Updated: Aug 18
TTUHSC El Paso Researchers Receive Over $1.5 Million in Cancer Research Grants
In recognition of National Cancer Research Month, the American Cancer Society has awarded two Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso researchers, Shrikanth Gadad, Ph.D., M.S., and Anna M. Eiring, Ph.D., grants totaling $1,582,500 to develop therapies for treating breast cancer and leukemia. The grants are a testament to the groundbreaking work conducted by TTUHSC El Paso’s research community and its commitment to finding effective treatments for the devastating diseases disproportionately impacting our Hispanic community.
Both Dr. Eiring and Dr. Gadad serve as assistant professors at TTUHSC El Paso's Center of Emphasis in Cancer, within the Foster School of Medicine.
“At TTUHSC El Paso, addressing health disparities remains at the forefront of our mission,” said Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of TTUHSC El Paso and dean of the Foster School of Medicine. “Our researchers, including Dr. Gadad and Dr. Eiring, are working tirelessly to improve the overall well-being of our community. Their innovative work in the fight against breast cancer and leukemia has the potential to bring hope and make a lasting impact on the health of residents in our Borderplex region and beyond. We are proud to support their efforts and are committed to making a difference in the lives of those we serve.”
Fighting breast cancer: Dr. Shrikanth Gadad
Dr. Gadad received a $792,000, four-year grant from the American Cancer Society to examine how cells shift from hormone-sensitive to hormone-resistant breast cancer. By studying how certain parts of our DNA affect normal cells and cancer cells, his team aims to uncover new therapies for treating the most common type of breast cancer, known as estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
This research has the potential to improve cancer patients’ standard of care and ultimately save lives. Improved breast cancer treatment is of particular importance for underserved communities, such as those on the U.S.-Mexico border, which face breast cancer health disparities, according to Dr. Gadad.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, and about 1 in 36 will die from the disease.
“Three of my family members passed away from cancer,” said Dr. Gadad. “That's why I chose cancer as a model to understand human biology. Cancer is not consistent; it's constantly evolving. So, too, is the community we live in. Every community is different. Recognizing this leads us toward precision medicine.”
Battling acute myeloid leukemia: Dr. Anna M. Eiring
The American Cancer Society awarded Dr. Eiring $790,500 for her research targeting acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive cancer with low survival rates. Her team is examining two proteins found in the body that break down waste. By focusing on these two proteins, they discovered a potential avenue for overcoming drug resistance in myeloid leukemia. They want to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells, particularly in patients with certain genetic mutations who have a poorer chance of survival.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) accounts for about 33% of all leukemia cases in the United States. In 2020 alone, physicians diagnosed an estimated 19,940 new cases of AML, with an estimated 11,180 people dying from the disease.
Dr. Eiring's research has the potential to improve the quality of life and survival outcomes for those affected by acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in our Borderplex region. The development of new and effective treatments for AML will bring hope to many families and offer a brighter future for those affected by this devastating disease.
Dr. Eiring also stressed the importance of including Hispanics in trials for new cancer therapies.
“Hispanics make up less than 2% of patients on clinical trials nationwide,” said Dr. Eiring. We have a unique opportunity to improve access to clinical trials for our patients. There's a disparity here in El Paso that only affects the Hispanic population. Our ultimate goal is to improve cancer research by achieving our quest – clinical trials here in El Paso.”
Commitment to world-class research
The challenge to bridge the gap in health care equity is driving researchers at TTUHSC El Paso to focus on cancers impacting residents in our region. In particular, blood cancers like leukemia disproportionally affect Hispanic residents. By studying the factors influencing cancer outcomes, the researchers aim to develop targeted interventions to improve the well-being of these vulnerable populations.
Research and clinical trials play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of cancer care, and, as Dr. Eiring pointed out, Hispanics are often underrepresented in such trials. With 83% of El Paso's population being Hispanic, the research at TTUHSC El Paso will establish collaborations that could reduce health disparities not only in our region, but also across the nation.
As the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border, TTUHSC El Paso is uniquely positioned to lead this groundbreaking research. Our genetically homogenous population consisting of several generations, which isn’t found in many other places. This should make it easier to discover determinants that will shed light on cancer. Their studies differ from any other research center, as they have a biorepository of samples from local Hispanic patients to draw from, which cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Solving complex problems through collaboration
Drs. Eiring and Gadad are more than just colleagues, as their efforts to combat cancer share not only a common past, but also an uncommon interdisciplinary collaboration.
Both Dr. Eiring and Dr. Gadad have a personal connection to the fight against cancer, having lost family members to the disease. Memories of their loved ones inspire their work and drive them to find new and effective treatments.
The collaboration between Drs. Eiring and Gadad is a major strength of their research. Not only are their labs adjacent to each other, but their complementary areas of expertise – Dr. Gadad's focus on gene transcription and Dr. Eiring's focus on gene function – further advance their work. Dr. Gadad helps Dr. Eiring understand how the human genome works, while Dr. Eiring helps Dr. Gadad understand how the immune system interacts with different diseases.
Both researchers believe in the importance of training future generations of researchers who have a deep understanding of the Borderplex region. By employing students on their teams, they are helping build the next generation of researchers who will make important contributions to the field. Their commitment to fostering the growth of local talent will help ensure the long-term success of cancer research in our Borderplex region.
By growing a competitive workforce and providing high income earning career paths for our graduates, TTUHSC El Paso contributes more than $634 million annually to our El Paso economy. World-class research also influences major corporations to set up additional facilities, grow biomedical manufacturing and incubate start-up companies.
Read More: TECH TALK - MAY 10, 2023
YOU CAN HELP
At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.