MD Anderson – UT Austin Strategic Collaboration

MD Anderson – UT Austin Strategic Collaboration

MD Anderson Cancer Center and UT Austin have launched a strategic collaboration aimed at promoting research between the two institutions. Investigators and leadership have worked together to identify research themes of mutual interest.

These themes of interest include:

Pilot Fund

A joint pilot fund has been established to co-develop transformative research projects with the expectation of attracting future extramural funding. Seed projects will be supported at a level of up to $50,000 for one year (three funding cycles). Submissions may fall under the topics mentioned above, but we will also accept proposals in other investigator-initiated research areas.

Proposals are solicited for basic, translational, clinical and/or epidemiologic studies focused on fundamental biological processes, translational or clinical investigations and public health effects, and must have PIs from both institutions.


Announcing the Fourth Cycle of UT Austin/MD Anderson Cancer Center Collaborative Pilot Project Grant Awardees

The following are the four projects funded through the Fourth Cycle of this collaborative effort:

ProjectPIsThematic Area
Studies of Gold(I)-based Immunogenic Cell Death (ICD) Inducers in a Microsatellite Stable (MSS) CRC Tumor Model
  • Jonathan Sessler
  • Ronald DePinho
Other - Microsatellite stable colorectal cancer
Elucidating modulators of DUSP11: a novel regulator of the sensitivity of the inflammatory response with relevance to cancer
  • Christopher Sullivan
  • Traver Hart
Other - Inflammation in the antiviral response and cancer
Upper Esophageal Sphincter (UES) Dysfunction in a Cancer Population
  • Corinne Jones
  • David Richards
Other - Symptom management
Rewiring Cancer Metabolism by Targeting MYC Proteins in MYC-driven Hematologic Malignancies
  • Michael Andreef
  • Stefano Tiziani
Other - Cancer Metabolism and hematologic malignancies

ProjectPIsThematic Area
Cook-Grow! A 16-week home cooking and gardening intervention for Cancer Survivors and their Families
  • Jaimie Davis (Nutritional Sciences, UT-Austin)
  • Joya Chandra (Pediatrics Research, UTMDACC)
Other - Behavioral therapy to address obesity and dietary intake for childhood cancer survivors
A Novel Single Cell AI-based Translational Framework for Precision Immunotherapy in Early Onset Colorectal Cancer
  • Stephen Yi (Department of Oncology, UT-Austin Dell Medical School)
  • Scott Kopetz (Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, UTMDACC)
Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC)
Elucidating Oncogenic Mechanisms by Single-Cell, Single-Molecule in Vivo Biochemistry
  • Daniel James Dickinson (Molecular Biosciences, UT-Austin)
  • Georgios Karras (Genetics, UTMDACC)
Other - Cancer risk factors and progression; Technology development
Deciphering Iron Redox during Ferroptosis in Cancer Biology
  • Yi Lu (Chemistry, UT-Austin)
  • Boyi Gan (Experimental Radiation Oncology, UTMDACC)
Other - Study of ferroptosis as a promising therapeutic approach in cancer research with particular relevance to cancers resistant to apoptosis
Focused ultrasound delivery of microglia-targeting antibody
  • Tyrone Porter (Biomedical Engineering, UT-Austin)
  • Yaima Lightfoot (Neurodegeneration Consortium, UTMDACC)
Frontiers of Neuroscience

ProjectPIsThematic Area
Engineering Tumor-selective Anti-CD44v Antibodies to Target Inflammatory Breast Cancer
  • Jennifer Maynard (Chemical Engineering, UT Austin)
  • Naoto Ueno (Breast Medical Oncology, UTMDACC)
Other - Prevention of Cancer Metastasis
Efficient Gene Editing of Chimeric Antigen Receptor-natural Killer (CAR-NK) Cells
  • Ilya J. Finkelstein (Molecular Biosciences, UT Austin)
  • Katy Rezvani (Stem Cell Transplantation, UTMDACC)
  • Andy Ellington (Molecular Biosciences, UT Austin)
Frontiers of Neuroscience
Measuring the Dark Matter of Neurodegeneration: Total Soluble Oligomers of Misfolded Proteins
  • Tanya Hutter (Mechanical Engineering, UT Austin)
  • William J. Ray (Neurodegeneration Consortium, UTMDACC)
Frontiers of Neuroscience
Role of WWOX Loss-of-function in Progressive Cerebellar Neurodegeneration
  • Laura Fonken (Pharmacology & Toxicology, UT Austin)
  • Claudio Aldaz (Epigenetic & Molecular Carcinogenesis, UTMDACC)
Frontiers of Neuroscience
Chromatin Profiling of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer
  • Vishwanath R. Iyer (Molecular Biosciences, UT Austin)
  • Kunal Rai (Genomic Medicine, UTMDACC)
Early-onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC)
Texas Melanoma Stage at Diagnosis and Geospatial Persistent Poverty
  • Ade Adamson (Internal Medicine, UT Austin)
  • Kelly Nelson (Dermatology, UTMDACC)
  • Cici Bauer (Biostatistics and Data Science, UT Health Science Center)
Population Health

ProjectPIsThematic Area
Detecting Collagen Glycosylation in Lung Adenocarcinoma: New Diagnostic Tools for Imaging Extracellular Matrix Modifications
  • Brian Belardi (Chemical Engineering, UT Austin)
  • Jonathan Kurie (Thoracic-Head & Neck Medical Oncology, UTMDACC)
Other - Cancer Diagnostic Platform
Early Detection and Novel Classification of Colorectal and Gastric Cancer by Contour Topographic Mapping and Stiffness Scoring of Tumors Using a Soft Robotic System with an Intelligent Tactile Skin
  • Farshid Alambeigi (Mechanical Engineering, UT Austin)
  • Naruhiko Ikoma (Surgical Oncology, UTMDACC)
Early-onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC)
Focused Ultrasound Induced Optogenetic Activation of CAR-Macrophage for Glioblastoma
  • Rongze "Olivia" Lu (Neurosurgery, UT Austin)
  • Vinay Puduvalli (Neuro-oncology, UTMDACC)
  • Evan Wang (Biomedical Engineering, UT Austin)
Frontiers of Neuroscience
Novel Technology for Point-of-Care Early Colon Cancer Diagnosis — Innovative Optoelectric Platform for Dually High Speed and Ultra-Sensitive Biomarker Detection
  • Donglei Emma Fan (Mechanical Engineering, UT Austin)
  • Robert Bresalier (Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, UTMDACC)
Early-onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC)
Rhesus Macaque Model of Chemotherapy-Related Cognitive Impairments and Neurodegeneration
  • Shelli Kesler (Nursing, UT Austin)
  • Bill Hopkins (Comparative Medicine, UTMDACC)
  • Steven Schapiro (Comparative Medicine, UTMDACC)
Frontiers of Neuroscience

10/06/2021 - UT Austin and MD Anderson Form Partnership to End Cancer

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and MD Anderson Cancer Center are working together to better detect, diagnose and cure some of the most common and fatal types of cancers.

Meet the Teams

EOCRC Executive Team


Anna Capasso
UT Austin
Department of Oncology

Dr. Capasso’s area of interest is in the preclinical and early clinical development of combinations of molecularly targeted compounds, with a laboratory focus on colorectal cancer. She oversees several research activities and is specializing in ‘first in human” clinical trials.


Gail Eckhardt
UT Austin
Department of Oncology

Dr. Eckhardt's area of interest is in the preclinical and early clinical development of combinations of molecularly targeted compounds, with a laboratory focus on colorectal cancer.


Scott Kopetz
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of GI Medical Oncology

Dr. Kopetz’ research interests center on a translational and clinical trial program in colorectal cancer, which has resulted in FDA approval of BRAF/EGFR inhibitor combinations for patients with BRAF V600E mutated CRC, and PD1/CTLA4 inhibitor combinations for patients with MSI-H CRC. He also is an innovator in the development and implementation of circulating tumor DNA into clinical management, including interrogation of mechanisms of resistance, evaluation of minimal residual disease, and integration into clinical trial designs. He is a principal investigator for the K12 and KL2 institutional training grants. Further research efforts include the joint development of the Consensus Molecular Subtypes, an RNA- based methodology for CRC classification that is now being widely integrated in retrospective and clinical trial efforts.


William Matsui
UT Austin
Department of Oncology

Dr. Matsui's research is focused on studying cancer stem cells, tumor cells with enhanced growth potential and their role in clinical oncology. His laboratory first identified cancer stem cells in the plasma cell malignancy multiple myeloma in 2003 and subsequently in other cancers including lymphomas, leukemias and pancreas cancer.


Nancy You
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Colon and Rectal Surgery

Dr. You's research focuses on hereditary cancer predisposition syndromes and on colorectal cancer particularly that occurs before age 50.

Frontiers of Neuroscience Executive Team


William Matsui
UT Austin
Department of Oncology

Dr. Matsui's research is focused on studying cancer stem cells, tumor cells with enhanced growth potential and their role in clinical oncology. His laboratory first identified cancer stem cells in the plasma cell malignancy multiple myeloma in 2003 and subsequently in other cancers including lymphomas, leukemias and pancreas cancer.


Bob Messing
UT Austin
Department of Neuroscience

Dr. Messing's research focuses on molecular and circuit adaptations to drugs of abuse that contribute to substance use disorders.


Vinay Puduvalli
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Neuro-Oncology

Dr. Puduvalli’s research focuses on developing new treatments for brain malignancies using a combined approach of targeted therapies, innovative clinical trial designs and rational combinations of anticancer agents. His clinical expertise includes care of patients with brain and spine malignancies, as well as neurological complications of cancer. His laboratory research focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in gliomas to target these with novel agents using a variety of pre-clinical models.


Jim Ray
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Therapeutics Discovery

Dr. Ray is a neuroscientist with extensive drug discovery experience, allowing him to understand the therapeutic potential of basic science discoveries regarding brain health. He has worked across the spectrum of therapeutic discovery, from academic research to biotech to large pharma, specializing in Alzheimer’s disease. He's now interested in understanding the nexus between aging, cancer and neurodegeneration, and finding therapies that promote the resilience and healthy aging of the brain.


Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert
UT Austin
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Sakiyama-Elbert's research focuses on developing new bioactive scaffolds for tissue engineering. These scaffolds contain bioactive signals that include signals for cell-type specific adhesion and migration, growth factors to promote cell proliferation and differentiation. Her lab’s goal is to make materials that can sense cell-derived signals during regeneration and respond by providing biological signals to enhance tissue regeneration.


Hussein Tawbi
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology

Dr. Tawbi's research focuses on early phase studies of novel agents in melanoma and sarcoma. Dr. Tawbi has designed, and conducted many Phase I and Phase II studies in both diseases. Specifically, he participated in the early studies of targeted agents (vemurafenib, dabrafenib, and trametinib) and immunotherapy agents (nivolumab and pembrolizumab). He has been interested in the study of special populations including patients with organ dysfunction and patients with melanoma brain metastases. Given that patients with melanoma brain metastases have been traditionally excluded from clinical trials, Dr. Tawbi has multicenter Phase II studies dedicated to this population and has shown that the combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab in untreated melanoma brain metastases is safe and has a high rate of durable responses exceeding 55%.

Population Health Executive Team


Karen Basen-Engquist
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Behavioral Science

Dr. Basen-Engquist’s research focuses on cancer survivors and the role of health behavior interventions in decreasing the severity of late effects, improving physical functioning, optimizing quality of life, and reducing risk of chronic diseases.


Michael Mackert
UT Austin
Department of Advertising & Public Relations

Dr. Mackert's research focuses primarily on the strategies that can be used in traditional and new digital media to provide effective health communication to low health literate audiences. He leads projects on a variety of public health issues – including tobacco cessation, opioid overdose prevention, and men's role in prenatal health.


Lorna McNeill
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Health Disparities Research

Dr. McNeill's research focuses on the elimination of cancer-related health disparities in minority populations. Her research has particular emphasis on understanding the influence of social contextual determinants of cancer in minorities, with a special focus of the role of physical activity as a key preventive behavior and obesity as a major cancer determinant.


Jewel Mullen
UT Austin
Department of Population Health

Dr. Mullen is the associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, as well as an associate professor in the school’s population health and internal medicine departments. Mullen is an internist, epidemiologist, public health physician leader and the former principal deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Navkiran Shokar headshot

Navkiran Shokar
UT Austin
Department of Population Health

Dr. Shokar’s research interests include interventions in cancer prevention and control, shared decision-making, and community-based research to address cancer health disparities among vulnerable, poor and underserved populations. She has developed innovative population health approaches to bridge the divide between the community, the health care delivery system and public health.

Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Cancer Prevention & Control Platform

Mr. Walsh is Executive Director of the Cancer Prevention & Control Platform. He leads the creation, financing, implementation, and scale of novel place-based investments, risk-factor programs, health systems strengthening initiatives, and the concurrent design of partnership ecosystems in population health centered on health equity and high-impact public health practice.


Neurodegeneration & Brain Tumor Chalk Talk Series

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