EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso’s School of Pharmacy are leading efforts to reduce mortality rates in lung, ovarian and pancreatic cancer with $3.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) awarded Taslim Al-Hilal, Ph.D., $1.5 million to test the use of blood thinning agents to improve the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer settings, where immunotherapy does not work.  

Al-Hilal also received two grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), including a $1.8 million R01 grant, one of the most competitive research grants awarded by NIH, to study how a protein commonly found in male reproductive glands that was first discovered in 1999 can be targeted to treat lung cancer. He received an additional $400,000 from the NCI to continue his research into the prion-like Doppel protein as a new predictive biomarker for ovarian cancer.

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.,” Al-Hilal said. “Our goal is to develop novel therapies that will help us to target specific cancers in order to lower their mortality rates.”

Marc B. Cox, Ph.D., chair of UTEP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and professor of biological sciences, said the pharmaceutical sciences department has experienced rapid growth in federally funded research activity, with faculty securing an additional $7.2 million in new grant awards in the past academic year alone. He added that, combined with new funding from incoming faculty, UTEP’s pharmaceutical sciences team has generated more than $10 million in new research funding this year.