Joseph Pancrazio, PhD
Lloyd Lumata, PhD
Zhenpeng Qin, PhD
Kenneth Hoyt, PhD
Jung-Whan ‘Jay’ Kim, DVM, PhD
MORE THAN $4.5 million in new funding from state and federal agencies will support cancer-related research over the next 5 years at The University of Texas at Dallas. Two projects related to brain cancer, each totaling $200,000 over 2 years, recently received High-Impact/High-Risk Research Awards from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). A third CPRIT grant, of nearly $3.6 million over 5 years, will be used to establish a new core imaging facility for preclinical research. That award will be combined with $400,000 in matching funds from The University. The Department of Defense also recently awarded The University of Texas more than $527,000 for lung cancer research.
“[F]undamental cancer research is one of the most important things we do, with the potential to impact so many lives,” said Joseph Pancrazio, PhD, Vice President for Research and Professor of Bioengineering. “Ongoing support from CPRIT, the Department of Defense, and other agencies ensures we can continue to make significant strides in improving human health.”
Brain Cancer Research
LLOYD LUMATA, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physics, will use his $200,000 CPRIT grant to develop a new noninvasive imaging technique that could detect glioblastoma earlier and more accurately. The technique uses hyperpolarization technology to boost by more than 10,000-fold the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging signals from key biologic molecules associated with glioblastoma. In addition to mapping cancer in the brain more precisely, the technology could reduce the need of patient exposure to x-rays from computed tomography scans and radioactive imaging tracers or for removal of brain tissue for diagnosis.
Recipient of a previous CPRIT grant in 2016, Zhenpeng Qin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will use his new CPRIT funding for a project aimed at improving the delivery of drugs to brain tumors. Dr. Qin’s approach is to use nanoparticles that can be triggered with infrared light to perform molecular surgery on key proteins guarding the blood-brain barrier, thus allowing the delivery of anticancer drugs that were previously blocked by the barrier.
New Facility for Preclinical Studies
KENNETH HOYT, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, is Director of a new small-animal imaging core facility, established by a $3.6 million CPRIT grant. The facility will include several imaging instruments that will be used by cancer researchers to visualize and target tumors in small-animal models of the disease. Dr. Hoyt’s research is focused broadly on the development and use of novel ultrasound technologies for detecting, monitoring, and treating diseases such as cancer.
Novel Treatment Approach to Lung Cancer
IN 2017, Jung-Whan “Jay” Kim, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, published a study that showed one subtype of non–small cell lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, is more dependent on sugar to survive than other types of lung cancer. With his Department of Defense grant, Dr. Kim will investigate whether this cancer’s addiction to sugar can be exploited as a potential new treatment strategy. He will test whether a diet very low in sugar as well as a widely used type 2 diabetes drug can restrict sugar uptake and utilization to stop the growth of lung squamous cell carcinoma. Dr. Kim is also Co-Director of the Small-Animal Imaging Facility and is a co-principal investigator on Dr. Lumata’s CPRIT grant. ■