Voters to decide on proposition to increase bond amount for cancer research institute

Proposition 6 to be voted on Nov. 5

SAN ANTONIO – It's a multibillion-dollar effort to fight cancer in Texas. Voters will soon decide on Proposition 6, which would increase the maximum bond amount for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, also known as CPRIT, from $3 billion to $6 billion.

"Making a scientific discovery is really one of the most gratifying things," said Dr. Patrick Sung, a researcher for UT Health San Antonio.

Sung said the university can work on research because of funding from the CPRIT.

"We are really very heavily involved in drug development in this point. My goal is to come up with regimens that would benefit the cancer patient care before I retire," Sung said.

CPRIT was created in 2007 to promote and fund cancer research in Texas.

UT Health San Antonio said the funding has been used to develop new drugs, including new ones for pediatric cancer, which are focused on the Hispanic population of South Texas.

Money from CPRIT also helped bring Sung to San Antonio.

In total, UT Health San Antonio has received $93.5 million in CPRIT funding for many life-changing programs, including the development of a new type of drug for brain cancer and a texting tool to help young people quit smoking.

The Texas Medical Association said, "CPRIT already has saved countless Texans' lives, and it both saves and makes Texas millions of dollars every year."

A group called Empower Texans opposes Proposition 6. It said, "While well-intentioned, CPRIT has not been a good steward of taxpayer dollars and cancer research is not a core function of government."

In 2012, allegations surfaced that CPRIT didn't properly review the way millions of dollars in grants were distributed, which led to big changes at the organization. State lawmakers restructured the agency's grant awarding processes and made changes to improve oversight and prevent conflicts of interest.

CPRIT sent KSAT the following statement:

"CPRIT has undertaken four major initiatives to address the potential for waste and mismanagement, described below.  The Texas Legislature has been satisfied with CPRIT's operations and processes, as reflected most recently in the overwhelming approval of House Joint Resolution 12 (now Proposition 6) this past legislative session, including a unanimous vote in the Senate.

  • "Audits - The State Auditor's Office audited CPRIT in 2012.  CPRIT revised its processes to address all the auditor's recommendations.  Since that time, CPRIT continues to regularly audit its programs and processes through its internal audit program.  In addition, CPRIT undergoes an independent financial audit every year.  CPRIT presents all audits at the agency's quarterly open meetings.  The audits are also available to the public through CPRIT's website.

  • "Compliance Program, Training, and Grantee Reporting – In 2012, CPRIT hired its first Chief Compliance Officer, who has a direct line of communication to the Oversight Committee.  The CCO leads a training program for grantees, employees, and Oversight Committee members regarding issues like fraud, waste, and conflicts of interest.  Also, under the direction of the CCO, six compliance specialists and five grant accountants review the 1,500 required financial, audits, and other reports that CPRIT's 500 active grantees file with the agency each quarter.  The CCO informs the agency's Oversight Committee every month about grantee reports and compliance issues identified by the agency.  The CCO's reports are available to the public through CPRIT's website.

  • "Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline – CPRIT maintains a 24-hour hotline for reporting suspected instances of fraud, waste, or abuse by the agency, staff, or a grantee.  CPRIT uses a third-party vendor to take the report so that the person may remain anonymous if they choose to do so.  CPRIT's compliance and legal team investigate the allegation and report to the Oversight Committee's audit committee.  If CPRIT determines that the grantee misused grant funds, it requires repayment.

  • "Transparent Operations – Through our website, CPRIT makes information about our grant decisions and operations available to the public.  In addition to the audits and compliance information already referred to, some of the information you can find online includes archived video of Oversight Committee meetings, the meeting packets, and award information for the Oversight Committee meetings.  A "compliance pedigree" for every grant award documenting each step of an application' s progress through CPRIT's review process is also available.  CPRIT posts all documentation related to reporting of conflicts of interest and recusal from the review process and includes the information as part of our annual report submitted to state leadership and the Texas Legislature."

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