Amarillo Campus to Host 2011 Cancer Symposium

Some of the country’s top cancer researchers will meet in Amarillo April 29 through May 1 at the 2011 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Annual Cancer Symposium. The three-day event will take place at the TTUHSC School of Pharmacy, located at 1300 S. Coulter in Amarillo.

A dinner to welcome attendees is scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m. April 29 at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, 1400 Streit Drive. Nobel Laureate and National Academy of Sciences member Alfred G. Gilman, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the chief scientific officer for CPRIT, is the Symposium’s keynote speaker and will deliver his presentation at the dinner. The dinner will also feature remarks by several Texas Tech University and TTUHSC officials, including TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D. and TTUHSC-SOP Dean Arthur A. Nelson, Jr., R.Ph., Ph.D. Amarillo Mayor, Debra McCartt, is also a special invited guest.

The Symposium will bring together researchers and clinicians from across the TTU System to build collaborative cancer research in West Texas. More than 100 researchers are expected to participate in the symposium and attend its research events. Prominent cancer investigators from the Food and Drug Administration, the Duke University Medical Center and other TTU System campuses are also giving special invited presentations.

Because cancer is a priority for the Lone Star State, the Texas legislature created the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, which will direct $3 billion in funding to cancer prevention and research over the next decade.

Researchers at the TTUHSC campus in Amarillo have thus far received CPRIT funds for two major projects: a $1.6 million grant was awarded to Marjorie Jenkins, M.D. of the TTUHSC School of Medicine to improve access to breast care for West Texas and a $1 million grant was awarded to Quentin Smith, Ph.D. and cancer researchers at the TTUHSC-SOP to purchase a major new multiphoton microscope to study cancer development and treatment.

Overall, CPRIT has awarded 10 grants to TTUHSC and three grants to TTU totaling approximately $8.4 million.
The Symposium will also seek to move forward with discussions aimed at creating a TTU/TTUHSC Cancer Institute that covers all of West Texas and helps integrate and build cancer research and therapy initiatives for the region.

Cancer research is a focus of Amarillo TTUHSC campus. The Amarillo Research Building, which opened on the TTUHSC campus in 2009, is helping to expand this initiative, which has a significant cancer research base consisting of more than 20 SOM and SOP faculty researchers and more than $4 million of external research funding. Faculty cancer researchers from both schools have joined together to form the Cancer Biology Center, which is led by Ming-hai Wang, Ph.D.

In addition, TTUHSC-SOP recently recruited two major cancer researchers—Ruiwen Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. and Junxuan “Johnny” Lu, Ph.D.—to serve as chairs for the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences departments. Both have large research programs and extensive external grant funding. Rakhshanda Rahman, M.D. and other highly experienced cancer clinicians from TTUHSC-SOM have formed the Breast Center of Excellence for Therapy. Cynthia Raehl, Pharm.D., who is founding chair of the SOP’s Department of Pharmacy Practice, leads the SOP’s clinical research efforts.

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