Texas Voters Extend CPRIT Funding
By Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, TAMEST President, and Brendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D., TAMEST Treasurer
Cancer is a leading cause of death in Texas and the second leading cause of death globally. Thanks to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), Texans are taking action and the state is now a leader in fighting cancer with real results in our own backyards.
CPRIT, a state agency created to fund cancer research and prevention programs and services, is making a difference and saving lives. First approved by voters in 2007, Texans passed Texas Proposition 6, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute Bonds Amendment, to extend CPRIT funding to cover more research, more preventative efforts and build awareness across the state.
This vital program has resulted in more than 100 clinical studies and over 13,000 patients enrolled. CPRIT projects have delivered 5.7 million prevention services to Texans from all 254 counties, which has reduced the death rate in the state due to cancer by nearly 10 percent.
In fact, in the Texas Panhandle, real change is happening thanks to CPRIT’s prevention work. The number of mammogram screenings in the area increased by 26 percent since 2009. The region went from having one of the highest rates of late-stage cancer diagnoses in the state (21.2 percent) to an astounding low of 4.5 percent in less than a decade.
As recipients of CPRIT funding and members of TAMEST, we’ve seen firsthand its benefit for our state’s people and economy. In San Antonio, CPRIT is supporting UT Health San Antonio to develop a free texting service to help people quit smoking. At Baylor College of Medicine, CPRIT is improving treatments for children diagnosed with bone cancer.
CPRIT empowers collaboration. It connects research universities, doctors, scientists, hospitals and companies across the state to form a cancer-fighting powerhouse. Since CPRIT began, 181 cancer researchers and their labs as well as 11 companies have been recruited to the state. This has translated to hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding coming to Texas from the National Institutes of Health, other federal agencies and private investment.
One CPRIT grant helped recruit native Texan Jim Allison to return to the state to develop new therapies that activate the immune system to fight cancer. This innovative strategy is already curing patients with advanced melanoma. Last year, Dr. Allison was recognized with a Nobel Prize for his work.
Without support from our citizens and government, the ‘Texas Miracle’ of scientific research wouldn’t be making our state a better place to live and work. However, our work is far from complete.
For every person we have saved, there are still more at risk. Last year alone, 121,463 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in our state.
We are thankful to Texas voters for showing up to vote for this life-saving research.
This op-ed does not reflect the opinions of the authors’ institutions. This version has been edited from this Medium piece published prior to the election.