Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center said it has won two grants totaling more than $15.9 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) toward research focused on liver cancer and prostate cancer.

Hashem El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H., chief of gastroenterology and hepatology and associate director of Duncan’s Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences Program, won a $9,771,157 grant to establish the Texas Hepatocellular Carcinoma Consortium.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, has become the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related death among all solid tumors in the U.S., according to a 2011 review article published by Dr. El-Serag in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“Texas is disproportionately affected by HCC, having the second-highest incidence and mortality rates in the nation,” Dr. El-Serag, who is also professor of medicine-gastroenterology at the National Cancer Institute-designated Duncan cancer center, said Friday in a Baylor statement announcing the grant awards. “Several subgroups of Texas residents are heavily affected with established HCC risk factors including hepatitis C, hepatitis B virus and alcoholic liver disease. Furthermore, emerging HCC risk factors, specifically metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, are exceptionally common and increasing among Texas residents.”

Bert O’Malley, M.D., chair and professor of molecular and cellular biology and associate director of the Duncan cancer center, won a $6,151,179 grant to study molecular mechanisms that contribute to prostate cancer progression.

Dr. O’Malley and colleagues will study how specific genes cooperate with steroid hormones to promote prostate cancer progression and resistance to treatment.

“This project involves a strong consortium of seasoned Baylor investigators dedicated to making a major effort to understand the growth and metastatic potential of castration-resistant prostate cancer,” Dr. O’Malley said in a statement. “This award from CPRIT will greatly aid our efforts in understanding and devising new therapies for this disease.”

The two grants were the largest grants in CPRIT’s latest round of funding, consisting of a combined 41 grants totaling more than $89 million. Baylor was the only institution to receive new grants in the category of multi-investigator research awards.

The grants, announced May 20, bring Baylor’s total funding from CPRIT to more than $155 million of the approximately $1.33 billion in grants awarded by the agency since it began awarding cancer research funding in 2010.

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