of CPRIT Scholar Dr. Anke Henning, supports the research of more than 100 different scientists from institutions across North Texas.
With the CPRIT-funded ultra-high-resolution imaging equipment, researchers are developing new diagnostic imaging techniques to improve the way scientists classify and treat cancer and other diseases. The spatial imaging equipment is precise enough to pinpoint the individual atom clusters that play a key role in treatment resistance, opening the door for researchers to find new ways to detect, treat, and cure various cancers and diseases.
Established in 2015 and expanded in 2020, the CPRIT RNA Therapeutics Core at Methodist Hospital Research Institute, under the direction of Dr. John Cooke, is a valuable state-of-the-art resource that helps 50 Texas R&D groups from research institutions and biotech firms translate their ideas and innovations into therapies.
RNA therapeutics is an exciting new class of drugs to defeat cancer. RNA is a form of biological software that can instruct a cell to make proteins that can protect against cancer. The CPRIT RNA Therapeutics Core provides unique services in development, manufacturing, quality control, as well as animal and human testing of RNA drugs. In the video, Dr. Cooke and his colleagues explain the promise of RNA therapeutics and the collaborative work enabled by the state-of-the art facility.
Through a decade of steady investment, CPRIT has built an indispensable network of institutions, enterprises, researchers, and care providers dedicated to the prevention and cure of cancer. Enhancing Texas’ life science ecosystem requires resources such as core facilities, advanced manufacturing tools, state-of-the-art computational modeling technologies, accelerator hubs, and other critical assets. The most effective way to reduce the burdens of cancer is through evidence-based prevention projects, including education, vaccination, and early screening and treatment services, which focus on underinsured and medically underserved populations throughout the state.
CPRIT's investments bring the latest technologies and the brightest researchers to Texas and give Texans more opportunities to access cancer prevention services in underserved regions. By integrating unmatched biological, medical, chemical, and computational expertise with advanced technology, CPRIT has primed Texas’ workforce for new company development. Click on each region to see some examples of CPRIT’s recent investments in Texas’ life science ecosystem.
This project provides no cost colorectal cancer screening tests and clinical services to residents of the 26 counties of the Panhandle region. The program includes education, outreach, and navigation services to increase awareness and address barriers.
Texas A&M University System Health Science Center teamed up with oral healthcare providers to offer tobacco cessation and cancer screening services to medically underserved populations.
The Jerry H Hodge School of Pharmacy at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Amarillo received a $2.8 million grant in 2020 to purchase new, groundbreaking imaging instruments to further advancements in the fight against cancer.
Project leaders from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center used CPRIT funding to offer comprehensive mammography and follow-up screening services to women in 35 counties across North Texas.
Care providers from the Light and Salt Association teamed up with community leaders to help Asian Americans in medically underserved communities access preventative care resources—such as cancer screenings, hepatitis vaccinations, and survivorship resources for breast, colon, and cervical cancer survivors.
Dr. David Gerber is leading the Clinical Trial Financial Reimbursement and Outreach Program at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. One goal of this program is to increase the proportion of under-represented minorities participating in clinical trials by 30%.
With nearly $8 million in CPRIT funding since 2012, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has established and operated an ultramodern core resource under the direction of Dr. William Putnam, to meet the clinical pharmacology needs of North Texas cancer researchers and physicians. By testing new drugs and treatments, investigators better understand how cancer drugs move in the body, how the drugs treat cancer, how to best deliver these drugs, and how to avoid unwanted side effects.
Project leaders from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler expanded this program to offer colorectal cancer screening, education, and navigation services to residents in 32 rural counties.
Through this CPRIT-funded expansion project, care providers from The Rose health center offered breast cancer screening, diagnostic, and navigation services in rural communities with critical access barriers—primarily serving women without access to routine screening and mammography checkups.
Project leaders from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston held social marketing campaigns to increase HPV vaccination rates in Texas’ adolescent populations. The All for Them team offered consultation and education resources that increased awareness and improved child-parent communications about HPV vaccination.
Project leaders from Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center offered lung cancer screening and tobacco cessation services in Harris County, with the goal of reducing lung cancer deaths by 20%. Community-based primary care physicians played a key role in reducing access barriers to prevention services.
Dr. Brendan Prideaux at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is developing a novel, innovative combinatorial approach using mass spectrometry imaging and imaging mass cytometry to visualize free drug, metabolites, the nanoparticle delivery system, and biomarkers of cell damage and therapeutic response at extremely high resolution within a single tissue section.
As a recipient of the first CPRIT Clinical Trial Network Award, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer will offer new cancer treatments to underserved patients, providing affiliated sites with the infrastructure needed to conduct and expand therapeutic clinical trials while improving the diversity of patient enrollment.
Immatics US is testing its adoptive cellular therapy(ACT) in two clinical-stage programs. The first, called ACTolog, uses a patient’s existing T cells to target cancer within a patient’s tumor and selectively expand and reinfuse the tumor with cancer-fighting immune functions. The second, called ACTengine, uses genetically engineered T-cells to recognize specific cancer targets.
The University of Texas at Austin-led project offers screening and treatment services to reduce unhealthy alcohol use, a major risk factor for many types of cancer—including breast, head and neck, esophageal, colorectal, and liver cancer.
Dr. Raffaella Righetti at Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station is developing new, safe and accurate methods for imaging certain properties of cancers to determine the aggressiveness of cancers and ultimately the effectiveness of treatment.
Dr. Aung at The University of Texas Dell Medical School is studying pancreatic cancer biology to develop novel personalized treatment strategies for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Molecular Templates’ engineered toxin bodies (ETBs) are potential new treatments for certain types of lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other cancers.
As one of CPRIT’s first company grantees, Asuragen developed a kit that uses next generation sequencing to report genetic information in a patient’s tumor. This information improves cancer-targeting therapies. Bio-Techne Corp., a leading developer and manufacturer of high-quality cancer drugs and therapies, acquired Asuragen in 2021.
Through this CPRIT-supported project, care providers from the University Health System offered education, navigation, screening, and vaccination services for Hepatitis-C and Hepatitis-B, both of which significantly increase the risk of liver disease.
Applying a multi-component approach to HPV intervention, care providers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston expanded this CPRIT-funded project to increase HPV vaccination rates by offering education and advocation resources through the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio clinical network.
The Center for Innovative Drug Discovery provides researchers in San Antonio and throughout Texas access to coordinated technologies, services and expertise that advance drug discovery and development. These resources include capabilities in both medicinal chemistry and protein degradation screening.
Individuals with a mutation to the breast cancer gene BRCA1 face up to a 40 times higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers that do not respond to standard treatments. Dr. Weixing Zhao at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is studying BRCA1 mutations to formulate new, more effective and specific treatment regimens.
San Antonio-based Emtora Biosciences is conducting a multi-center Phase 2 trial of its proprietary eRapa for the treatment of FAP, a rare genetic disease.
Pelican Therapeutics’ immune booster, called PTX-35, is in clinical trials to treat patients with therapy-resistant cancer. Unlike current cancer immunotherapies, Pelican’s PTX-35 immune booster amplifies the immune response against cancer.
Through a wide-scale community organization network, this CPRIT-funded program delivers education, outreach, and counseling resources on exercise and nutrition and educates healthcare providers on strategies for preventing obesity in a clinical setting.
Using evidence-based community outreach methods, this bilingual program offers cervical cancer education, navigation, screening, and diagnostic services in 58 counties in West and South Texas.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center received one of the first Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer (TREC) awards in 2021 to establish the Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer Developmental Therapeutics Center. Led by Dr. Patrick Reynolds, the Center will support cancer research in West Texas, including studies of new anti-cancer drugs and cancer immunotherapy, and will increase the number of early-phase oncology clinical trials available to patients in the underserved West Texas region.
Cancer biomarker detection plays a crucial role in early ovarian cancer diagnosis, treatment, and risk assessment. Dr. Xiujun Li at The University of Texas at El Paso is developing a low-cost and accurate photothermal immunosensing biochip for detection of the ovarian cancer biomarkers and for rapid risk assessment using a common thermometer.
This project offers genetic cancer screening, risk assessment, counseling, and provider education services in South Texas, establishing the first cancer risk counseling services in the region.
This community outreach project offers cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services and uses evidence-based methods, including tele-mentoring, to educate, train, and support local health care providers.
The Integrated Cancer Research Core Facility at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley provides cutting-edge technologies to support cancer research investigators in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.
Advances in technology over the past decade open new doors for patient-specific treatment. But these groundbreaking cancer discoveries made in university laboratories across Texas are most valuable when scientists and drug developers can translate those findings into new therapies available to cancer patients. An important part of CPRIT’s mission to develop innovative cancer treatments is supporting clinical study research conducted by Texas-based companies and research institutions.
Despite progress made in treating cancer, preventing cancer from developing and detecting it early if it does are still the best options to reduce the physical, economic, and emotional burden of cancer for all Texans. Innovations in science and technology provide new avenues for cancer prevention and detection.
CPRIT’s investments in clinical research and development generate long-lasting gains for the state’s life-science ecosystem. New cancer drugs, medical devices, and technologies must undergo clinical safety and efficacy tests to receive FDA approval. This testing, called the clinical trial process, is vital to the development of life-saving treatments, such as precision therapy drugs and other groundbreaking cancer therapies.
Many factors, including genetics, race, sex, age, and socioeconomic issues, influence how a patient responds to treatment. As important as it is to fund clinical trials of potential breakthrough cancer treatments, it is also critical to increase the number of people participating in clinical trials. Currently, less than 5% of patients with cancer participate in clinical trials.
The Clinical Trial Network Award and the Texas Clinical Trial Participation Program Award grants support clinical trials in underserved regions of Texas and reduce financial barriers to patient participation in clinical trials. In 2021 CPRIT awarded its first grants intended to expand access to clinical trials in Texas.
CPRIT grants invest in the development of innovative treatments and interventions at various phases from preclinical development to market launch. Below are some examples of recent achievements reached by CPRIT grantees during key phases of the clinical trial process.
Deciding whether a drug is ready for clinical trials involves extensive preclinical studies using in vitro (test tube or cell culture) and in vivo (animal) experiments that yield preliminary efficacy, toxicity, pharmacokinetic and safety information. Scientists may also perform in silico profiling using computer models of the drug–target interactions.
Allterum Therapeutics is developing a new drug to treat children with relapsed T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). CPRIT awarded Allterum a $2.9 million CPRIT product development research grant (DP190025) to conduct the preclinical safety and efficacy testing required for clinical trials.
Leukemias are the most common cancer in children, and 20% of children diagnosed with leukemia experience relapse after treatment with chemotherapy. There are no effective therapies currently available for children with relapsed T-ALL. Seeking to fill this critical gap in cancer care, Allterum has designed an antibody drug therapy to treat T-ALL, and other leukemias, by targeting receptors in lymphoid cells. These cells express a receptor called IL-7R, which plays a critical role in cancer growth and treatment resistance. Allterum’s 4A10 antibody binds IL-7R to help the immune system target and kill leukemia cells.
In the first two years of the CPRIT grant, Allterum achieved several crucial clinical development milestones—including creating and validating their master cell bank, manufacturing scale-up, and safety and toxicology testing in animals. The company recently partnered with the Therapeutics Advances in Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma, a consortium of major cancer centers, to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial of Allterum’s drug candidate 4A10. The company also received both Orphan Drug and Rare Disease Designations from the FDA.
While Allterum’s initial focus is on children with relapsed T-ALL, the company plans to expand the use of the drug to treat patients with other IL-7R-expressing cancers, including other leukemias and a small subset of solid cancers.
Phase 1 trials are the first tests of a drug in humans, usually with a small number of patients to assess the safety and tolerability of a drug.
CPRIT Scholar Dr. Christopher Flowers
Flowers’ (RR190079) clinical practice concentrates on the care of patients with lymphoma. In addition to his clinical research, he focuses on improving diversity among clinical trial participants because even curable cancers like some types of lymphoma kill patients who do not access care soon enough, typically Black and Hispanic patients. Disparities in survival for many types of lymphomas and other blood cancers also exist by race, gender, rural/urban status, socioeconomic status, and insurance status. Dr. Flowers established the “The Lymphoma Integrated Network for access to Clinical Trials for Under-represented Populations (LINCT-UP)” and gained additional funding to develop research Infrastructure to promote the enrollment of minority patients on clinical trials.
B-cell lymphomas is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that originates in B-cells. It is the most common type of lymphoma and makes up about 85% of all non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in the United States. The Phase 1 Clinical Trial Ublituximab in Combination With TGR-1202 +/-Ibrutinib or Bendamustine in Patients With B-cell Malignancies involved 160 patients enrolled across six different clinical sites in the U.S., including The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where Dr. Flowers practices.
Tobacco use is the foremost preventable cause of death and disease in the country. Despite recent declines in smoking rates, more than 480,000 Americans die from first- and second-hand cigarette smoke each year. Contributing to more than 30% of all cancer deaths nationwide, scientists link tobacco use to at least 17 types of cancer—including the oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers associated with smokeless tobacco.
Texas’ annual rate of tobacco-related mortality is higher than the national average, which is why effective prevention programs are vital to stopping premature death and disease in the state. Researchers also know that compared to the general population, individuals with mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, and vulnerable housing arrangements use tobacco at significantly higher rates and have a higher risk of developing lung and other cancers.
The timeline below shows the evolution of the Taking Texas Tobacco Free (TTTF) initiative, beginning with its launch in 2013 by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Rice University, the University of Houston, and Austin Travis County Integral Care with CPRIT funding. (PP130032). Led by program director Dr. Lorraine Reitzel and her team at the University of Houston, TTTF has expanded to 39 geographic service areas in the state. To date, TTTF’s tobacco cessation resources have helped 23 community mental health clinics (PP160081), 18 substance use treatment centers (PP170070), and nine community agencies that serve homeless and vulnerably housed individuals (PP210026). These resources include comprehensive educational tools, ongoing training opportunities, and adaptive curriculum directives designed to gradually reduce tobacco use among state employees and the Texans they serve (PP200051).