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Rice wins $3.7 million for cancer research

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has granted $3.7 million to Rice University researchers to fund an innovative cancer diagnostics program.

The funds will help the BioScience Research Collaborative lab overseen by John McDevitt, Rice's Brown-Wiess Professor in Bioengineering and Chemistry, in its mission to make the Texas Medical Center (TMC) the hub for diagnostics research into cancer and other diseases.

The work is made possible by McDevitt's development of a cost-effective Bio-Nano-Chip that can provide patients with early warning of the onset of disease, cutting the time and cost of treatment. McDevitt is principal investigator of a multi-investigator project that totals $6 million for cancer research, of which Rice's portion is $3.7 million. The remainder of the grant will be subcontracted to investigators at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

CPRIT is a state-funded agency charged by Texas voters with issuing $3 billion in bonds over 10 years to fund grants for cancer research and prevention. Last week, the agency announced $142 million in grants to support innovative programs, including the funds to Rice.

"The BioScience Research Collaborative and Rice have provided the ideal setting to launch the Texas Cancer Diagnostics Pipeline Consortium," said McDevitt, a pioneer in the creation of microfluidic devices for biomedical testing. "This Rice-led cancer initiative brings together the dream team of Texas clinicians for oral cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer."

Rice's Bio-Nano-Chips are based on state-of-the-art microprocessor technology and can be programmed to quickly find specific biomarkers in blood, saliva and urine to diagnose cancers, HIV and heart disease. A human trial of the chip is currently testing patients' saliva for signs of a heart attack at Houston's Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine. In addition, another large-scale trial of a chip to detect signs of oral cancer also showed promising results.

Eventually, McDevitt said, emergency medical technicians may perform such tests at a home or in an ambulance so they know where to take a patient for the most effective treatment.

"This is what CPRIT was created to do to invest in the people and projects that will find a cure for cancer," said the institute's oversight committee chairman, Jimmy Mansour. "The groundbreaking work singled out (by the new round of grants) brings us one step closer to that audacious goal."


Contact: David Ruth
Rice University

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