Researchers to Further Cancer Research with $3.3 Million in Grants

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have received $3.3 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to train a new generation of cancer researchers and study processes related to cancer cell growth and death.

Jonathan Sessler, professor of chemistry, and John DiGiovanni, professor of pharmacy and nutritional sciences, were awarded $2.5 million to establish The University of Texas at Austin Cancer Research Training Program.

The program, which will be administered by the Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostic Development (TI-3D), will focus on training undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral preclinical cancer researchers. The program's more team-oriented approach to cancer education and research will lead to progress that might not be possible through the traditional single researcher model.

It will also be enhanced by a close connection to researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and will provide summer support for undergraduates from institutions outside of The University of Texas at Austin. The training program will build on successful seed grant funding from the Welch Foundation.

Tanya Paull, professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, received $527,974 to work on a protein in human cells that she and her colleagues discovered can sense oxidative stress.

The protein, called ATM, is important in cancer biology because it regulates signals in a cell that control its growth and death. Cancer is defined by out of control cell growth and proliferation.

The researchers will investigate the downstream targets of the protein signal and determine whether it is possible to design small molecules that control the reaction.

CPRIT was created in 2007 and authorized by the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. The institute's most recent round of awards, totaling $142 million, caps the first year of its 10-year mission.

Three other University of Texas at Austin projects received $3.3 million from CPRIT in January 2010. Read more about those projects.