Funding for Texas Cancer Research Agency in Limbo

Texas legislators are threatening to cut off funding for the state's troubled $3 billion cancer research agency unless the organization can resolve problems with how it awards money.

Initial spending bills introduced by the state legislature's House of Representatives and Senate contain no new grant funds for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the Houston Chronicle reports today. "I felt strongly we should stop the process to make any necessary changes," said Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst about the Senate bill, according to the Chronicle.

Last fall, CPRIT's chief scientific officer and many of its outside scientific reviewers resigned to protest what they saw as a failure to conduct proper peer review. The Texas attorney general and others are also investigating a $11 million commercialization grant that was approved without formal review. In December, the agency agreed to a moratorium on new grants.

A CPRIT official suggested that the legislature may yet approve the $600 million the agency needs for the next 2 years. "We have until May to show the legislature we will carry out its wishes the way they want them carried out," Wayne Roberts, CPRIT's interim executive director, told the Chronicle. "Those bills show the legislature's concern, their need for assurance that this agency has proper controls in place to ensure money is allocated appropriately."