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UHD Receives First Grant for Cancer Prevention & Research


By Sheryl E. Taylor

Dr. Angelica Roncancio’s research focuses on reducing cancer-related disparities in underserved communities. So, she seized the opportunity to apply for a grant through the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

In late August, she received the news that UHD received its first CPRIT grant, which will fund a joint effort between The University of Texas at Austin, UT Health San Antonio, and two Federally Qualified Health Center Systems (12 clinics) across seven counties in the state.

Roncancio, Assistant Professor of Health & Behavioral Sciences  in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, will serve as the Principal Investigator for this grant that totals $991,308 over a three-year period. “The program is focused on primary prevention efforts to reduce ARoncancio_headshotHPV-related cancer disparities specifically for those who reside in Medically Underserved Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas in Texas,” she said.

“Our mission is to provide healthcare professionals with educational sessions on evidence-based HPV vaccination practices to increase the proportion of HCPs offering the vaccine to patients aged 18-26,” she noted. “We also plan to provide information about the HPV vaccine and HPV-related cancers to both young adult patients in our partner clinics and young adults attending community events in our seven target counties in Texas.”

She added, “Our vision is to increase rates of HPV vaccination among these young adult patients in our partner clinics to meet or exceed the mean HPV vaccine initiation and completion rates reported by the National Health Interview Survey, 2013-2018.”

According to CPRIT, the agency has awarded over $3 billion in grants to Texas research institutions and organizations through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs.

Roncancio strongly believes that this project aligns with all four of President Blanchard’s Four Points of Excellence. “Our cancer prevention efforts will focus on providing health education to underserved young adults, which aligns with Strengthening Justice and Strengthening Student Success and Equity. We are aiming to reduce HPV-related cancer disparities and increase health equity, provide health education to these young adults while, at the same time, working with clinic providers to reduce barriers to care in this population. We believe through education; we can empower them to advocate for their own health.”

For Supporting Institutional Excellence and Infrastructure, “We are training our students to serve as peer health educators. This will foster a desire to serve and empower their communities,” she noted. “The collaborative nature of this project will also create strong relationships that can be leveraged to advocate on behalf of our students and communities.”

She sees the purpose of this grant as a “mechanism to reach and provide cancer prevention services to as many individuals as possible. This is the first CPRIT Prevention grant awarded to UHD. As such, it will contribute to UHD’s efforts to Growing as an Anchor Institution.”

When asked how this opportunity sets the stage for students’ academic success, Roncancio said, “Implementation of this program will provide learning opportunities for our students to gain practical experience in community outreach, health education, and how to collaborate  successfully with various community organizations and clinics while applying what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations.”

CPRIT was created by the Texas Legislature and approved by a statewide vote in 2007 to lead the Lone Star State’s fight against cancer. In 2019, Texas voters again voted overwhelming to continue CPRIT with an additional $3 billion for a total $6 billion investment in cancer research and prevention.


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.