Siva Vanapalli

Professor to Study Movement of Cancer Cells and Tumor Cell Detection

Projects will be funded by two CPRIT grants.

Siva Vanapalli, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, at Texas Tech University, recently received two grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to study the movement of tumor cells throughout the body and new methods of detecting cancer cells.

One of the grants was received under the highly competitive CPRIT’s Individual Investigator Program for $674,465. Only about 10 percent of the projects that apply for this grant are funded. The other grant is a high-impact/high-risk grant for $199,993.

“These grants are about developing new methods and tools to better understand cancer metastasis and detect tumor cells,” Vanapalli said.

Metastasis is the process in which cells from a primary tumor break-off, enter the blood stream and create new tumors elsewhere in the body. The metastasis of tumor cells is what causes death in about 70 percent of cancer patients. The basic understanding of a tumor is that once the cells enter the body’s highway system (blood flow), the cancer threat becomes increasingly dangerous. Previous research has led scientists to believe the most aggressive cells are soft and deformable so they can speed through the blood stream, squeezing through spaces of various sizes and shapes. The question is why.