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Coldwell Foundation Gift

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

TTUHSC El Paso and Coldwell Foundation Announce $95,000 Gift for Innovative Research on Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease


Year after year, several hundred thousand Americans die of cancer and cardiovascular disease – two of the leading causes of death in the country and our Borderplex.


Three researchers with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso are studying treatments that may increase patients’ odds of surviving cancer and cardiovascular disease. On Friday, June 23, the Lizanell and Colbert Coldwell Foundation announced grants to support their research:


Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and Coldwell Foundation unveil $95,000 gift .
TTUHSC El Paso along with Lizanell and Colbert Coldwell Foundation unveil $95,000 gift.
  • Kazue Okajima, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s Division of Cardiology, received a $45,000 grant to study blood thinning treatments in Hispanic heart patients.

  • Ramadevi Subramani Reddy, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center of Emphasis in Cancer, was awarded a $25,000 grant to study a potential treatment for pancreatic cancer.

  • Shrikanth S. Gadad, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center of Emphasis in Cancer, was awarded a $25,000 grant for research on a treatment that uses the immune system to fight triple-negative breast cancer.

TTUHSC El Paso faculty and Coldwell family members announce Coldwell Foundation’s $95,000 gift for innovative research on cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Coldwell Foundation presents $95,000 for innovative research on cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The event also celebrated the legacy of the late Colbert Nathaniel Coldwell, an El Paso lawyer and business leader, and his inspiring legacy of service and dedication to our community. Colbert Nathaniel Coldwell was the nephew of Lizanell and Colbert Coldwell.


The Coldwell Foundation has long supported TTUHSC El Paso by funding research in pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, blood vessel studies and the effect of compounds on Parkinson’s disease and its effects on heart health. The foundation has worked closely with TTUHSC El Paso researchers to leverage their investments as seed grants with the goal that this would propel future research dollars from other agencies.


“Colbert exemplified the commitment to his family and their legacy with his leadership,” said Annette Cordova Hoy, M.D., a trustee of the Coldwell Foundation. “I know that Colbert felt that however big or small the award to the grantee was, it was advancing the level of the community's research and that these grants have the potential to impact many. I want to thank Colbert for his time, commitment, diligence and leadership, and to the grantees, a personal thank you for their work and efforts which make our objectives a reality.”



Cancer and cardiovascular disease are the two leading causes of death in the U.S. Hispanic population and addressing health care disparities in these areas is critical, particularly when it comes to research. Both diseases are of great concern locally, as El Paso’s population is about 83% Hispanic.


In 2020, 6% of adults in El Paso County experienced coronary heart disease compared to 5.8% in 2019, according to Healthy Paso Del Norte. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for Hispanics, affecting 42.7% of Hispanic women and 52.3% of Hispanic men.


When it comes to cancer, there are 405.5 cancer cases per 100,000 people in El Paso, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute which is slightly above the national average of 403 new cases for every 100,000. Hispanics account for 398 cancer cases per 100,000 people in El Paso.


A New Look at Blood Thinners for Hispanics

Dr. Okajima's research will look at blood thinning treatments in Hispanic heart patients, which hasn’t been studied much, if at all.

Dr. Kazue Okajima, assistant professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s Division of Cardiology
Dr. Kazue Okajima, TTUHSC El Paso Division of Cardiology assistant professor

“Racial differences may exist in the response to different types of blood thinners used in treatment of coronary artery disease,” Dr. Okajima said. “We would like to find what types of blood thinners could best serve our Hispanic population and any genetic explanations for why it works. The funding from the Coldwell Foundation allows us to follow these patients closely and perform genetic testing to address these questions.” Dr. Okajima and her team have analyzed the most recent seven years of data from University Medical Center of El Paso, where 78% of patient data was from Hispanics.


“The data suggests people do well on potent blood thinners compared to conventional blood thinners without compromising bleeding complications,” she said. “We are looking for the reasons for this by interviewing patients and checking genetic information through saliva samples.”


Natural Compounds Fighting Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Reddy, who previously received a grant from the Coldwell Foundation for pancreatic cancer research, is studying the anti-cancer effects of gedunin, a natural compound from the neem tree native to India. Early research suggests gedunin could serve as an anti-cancer agent against pancreatic cancers.


“The benefits of surgery and chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer are evident, but the fact is only about 10% of all pancreatic cancers are diagnosed at early stages due to the lack of specific signs and symptoms,” Dr. Reddy said. “This highlights the need for new early detection methods and development of therapeutic drugs to treat the other 90% who get diagnosed at advanced stages.”


Dr. Reddy said she hopes her research will help identify a safe and effective drug to treat pancreatic cancer patients.


“The generous grants from the Coldwell Foundation have led to important findings, which one day will make a big impact on cancer patients,” she said.


Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women, but it’s the primary cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, according to the National Cancer Institute. TTUHSC El Paso’s Center of Emphasis in Cancer focuses on cancers prevalent in our majority-Hispanic Borderplex, seeking new strategies to prevent and treat the disease.


A significant number of breast cancer cases in Hispanic women are triple-negative breast cancers, so named because they test negative for two hormone receptors and a protein that affect the growth of cancer cells.

Dr. Shrikanth Gadad, Center of Emphasis in Cancer Assistant Professor
Dr. Shrikanth Gadad, Center of Emphasis in Cancer Assistant Professor

Triple-negative breast cancer is fast-spreading and often does not respond well to chemotherapy. This leads to worse outcomes in patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which is why Dr. Gadad and his research team are investigating new treatments based on immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment that uses a person’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells.


“Our community is 85% Hispanic, and triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer, affects younger women. Hence, identifying novel therapeutic targets will help younger women in our community diagnosed with this type of breast cancer,” Dr. Gadad said. “The grant will provide support for a high-risk, high-reward project that aims to identify new and unique biomarkers or therapeutic targets for triple-negative breast cancer.”Dr. Gadad’s research could lay the groundwork for a cancer vaccine down the road.


 
 

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 andrea.tawney@ttuhsc.edu or craig.holden@ttuhsc.edu or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.

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