Family Impacted by Cancer Contributes to Cancer Research

Family Impacted by Cancer Contributes to Cancer Research

 Basic Cancer Research Endowed Chair Established


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From left to right: Dr. Tedd Mitchell, Drs. Wendy and Kevin Pruitt, Drs. Celeste and Joe Fralick and Dr. Steven Berk


Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) announced the Childers-Fralick Basic Cancer Research Endowed Chair Jan. 18. A generous gift by the family of Celeste and Joe Fralick established the chair within the School of Medicine Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology.


Celeste, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering for Intel Corporation, and Joe, a Ph.D. professor in the TTUHSC Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, have been impacted by cancer.


Celeste’s cousin Diane Childers battled breast cancer and succumbed to the disease.

As trustee of Childers’ estate, also having a mother who died of lung cancer and a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor herself, Celeste examined areas of specific research to select for the trust.


“Our family, as has so many others, has been impacted by cancer,” Celeste said. “My cousin battled breast cancer but passed seven years later due to the treatment’s side effects. She was in her early 60s with a vivacious spirit, dedicated community activism and an unending passion for helping people. Her trust bequest was specific to passing on that giving essence in the area of cancer research so others would not suffer as she had.” 


Kevin Pruitt, associate professor in the Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology, received the endowed chair position. The Pruitt laboratory focuses on how specific proteins create epigenetic “footprints” in cancer cells that enable them to drive the overproduction of estrogen within tumors.


Pruitt completed his Ph.D. training as a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then continued postdoctoral training at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Department of Oncology. During this postdoctoral stint, he was recognized as an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow, and his interest in cancer epigenetics expanded considerably. After receiving the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Recruitment of Rising Stars award, he relocated his lab from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport to TTUHSC.


“Dr. Pruitt has been awarded millions of dollars in research funding by the National Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute, private foundations and the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas,” said Steven L. Berk, M.D., TTUHSC executive vice president, provost and School of Medicine dean. “He is dedicated to cancer research. With continued support, we hope Dr. Pruitt and his laboratory find answers for the treatment of cancer.”


With TTUHSC’s ongoing Your Life, Our Purpose campaign, TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., said this gift demonstrates the commitment the West Texas community has for cancer research.


“This endowed chair will ensure a long-term investment in our research programs,” Mitchell said. “Everyone knows a Diane Childers. We thank the Childers and Fralick families for their generosity.”


The campaign seeks to raise $150 million by 2019 to advance initiatives in research, education, scholarships, patient care and community impact to improve health outcomes locally and globally. 

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