Sean Morrison Receives Individual Investigator Award from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)

Dr. Sean Morrison, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, received an Individual Investigator Award from CPRIT to study the mechanisms of melanoma metastasis. Dr. Morrison is one of five researchers at UT Southwestern to receive funding from CPRIT.

Dr. Morrison aims to better understand the complex molecular mechanisms that allow cancer cells to spread. This research will build on earlier work that found metastasis of human melanoma cells to be limited by oxidative stress, caused by the generation inside cancer cells of highly toxic reactive molecules known as reactive oxygen species. Most melanoma cells that enter the blood die from oxidative stress. Dr. Morrison believes the rare melanoma cells that survive during metastasis undergo specific metabolic adaptations that allow them to withstand the oxidative stress.

Increasing our understanding of these mechanisms is crucial to develop new pro-oxidant therapies that could prevent metastasis by exacerbating oxidative stress or by preventing the metabolic adaptations used by cancer cells to survive during metastasis. This work represents a fundamental shift in strategy away from the use of anti-oxidants for cancer therapy, which appear to promote cancer cell survival and which have been shown in clinical trials to promote cancer progression.

To date, CPRIT has awarded $1.67 billion in grants to Texas researchers, institutions and organizations. The agency began making awards in 2009 after Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a 2007 constitutional amendment committing $3 billion to the fight against cancer.

CPRIT provides funding through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. Programs made possible with CPRIT funding have reached all 254 counties of the state, brought more than 129 distinguished researchers to Texas, advanced scientific and clinical knowledge, and provided more than 3 million lifesaving education, training, prevention, and early detection services to Texans, according to CPRIT.