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UT Dallas scientists have awarded CPRIT scholarships for lung and kidney cancer research

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded two grants totaling $ 1.8 million to two scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas scientists for their research related to lung and kidney cancers.

The Individual Investigator Awards are among 55 new grants for a total of over $ 78 million that the institute announced on February 19. To date, CPRIT has awarded $ 2.49 billion in grants to Texas research institutes and organizations through its academic research, prevention and product development programs.

With the latest grants to researchers from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, UT Dallas has received nearly $ 18.5 million from CPRIT to support cancer studies.

CPRIT continues to be an important source of funding for efforts to prevent and treat cancer. The institute’s ongoing support for basic research allows UT Dallas scientists to make important contributions to fundamental understanding of disease and improving outcomes for cancer patients. “

Dr. Joseph Pancrazio, vice president for research and professor of bioengineering at UT Dallas

Dr. Li Zhang, professor of biological sciences and Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science, received $ 900,000 for lung cancer research. In previous studies, Zhang and his colleagues found that cells of the most common type of lung cancer – non-small cell lung cancer – consume substantially more oxygen than normal cells. Lung cancer cells also outperform their normal counterparts in synthesizing a critical chemical called heme, which helps transport and store oxygen. These high levels of oxygen and heme feed the growth and progression of the tumor.

With the new CPRIT grant, Zhang will use advanced imaging techniques in animal models to investigate whether drugs that target heme synthesis and uptake can be a successful strategy for suppressing lung cancer and improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy.

Zhang previously received a $ 900,000 CPRIT grant in 2015.

Dr. Jie Zheng, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Cecil H. and Ida Green Professor in Systems Biology Science, also received $ 900,000 for his research, which aims to improve the accuracy of computed tomography (CT) and kidney guided by fluorescence cancer surgery.

With the early detection of more kidney cancers, partial kidney removal is becoming an increasingly important treatment, particularly for those patients who have poor kidney function or cancer in both kidneys. In the current clinical context, CT is used first to localize and stage kidney cancers noninvasively, followed by fluorescence imaging of normal kidney tissue to guide surgery. However, due to the limitations of current contrast agents, no significant improvement in reducing positive margin rates in kidney cancer surgery has been achieved, Zheng said.

Zheng’s project will focus on the development of a single material, based on gold nanoparticles, capable of achieving high contrast in CT and fluorescence imaging of kidney tumors. His approach takes advantage of the unique physiological microenvironment associated with renal cell carcinoma in a way that allows the edges of the tumor to be more accurately differentiated during surgical removal. Its nanoparticles also have the potential to effectively and selectively provide anti-cancer cancer drugs that cannot be treated surgically.

Zheng received three previous CPRIT grants in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for a total of nearly $ 2.4 million.


University of Texas at Dallas


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