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State Cancer Research Grant Awarded to Molecular Bioscientist

State Cancer Research Grant Awarded to Molecular Bioscientist

Cancer research is getting a boost at The University of Texas at Austin as researchers in the College of Natural Sciences and Dell Medical School received grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Tanya Paull, a professor of molecular biosciences who holds the Burl G. and Lorene L. Rogers Chair in Human Health, will lead the research. Its aim is to better understand what happens when cells experience DNA damage, causing inflammation that is often linked to tumor growth. 

Chemotherapy and radiation are used to treat many cancers and to block cancer cell growth — but they also can generate massive DNA damage in exposed tissues. This causes several problems, including inflammation in surrounding tissue, and ultimately can cause secondary tumors to grow. Paull and her team will explore the role of a specific signaling enzyme called ATM in this process, while looking for ways to potentially block the inflammatory response in cells that promotes growth in human cancers.

"DNA damage in exposed tissues causes cell death and also generates senescence - a state of permanent arrest," Paull said. "Unfortunately, senesence does not just block cancer cell growth but can also induce reprogramming of cellular signaling and metabolism, called the senescence-associated secretory pathway (SASP), that induces inflammation in surrounding tissues. This inflammatory response actually stimulates the growth of neighboring cells and has been shown to promote secondary tumor progression." 

Paull's team will be investigating the mechanisms that underlie both the cell arrest that occurs during senescence as well as the inflammatory SASP response that is ultimately tumor-promoting.  

CPRIT also provided new support for a project in the Dell Medical School. There, a team will expand colorectal cancer prevention services among vulnerable populations in Central Texas — specifically adding new rural and medically underserved communities. The project represents an expansion of services, originally funded by CPRIT three years ago, that are focused on improving low screening rates through a mailed test-kit initiative.

Several other projects are already underway at UT Austin thanks to previous CPRIT funding.

The two new grants are among 62 announced by CPRIT. Together, the awards total approximately $114 million to promote cancer research in Texas.

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Sunday, 25 October 2020

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