CPRIT awards cancer grants to TAMHSC

April 2, 2012

(COLLEGE STATION, TX) – Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, received $1,455,000 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in its latest round of grant awards.CPRIT logo

In addition, two other TAMHSC-related projects received CPRIT funding.

“Our faculty are on the forefront of translational research on the biology of cancer and on cancer prevention,” said David S. Carlson, Ph.D., TAMHSC vice president for research and dean of the TAMHSC-School of Graduate Studies. “We are especially enthusiastic that the discoveries by our faculty are making their way into the commercialization sector so they can provide a real and discernable impact on prevention and treatment of cancer.”

Dr. Walker is principal investigator for the research grant project, “Targeting Cellular Energetics Pathways in Endometrial Cancer.” This project will test the hypothesis that the risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) from obesity can be adjusted by lifestyle or pharmacologic interventions, as well as identify modifiable biomarkers as diagnostic indicators and pathways that may be targeted by effective interventions.

According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having this cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 40.

Specific research plans for Dr. Walker are to determine if caloric restriction, exercise and/or metformin (a drug) reduce endometrial hyperplasia (abnormal growth) and cancer associated with obesity; test if epigenetic (gene-environment) alterations that promote development of endometrial hyperplasia in the adult uterus are modified/reversed by interventions that reduce disease risk; test if effective interventions target specific cell signaling and inflammatory pathways to reduce risk of tumor formation in the endometrium; and conduct a randomized pilot to determine the impact of exercise/weight loss and metformin on modifiable biomarkers in obese women at risk for endometrial cancer. This work also could have implications for breast and prostate cancer.

Dr. Walker came to the TAMHSC from The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in July. She also holds the endowed Welch Chair in Chemistry and a joint position as clinical professor in the
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

With research covering the full scope of carcinogenesis, Dr. Walker is establishing a program in translational cancer research at the TAMHSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology.

Meanwhile, Pulmotect, Inc., a Houston-based biotechnology company co-founded by Magnus Höök, Ph.D., director of the Center for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases at the TAMHSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology, was awarded $7,126,398 for the project “Expanding the Markets and Success Rates for Myeloablative Cancer Treatments Using PUL-042, an Innate Immune Stimulant.”

Pulmotect focuses on stimulating the lungs’ natural immune response to fight infectious disease. Its lead product, PUL-042, is an inhaled therapeutic that triggers the innate (immediate) immune system in minutes, providing immediate and effective protection for days against all major classes of pathogens (bacterial, fungal and viral).

Also, a $13.6 million CPRIT grant award to Peter Davies, Ph.D., M.D., professor and director of the Center for Translational Cancer Research at TAMHSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology and holder of the Margaret M. Alkek Endowed Chair, has been transferred to the TAMHSC. Dr. Davies received the CPRIT award while at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

This grant is a collaborative program bringing together researchers with the common purpose of developing new cancer treatments. It is through the Gulf Coast Consortium for Chemical Genomics, a multi-institutional Texas Medical Center program that recently relocated to the TAMHSC. The primary goal is to accelerate movement of basic discoveries in cancer research into clinical application through the provision of critical resources to support drug discovery research and therapeutics development in Texas.

CPRIT provided more than $81 million overall in its latest round of funding for cancer prevention programs and services and to attract top-notch cancer researchers to the state. Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.

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