Columns for The Lufkin News

​Continue CPRIT Cancer Research Funding​

Posted Mar 10, 2019 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was created in 2007 when Texas voters supported legislation setting aside $3 billion for cancer research and prevention. Since then, results have been measurable and effective. In addition to clinical services that have reached every county in Texas, more than 1,200 grants have been awarded to fund cancer research, product development, and cancer prevention. That amounts to up to $300 million in grant funding annually with 90% dedicated to cancer research. Those dollars have brought world-class research teams and amazing recognition to Texas.

One CPRIT scholar, Jim Allison, PhD, chair of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for launching an effective new way to attack cancer by treating the immune system rather than the tumor. Another, Sean Morrison, PhD of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine. A CPRIT grantee, Livia Schiavinato Eberlin PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, unofficially called a “Genius Grant”.

CPRIT is governed by an appointed nine-member Oversight Committee, who operate under a Code of Conduct and Ethics. CPRIT grants are merit-based and peer reviewed and given to Texas-based entities and institutions for cancer-related research, product development and the delivery of cancer prevention programs.

In my area, the Angelina County & Cities Health District participates with researchers at UT Tyler and with the American Cancer Society to provide colorectal cancer screening and prevention services to indigent and uninsured patients in the East Texas area. This is but one example of how CPRIT funding reaches a local community and an underserved population.

But CPRIT funding is at risk. Legislators are being asked to authorize $600 million in funding for CPRIT over the next two years as well as to pass a bonding authority bill that would ensure sustainability of CPRIT for another 10 years. Programs like CPRIT cannot limp along a year or two at a time; they need sustained funding in order to plan, implement, complete, and report out research and prevention successes and failures.

Some have questioned whether or not CPRIT funding, while “unquestionably noble”, is really an essential function of state government. I get it. But, CPRIT is more than cancer research and prevention. It is an investment in our state and our economy. More than 98,000 jobs have been created and $10.9 billion in economic activity has been generated through CPRIT programs. Ray Perryman, president and CEO of the Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm based in Waco, Texas, said that for every dollar taxpayers have invested into CPRIT since 2007, Texas has gained $2 in tax revenue.

Public opinion is behind CPRIT as well. According to a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, 70% of Texans would support reauthorizing the legislature to increase the bond issue for CPRIT by another $3 billion to extend the program for another 10 years. Nine out of ten voters (89%) say it is important for Texas to remain a national leader in cancer research and prevention by providing state funds for CPRIT.

Texas is doing the right thing when it comes to cancer research and prevention. We can all get behind CPRIT: for cancer research, for Texas, and for our future.

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