Donors help bring therapies to fruition
Each year, nearly 14 million people throughout the world learn they have cancer, and eight million die from the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research suggests that one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented, but oftentimes therapies are not widely available. Commonly, the reason is because these therapies, which have great potential to help patients, take time and lofty financing to develop.
With the partnership of generous private donors, researchers at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio are beginning to see promising cancer therapies come to fruition. That’s because gifts from private donors allow scientists to advance their years of work spent on pilot research programs and secure larger grants that enable them to translate their findings into the latest effective cancer treatments.
When Roger and Dot Hemminghaus learned of the pilot research grant program at the CTRC, they chose to support the work of Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., assistant professor of cellular and structural biology at the UT Health Science Center. Their $25,000 pilot gift allowed Dr. Rao to build toward a $900,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).
Dr. Rao’s work with microRNA (small gene-like molecules that can affect cells through subtle regulation of a number of factors) plays a critical role in cancer drug resistance. Dr. Rao wants to put them to work against triple-negative breast cancers and find less toxic treatments that aren’t so vulnerable to drug resistance.
The Hemminghaus grant is just one example of the bridge that pilot grants can form to help researchers take their work to the next level, said CTRC Director Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D.
“It’s not necessary to fund a building or endow a chair to make a real difference,” he said. “People can make a powerful, tangible difference at the pilot grant level if they direct it to something that has great potential, which is something we vet when we complete the list of potential research projects. And it’s more meaningful to everyone if they know exactly what they’re funding.”