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Life-Saving Grants from CPRIT

Updated: Feb 2

TTUHSC El Paso and CPRIT Announce Grants to Advance Research, Life-Saving Prevention and Outreach

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced grants that will enhance preventive cervical cancer care in our Borderplex region and support research focused on acute myeloid leukemia.

As CPRIT diligently strives to reduce the impact of cancer on the lives of Texans, Michelle M. Le Beau, Ph.D., CPRIT's Chief Scientific Officer, stresses the vital importance of our Borderplex in the fight against cancer.

“The Texas Borderplex region is particularly important because this region of the state has the highest incidence of cancer and highest incidents of cancer mortality and thus bears a disproportionate share of the cancer burden," Dr. Le Beau said.

CPRIT recently awarded $2,499,437 to De Casa en Casa, TTUHSC El Paso’s community-based cervical cancer screening program serving West and South Texas. The grant will support the expansion of program components, extending its reach and capacity with the goal of reducing cervical cancer rates and mortality in the targeted areas. The grant will empower De Casa en Casa to provide 4,000 cervical cancer screenings over the next five years.

De Casa en Casa was launched in 2014 in El Paso County with the initial mission of serving two counties. Over the years, it has undergone significant growth and now operates with a focus on 16 screening delivery sites within 61 counties in Texas. The program's components include outreach, health education, no-cost clinical services, and navigation, primarily promoting Pap test completion and timely diagnostic testing.

To date, De Casa en Casa has provided patient care and navigation services to more than 33,000 women. Among them, over 7,200 have successfully completed screenings, while over 550 women have undergone advanced diagnostic tests and treatments to avert the development of abnormal lesions into cancer. Notably, more than 1,300 of these women who were screened had never previously received such screenings.

"Cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in our service area are high, compared to the national average, with an average incidence rate of 12.6 per 100,000, almost double the national rate of 7.7 per 100,000," said Jennifer Molokwu, M.D., M.P.H., director of Cancer Prevention and Control in the Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso. "Late-stage diagnosis and mortality rates are also significantly higher than the national and state averages."

The grant from CPRIT will enable De Casa en Casa to directly address these disparities and promote regular cervical cancer screening among women in the region, especially among Latinas who experience the highest incidence of cervical cancer in Texas.

"Through this grant, we aim to ensure more women have access to regular and timely cervical cancer screening," said Dr. Molokwu. "Our ultimate goal is to reduce the incidence and mortality rates in our service area and improve the overall health outcomes for women in West and South Texas."

Each year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States with 60% of cervical cancers occurring in resource-poor communities. In El Paso, there are 10.8 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women.

Martha Hilda Garcia, an El Paso resident, has personally experienced the valuable assistance provided by De Casa en Casa. In May of this year, she received the devastating news that she had cervical cancer.

"When I heard the word 'cancer,' the first thought that crossed my mind was 'death,'" Garcia said.

De Casa en Casa played a crucial role in helping her come to terms with the diagnosis and focus on her treatment.

"I believe that without the support of the De Casa en Casa program, it might not have been as manageable for me," she reflected. "It's never easy, but their assistance has lightened the load. Thanks to their support, I've learned to confront my fears and accept my condition. Previously, I couldn't even utter the word 'cancer.' Now, when I'm asked, I can confidently say, 'I have cancer, and I'm undergoing treatment.' I've become more accepting of it. That's why I emphasize the importance of their support."

CPRIT grant for leukemia research

TTUHSC El Paso also received a $200,000 CPRIT Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer (TREC) Pilot Study award to study acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a highly aggressive form of cancer resulting in the presence of abnormal blood-forming cells in bone marrow.

Anna M. Eiring, Ph.D., and her team of researchers are 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.

“Our data suggest that patients from El Paso with AML have poor outcomes,” Dr. Eiring said. “This research will utilize specimens from AML patients in the region. CPRIT TREC awards are designated for research institutions located more than 100 miles from a comprehensive cancer center. This type of grant will improve biomedical research in the region and will allow us to explore novel scientific hypotheses that may never have come to fruition.”

Dr. Eiring's research has the potential to improve the quality of life and survival outcomes for those affected by 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.

TTUHSC El Paso: A Decade of Dedication to Cancer Prevention and Research

Over the past decade and beyond, TTUHSC El Paso has demonstrated a commitment to cancer prevention through various impactful initiatives. One such program is the Southwest Coalition for Colorectal Cancer Screening (SuCCCeS), which was established to address the high rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) in El Paso County through educational efforts. SuCCCeS has been generously funded by CPRIT since 2011, exemplifying the institution's dedication to combating this prevalent cancer.

In a similar vein, the Breast Cancer Education, Screening, and Navigation Program (BEST) has played a pivotal role in the fight against breast cancer. This program, supported by two CPRIT grants starting in 2013, extends its reach to cover 105 counties in West Texas, including El Paso and Hudspeth counties. BEST's multifaceted approach encompasses education, screening, and patient navigation, reinforcing the institution's mission to tackle breast cancer on a broader scale.

Additionally, TTUHSC El Paso has spearheaded the Pasos Para Prevenir program, a community-based initiative aimed at preventing obesity-related cancers. This program, funded by CPRIT since 2018, focuses on promoting increased physical activity and improved nutrition as essential steps toward cancer prevention. By addressing the root causes of obesity-related cancers, TTUHSC El Paso underscores its holistic approach to safeguarding the health of the community.

Stepping up to address the health care needs of this underserved demographic, TTUHSC El Paso was awarded a groundbreaking $6 million grant from CPRIT earlier this year. This grant is allocated to fund the Impacting Cancer Outcomes in Hispanics (ICOHN) project, dedicated to investigating cancer and cancer-related health disparities within Hispanic communities residing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Heading the ICOHN project is Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., who serves as the Dean of the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at TTUHSC El Paso. Dr. Lakshmanaswamy highlights that the CPRIT grant offers a significant opportunity to further leverage the university's existing research capabilities and investments in the field of cancer research.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cancer as the leading cause of death in U.S. Hispanics, accounting for 20.3% of all deaths among this group. One in three Hispanic men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and distinct disparities are evident, such as high rates of leukemia and liver cancer compared to other populations. Breast cancer, a common occurrence in all communities, is a notable concern among Hispanics, who make up 83% of the population of our Borderplex.

Benefitting the university’s Center of Emphasis in Cancer, the grant is part of CPRIT’s Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer (TREC) initiative, of which TTUHSC El Paso is one of the first 5 grant recipients. The grant aims to decrease the impact of cancer in communities by developing new diagnostic markers and treatments. In addition to the biological aspect of cancer, the grant will also consider cultural and behavioral aspects of the disease, which are often overlooked but crucial in understanding the overall cancer burden.

The Hispanic population faces a significant cancer challenge, but according to a 2020 study, Hispanics made up less than 4% of patients participating in cancer clinical trials nationwide.

About Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)

CPRIT is a $6 billion, 20-year initiative – the largest state cancer research investment in the history of the United States and the second-largest cancer research and prevention program in the world. They accept applications and award grants for a wide variety of innovative cancer-related research and product development and for the delivery of evidence-based cancer prevention programs and services by public and private entities located in Texas.

To date, the agency has awarded more than $3.4 billion in grants to Texas research institutions and organizations through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. CPRIT has also recruited 295 distinguished researchers to Texas, supported the establishment, expansion, or relocation of 56 companies to Texas, and provided 9 million prevention services reaching all 254 counties in Texas. To learn more about CPRIT, visit



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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 or or visit


Original Article: TECH TALK - OCT 18, 2023


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