University Health System awarded $1.2 million from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to combat hepatitis C

Grant was the only one awarded to a San Antonio researcher in latest round of awards by CPRIT

(SAN ANTONIO, TX - February 16, 2017) South Texas has the highest incidence of liver cancer in the nation — in large part due to hepatitis C. Baby boomers are at particular risk. Researchers at University Health System have found that those born between 1945 and 1965 had more than twice the rate of hepatitis C infection as the nation as a whole. Hispanics are also at higher risk.

Now, a $1.24 million grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas will allow University Health System to increase screening for hepatitis C, and ultimately prevent the development of liver cancer in this population.

The grant was one of 14 awarded by the agency on Wednesday, and the only one awarded to a San Antonio organization.

Dr. Roberto Villarreal, senior vice president of research and information management at University Health System, is principal investigator of the project, called the Hepatitis Viral Infection and Systematic Treatment Program, or HepVISTA. Dr. Anna Taranova, executive research director, will serve as program manager.

The program, in collaboration with UT Health San Antonio, will expand screening for hepatitis C, provide education to both patients and healthcare providers, and develop culturally and linguistically tailored patient navigation that will work to eliminate barriers to care.

Preventing new cases of liver cancer will reduce healthcare costs in the long run, Dr. Villarreal said.

It is the eighth grant awarded by CPRIT to University Health System for cancer prevention since 2010, for a total of almost $9 million. Other projects have included a breast and cervical cancer education and outreach initiative, as well as a Colorectal Cancer Screening Male Navigation Program to provide resources to help increase colorectal cancer screening through a public awareness campaign and for a professional education training program.

CPRIT was created with the 2007 passage of Proposition 15, which authorized the sale of bonds to fund up to $3 billion in cancer research in Texas over a 10-year period.  

More information about CPRIT is available online at
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