MD Anderson receives CPRIT funding to expand access to cervical cancer screening and treatment in Texas

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center today was awarded $2.5 million in continued funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to support the expansion of cervical cancer prevention services to rural and medically underserved populations.

While cervical cancer rates have fallen by 70% in the U.S. due to widespread use of screening tests that help doctors find and treat precancerous cells, cervical cancer remains a challenge in areas with limited access to screening and follow-up care.

Texas has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S. The CPRIT grant, led by Principal Investigator Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, expands on previously funded projects to increase access to cervical cancer screening and treatment services in the state.

“Cervical cancer is a very preventable disease,” Schmeler said. “We already have the tools to detect and treat precancerous cells – the challenge is delivering those services to the areas with greatest need. This project will provide more women across Texas with convenient access to cervical cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment of pre-invasive disease.”

Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that about 80% of adults are exposed to in their lifetime. The HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer and is recommended for males and females ages 9–26. It is most effective when given at ages 11–12. However, only 53% of boys and 57% of girls in Texas were up to date on HPV vaccination in 2020, and vaccination does not treat pre-existing HPV infections. Therefore, there continues to be a need for early cervical cancer detection and treatment services.

The CPRIT funding will support continued cervical cancer prevention services at 10 collaborating sites in the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Northeast Texas, Bastrop and Alvin. It also will support expansion of prevention services to new sites in Corpus Christi, Waxahachie and Pasadena. The program’s comprehensive approach includes community education about screening and HPV vaccination coupled with patient navigation to services, as well as education and training for local medical providers through hands-on colposcopy and LEEP training courses and telementoring using Project ECHO.

MD Anderson also was awarded a $6 million grant today for faculty recruitment. Since its inception, CPRIT has awarded over $3 billion in grants for cancer research, of which MD Anderson investigators have received approximately 20% of the total awards. Programs supported by CPRIT funding have brought more than 281 distinguished cancer researchers to Texas, advanced the knowledge base for cancer treatment throughout the state, and provided 8.1 million cancer prevention and early detection services to Texans.

“CPRIT has consistently been a strong supporter of MD Anderson’s mission, and we are grateful for its crucial contributions over the years to our programs in cancer care, prevention, research and education,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “The funds awarded today will help us expand evidence-based cancer prevention services to those in need across the state and support our aspirations to finally end cancer.”