MD Anderson and University of Puerto Rico receive $13 million grant renewal

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Puerto Rico received a competitive renewal of their Comprehensive Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (CPACHE) grant from the National Cancer Institute. The CPACHE grant provides a total of $13 million over five years.

This is the fourth funding award for the institutions’ Partnership for Excellence in Cancer Research, which has been ongoing since 2002. It will continue to support collaborative research projects, community outreach and joint education programming.

“This partnership has made a significant difference in cancer research education, prevention and treatment strategies in Puerto Rico and helped train the next generation of Hispanic physicians in cancer care,” said Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., associate vice president for women and minority faculty inclusion at MD Anderson. “Together, we aim to continue reducing cancer health disparities in underrepresented minorities and underserved communities.”

New elements of the grant include the establishment of an Infection-Driven Malignancies Program for Advancing Careers and Translational Research (IMPACT). It also will support a Genomic Data Center, a Community Outreach Center, an Evaluation and Planning Center, a Center for Research Education, and multidisciplinary core research projects. The grant will also foster the development of a dual M.D./M.P.H. degree to support career advancement for Hispanic students pursuing careers in laboratory and population-based cancer research and will strengthen both cancer centers’ research infrastructure.

The Partnership for Excellence in Cancer Research continues to facilitate a M.D./Ph.D. program, in which students attend medical school in Puerto Rico and conduct research at MD Anderson. The University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine confers the M.D. degree, and the MD Anderson Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences confers the Ph.D. degree. Since its inception in 2008, eight students have graduated from the dual-degree program.

“Working in partnership with MD Anderson has been an important catalyst for enhancing cancer research and treatment capability in Puerto Rico,” said Brad R. Weiner, Ph.D., director of the cancer biology division at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We are looking forward to utilizing this grant renewal to develop a new generation of scientists, physicians and health professionals, ultimately improving the lives of the patients we serve.”

Principal investigators for the partnership’s initiatives are Weiner, Reynold López-Enríquez, M.D., surgical oncologist, and Ana P. Ortiz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director of the cancer and population sciences control program at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Travis, Michelle Barton, Ph.D., professor of epigenetics and molecular carcinogenesis, and Sharon Giordano, M.D., M.P.H., department chair of health services research, at MD Anderson.

The University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center research building