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Texas cancer-fighting agency to refocus funding to rare and hard-to-treat forms of disease

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' cancer-fighting agency announced it will start investing a larger part of its $300 million yearly budget toward finding cures for rare and hard-to-treat cancers that are often overlooked by the private sector.

The Austin American-Statesman (http://bitly.com/1wrF4Bz ) reported Saturday that the announcement comes because the Legislature mandated the agency's oversight committee review funding priorities after the group's top leaders were removed by lawmakers for mismanaging $56 million in grants.

Wayne Roberts, the chief executive officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, said juvenile and adolescent cancers will be among the priorities. "We really have to make sure we're not just mimicking what is going on elsewhere," he said.

The proposal has been posted on the agency's website and it is asking the public to review its proposal and submit an online survey before Oct. 28.

The $3 billion agency controls the nation's second-largest pot of cancer funding behind only the federal National Institutes of Health. The agency was created after Texans voted in 2007 to authorize the $3 billion in bonds that are supposed to be spent over 10 years starting in 2009.

Roberts took over in December after the agency lost its entire executive team to sudden resignations after prosecutors began looking into $11 million in taxpayer funds awarded to a private startup without review. Roberts has served as interim executive director since.

Former administrator Jerald "Jerry" Cobbs was indicted on a first-degree felony, accused of misleading his bosses about a grant that never got the required scientific review.

The agency has since updated its conflict of interest guidelines, rules on how grants are recommended, and an annual report is posted on the agency's website of campaign contributions over $1,000 made by members of CPRIT's oversight committee. Those members are appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House of Representatives.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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