Disease-Specific Grant Program
In 2007, the CTT initiated what has become a highly successful grant program to stimulate collaborative research of potential treatment targets for “orphan” tumor types, less frequently occurring cancers that are underserved in terms of new therapies. Working in conjunction with three disease-specific clinical departments, the CTT Disease-Specific Grant Program funds hypothesis-generating projects which are (1) specific to a particular cancer and (2) study mechanisms and targets in order to develop novel, molecularly targeted therapies. As basic and translational scientists and clinicians work together on small tumor-type research projects, they can enhance specific targets and apply the knowledge gained to other tumors, thereby laying the foundation for potential extramural funding.
The CTT Disease-Specific Grant Program has been well received by MD Anderson scientists and clinicians alike. Each clinical department in the selected disease area was asked to provide matching funds for up to a maximum of 10 grants at $100,000 over a two-year period. The first round of projects was in neuro-oncology; 22 proposals were submitted and nine grants awarded. In the second round of grants, researchers interested in melanoma submitted 24 proposals, and five grants were awarded. The third and final round of projects in lymphoma and myeloma resulted in nine awards out of 34 proposals.
Funds permitting, plans are to continue offering this program promoting collaborations between CTT scientists and clinicians in disease-specific departments in order to develop drugs for cancer patients whose therapies are under funded. The next group of grants will be offered in the areas of sarcoma, head and neck cancer and one more underserved cancer (yet to be determined). This will complete the cycle of up to 60 grants in six disease sites over a four-year period. At that time, the success of the program will be evaluated in terms of new hypotheses, collaborations between clinical and basic investigators, number of publications, amount of grants and success of investigators who continue to work in the disease area. If the program is deemed successful, the CTT will expand into other underserved disease areas.
Chemistry and Molecularly Targeted Therapeutic Development Grant Program
Introduced in 2008, this grant program is a collaborative effort between biologists and chemists from the CTT and chemists from the Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostic Development at The University of Texas at Austin. Designed to promote interactions between the two institutions, the program was designed to fund hypothesis-generating projects that select novel, validated molecular targets that are important to cancer and then—through the use of synthetic chemistry—develop lead compounds as potential preclinical candidates.
This matching grant program funded grants for two years at $50,000 per year. The joint program offers basic and translational investigators the opportunity to collaborate with synthetic chemists in researching novel targets that can enhance cancer therapy. Moreover, by applying the knowledge gained to novel drug design, this research can pave the way for external funding.
The excitement generated by this program at both institutions produced 24 proposals of which 12 were funded. Funds permitting, this program will continue with a second round in our effort to generate preclinical therapeutic candidates for the treatment of cancer. In 2012, a second round generated 12 proposals of which 10 were funded.