Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT Austin receives several multi-million dollar grants to expand cancer research, prevention programs

Yesenia Davalos

Five cancer-related projects at UT Austin recently received a total of about $8.3 million collectively from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. 

The Institute, the second-largest funder of cancer research in the world, awarded five grants to researchers at UT Austin and the Dell Medical School to expand laboratory research of potential cancer treatments and improve cancer prevention with screenings. 

Unidos Contra el VPH, one research project that received funding, examines how different self-collection methods for HPV can improve screening rates for cervical cancer in Latina women along the U.S-Mexico border, said Jessica Calderon-Mora, assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at Dell Medical School. 

HPV, or human papillomavirus, causes about 90% of cervical cancers, so screening for the virus is important, Calderon-Mora said. Latina women are screened for the virus at lower rates, making it more likely for those with HPV to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Barriers like acculturation, or the degree of assimilation into the surrounding culture, contribute to lower rates of screening, Calderon-Mora said. 

Calderon-Mora said part of the study’s funding will go towards making leaflets with pictures, providing visual education about HPV self-collection methods. For individuals with lower health literacy, Calderon-Mora said it is important to educate before their cancer becomes untreatable.

“A lot of people that are uninsured just show up at the emergency room when they’re in pain, and that’s when it’s already too late,” Calderon-Mora said. 

The Institute also granted money to The Advancing Breast Health among uninsured Women in Central Texas, a project led by Navkiran Shokar, the chair of Department of Population Health at Dell Medical School. The grant will help expand breast cancer prevention services provided by partner organizations.

One partner, Lone Star Circle of Care, provides medical services to underserved patients across Central Texas, said Rebecca Sorensen, a program director at the organization. Sorensen oversees The Big Pink Bus, a 34-foot pink mobile mammogram service that will expand its service area as a result of the funding.

“There is a much larger effort that goes on to encourage breast cancer screening,” Sorensen said. “I hope our services reach the women who need them … and help women get the care that they need.” 

Other funded UT Austin projects included Brandon Altillo’s smoking cessation and lung cancer screening program, Lauren Ehrlich’s research on childhood and adolescent leukemia and Yi Lu’s research on iron redox cycles in cancer therapy. Carlton Allen, program manager for prevention at the Institute said UT Austin’s grantees serve as impactful models for how prevention programs should be done.

“(UT Austin researchers) have shown their success and are continuing to expand to reach populations … and we are grateful we have the opportunity to work with them.” 

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