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Srivenugopal Latest TTUHSC Pharmacy Researcher to Receive CPRIT Grant

In its most recent grant cycle, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded Dr. Kalkunte Srvenugopal, an associate professor for Department of Biomedical Sciences at the main School of Pharmacy campus in Amarillo, a three-year $777, 268 research grant.

CPRIT funds are awarded to support new scientific research projects in Texas to help fight cancer. The initiative was established in 2007 when Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in the state. It’s mission is expedite innovation and commercialization in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

Srivenugopal is the fifth researchers from School of Pharmacy to receive CPRIT funding. The list includes Dr. Richard Leff, SOP regional dean and professor for the Department of Pharmacy Practice in Dallas/Fort Worth ($2.5 million); Dr. Magdalena Karbowniczek, associate professor for the Department of Biomedical Sciences in Abilene ($756,644); Dr. Quentin Smith, dean and professor for the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Amarillo ($736,685); and Dr. Ulrich Bickel, professor for the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in   Amarillo ($199,967).

Srivenugopal’s grant, co-funded and co-sponsored by the Carson Leslie Brain Tumor Foundation of Dallas, is for his research project titled, Rational Redox-Driven Non-Toxic Therapeutic Strategies for Pediatric Brain Cancers.

Srivenugopal said brain tumors rank second in frequency and cause of death among pediatric cancer patients and are amongst the most challenging to treat. The goal of his research is to design novel and non-invasive therapeutic strategies to make a strong impact on the management of pediatric brain cancers.

“We have been working for over two decades focusing on inhibiting a DNA repair pathway to improve chemotherapy and extend the survival and quality of life for these young people,” Srvenugopal said. “We are grateful to this grant because it will provide us funds to perform preclinical and some clinical studies using a new DNA repair inhibitor known as nitroaspirin. It will also allow us to design non-invasive nasal administration of cancer drugs directly to the brain. The latter procedure is expected to considerably reduce the bone marrow toxicity, which limits adequate chemotherapy, when the drugs are administered by injections.”

Srivenugopal said CPRIT funding is crucial for Texas researchers because funding from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has dwindled significantly in the last several years.

“It has become difficult to obtain grants even for meritorious and bench-to-bedside ready projects,” Srivenugopal said. “As a Texas cancer researcher, I am pleased and proud to receive funding from CPRIT. Although competition is fierce for CPRIT funds — the success rate was 11.6% in the current cycle, roughly equivalent to that of NIH — I am very happy about the outstanding job the CPRIT has been doing against the battle against cancer in furthering important discoveries both at the basic science and clinical levels.

Drs. Fakhrul Ahsan and Ruiwen Zhang, faculty researchers for the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the pharmacy school campus in Amarillo, and Dr. George Bobustuc, a neuro-oncologist from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Institute in Orlando, Fla., will serve as collaborators for Srivenugopal’s project.