Archive for 2014

Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D., joins Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations


Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D. 

Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally recognized physician-scientist from Harvard Medical School, will be joining UNMC to lead cancer surgery efforts and have a significant leadership role in the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Dr. Thayer will start May 1 as associate director for clinical affairs and physician-in-chief for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. She also has been appointed Merle M. Musselman Centennial Professor of Surgery and chief of surgical oncology at UNMC.

“This is a prominent example that the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will attract the brightest minds in cancer care and research who will look to take advantage of our world-class infrastructure and collaborate with what is already an outstanding team,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to realize what the very best of cancer care can be,” Dr. Thayer said. “I’m extraordinarily excited and honored to be part of this innovative cancer center and to be working with the wonderful intellectual powerhouse that already exists. There’s a great synergy between clinical care and scientific progress that works really well at UNMC – and we believe that translation between the two is where our next inventions and innovations in patient care will come from.”

Dr. Thayer comes to UNMC following a 13-year stint at Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital. She has served as the W. Gerald Austen Scholar in Academic Surgery since 2002 and as director of the pancreatic cancer biology lab since 2008.

She has been continuously funded since 2003 and has been part of five National Institutes of Health research grants, three as overall principal investigator. Dr. Thayer currently has a $2 million pancreatic cancer research project funded by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Thayer is an active surgeon with a clinical and research focus on pancreatic cancer. Clinically, she also specializes in cancers of the breast and gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Thayer arrived on the national scene with a 2003 publication in the journal Nature in which her work revealed the role of a developmental gene (Shh) as an early initiator in pancreatic cancer. Later, her group was the first to categorize and classify three distinct forms of pancreatic ductal lesions and their role in regeneration and cancer. In 2010, her team identified a novel ductal compartment and named them “pancreatic duct glands.”

Genetic information a possible guide to drug treatment

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations


Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D. Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D., knows prescription drugs don’t work the same for everyone.

But she wants to better understand how genes influence individual drug responses so doctors can prescribe the drug and dosage that works best for the patient being treated.

“I want to know how medicines work and how they change the body to create good — and to sometimes cause harm. Throw genetics into the picture and it’s an interesting and important area of study.”



This article originally appeared in the most recent issue of Discover, currently on newsstands throughout the UNMC campus or available online.

Although the field of pharmacogenomics is relatively new, it has the potential to one day eliminate the “one size fits all” medicinal approach and lead to more effective, safe medications and doses tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.

The use of genetic information to guide treatments is growing as physicians better predict who will benefit from a drug, who will not respond at all or who will experience a negative side effect.

An assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Oestreich (pronounced ace-try) researches personalized anti-platelet therapy (which medicines, and how much, work best) and genetic tests for risk factors for cardiovascular events among the area’s American Indian population.

She drives to Martin, S.D., and its surrounding area to find and interact with her research participants. Together, the UNMC team collaborates with Lyle Best, M.D., and Turtle Mountain Community College at Belcourt, N.D. Both entities also work with Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc., which is American Indian-owned and has offices on both the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations in South Dakota.

The project goes through not just UNMC’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) but one with the tribe itself, and one with the Aberdeen Area Indian Health Service.

Dr. Oestreich previously had been interested in the variability of platelet function and response to antiplatelet agents with regard to protecting people from adverse cardiovascular events. She was intrigued by the idea that ethnicity might be one factor in this variability.

After studies with a small group of American Indians, the team now plans to expand its research to a larger population and further test whether genetic variants impact drug response. Finding answers, she knows, will benefit patients far into the future.

“We don’t want to leave a population behind,” she said.

UNMC ranked in top 10 for primary care, rural medicine

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations


UNMC is ranked in the top 10 in two areas in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s top graduate schools.

UNMC remains the sixth-ranked primary care medical program in the United States, tied with the University of Minnesota. In addition, UNMC tied for ninth in the list of top rural medicine programs.

“The recognition of UNMC in the fields of primary care and rural medicine is gratifying,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., UNMC chancellor. “These are areas of vital importance to the people of Nebraska, and it is a testament to the physicians, researchers and staff members at UNMC that their efforts have been acknowledged as among the nation’s finest.”

U.S. News surveyed 153 institutions during 2013 and 2014 while compiling the rankings, which were released Tuesday. Schools surveyed included medical schools accredited in 2013 by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and schools of osteopathic medicine accredited in 2013 by the American Osteopathic Association.

“Education is a vital part of UNMC’s overall mission,” said Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This recognition of our educational programs underscores the excellent skills and abilities of our faculty and students. Our outstanding rankings in primary care and rural medicine reflect the priority the university has placed on expanding access to health care in Nebraska’s rural communities and creating a national model for other regions seeking to do the same.”

According to the U.S. News website, rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators.

Primary care rankings included indicators such as the student admissions statistics (MCAT, GPA and acceptance rate), the proportion of graduates entering primary care specialties, peer assessment, assessment by residency directors and other factors.

Rural medicine rankings, like other specialties, were established through ratings by medical school deans or senior faculty, who identified up to 10 schools offering the top programs in each specialty.

UNMC remained at No. 64 for research in the new rankings. Although new rankings aren’t available in all categories for 2015, UNMC continues to be rated in four other programs:

  • 16th in physician assistant programs (last ranked in 2011);
  • 32nd in pharmacy programs (last ranked in 2012);
  • 34th in physical therapy programs (last ranked in 2012); and •36th in nursing master’s programs (last ranked in 2011).

UNMC pharmacy dean part of groundbreaking HIV research study

Teams with University of Minnesota researchers to better understand workings of HIV drugs

Drugs used to treat HIV penetrate poorly into lymphatic tissues where most HIV replication takes place, and there is persistent low-level virus replication in these tissues according to research from the University of Minnesota and University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“We know the drugs we use today are effective because HIV-infected persons are doing better and living longer, but these drugs cannot cure the infection,” said Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., the first author of the PNAS paper and dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We wanted to know why and thought that maybe the drugs were not getting into the tissues where most virus replication is happening.”

Dr. Fletcher joined a team with Timothy Schacker, M.D., director of the Program in HIV Medicine at the University of Minnesota and Ashley Haase, M.D., Regents’ Professor and Head of Microbiology at the University of Minnesota, to measure drug levels and find the impact on HIV-1 replication in those tissues.

“These are very complex questions requiring expertise from many disciplines to get the data required to understand what is going on,” Dr. Schacker said. “This is a great example of the kind of team science we need to make progress in curing this disease.”

Dr. Schacker, the principal investigator of the project, assembled a cohort of patients and started them on antiretroviral therapy.  He collected lymph nodes and gut samples from these patients at frequent intervals.

Dr. Fletcher used highly specialized and sensitive methods, developed in his laboratory, for measuring drug levels inside cells obtained from lymph nodes and gut tissues.

“The common approach of looking at drug concentrations in plasma may provide misleading information,” Dr. Fletcher said. “What is most important to understand is the concentration of a drug actually inside an HIV-infected cell in the compartments where most of the virus is actually produced.

“What we found, in studies conducted during six months of therapy in 12 HIV-infected persons receiving combinations of five of the most commonly used drugs to treat HIV infection was that concentrations inside the cells from lymph tissues were surprisingly low compared with blood.”

Dr. Haase then used sensitive methods to precisely measure the amount and location of virus in the lymph node and gut tissues and found the virus continued to replicate in the tissues, even when it was undetectable in blood.

“Most HIV replicates in the lymph and gut tissues and that’s where we need to look to understand the efficacy of these drugs,” Dr. Haase said. “The ongoing replication we found in the lymph and gut tissues we tested directly correlated with the drug levels found there.

“This persistent low-level replication may be one cause of the chronic immune activation we find in these patients, and is likely an important factor in accelerated aging, increased cardiovascular events and early mortality common in these patients.”

Drs. Schacker, Fletcher, Haase and their collaborators are now working on a comprehensive survey of all available anti-retroviral drugs in an effort to identify a combination of drugs that will provide maximum penetration into lymph nodes and more effectively stop virus replication.

“We will not cure this disease until we can completely suppress virus replication,” Dr. Schacker said.

Funding for this research project was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health grants AI074340 and AI028433.

The College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is one of the nation’s outstanding institutions for pharmacy education and research, with its graduates advancing drug discovery, delivery and therapeutics and influencing the quality of health care in communities across Nebraska and the U.S.  Visit www.unmc.edu/pharmacy to learn more.

The University of Minnesota Medical School, with its two campuses in the Twin Cities and Duluth, is a leading educator of the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and the school’s 3,800 faculty physicians and scientists advance patient care, discover biomedical research breakthroughs with more than $180 million in sponsored research annually, and enhance health through world-class patient care for the state of Minnesota and beyond. Visit www.med.umn.edu to learn more.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu and follow us on social media.


Wanted: Smokers to participate in tobacco marketing study

UNMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute seek 1,000 smokers to participate in $1.4 million study

Omaha, NE– What is the impact of tobacco marketing on smokers? Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) are asking that and other questions in a study which will examine point-of-sale tobacco advertising and smoking habits.

The three-year, $1.4 million study is being funded by the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“There is a gap in our knowledge about how tobacco marketing in stores affects smoking cessation and our study will help fill this void,” said Mohammad Siahpush, Ph.D., professor at the UNMC College of Public Health.  “Our goal is to examine how variations in tobacco marketing in stores influence attempts and success in stopping smoking.”

The tobacco industry spends $12.5 billion a year on marketing in the United States. As avenues for traditional tobacco marketing such as electronic, billboard, and print forms are restricted, the industry has come to rely on marketing at retail stores to advertise and promote their tobacco products.  This study will help to inform health care professionals about how exposure to tobacco marketing inhibits smoking cessation.

Researchers are seeking approximately 1,000 smokers who are 18 years of age and older, have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life, currently smoke five or more cigarettes per day and live in the City of Omaha. Smokers will be asked to respond to a 30-minute telephone survey and, in six months, a 15-20 minute follow-up telephone survey. Eligible participants will receive a compensation for their time.

Information will be collected from each participant on a variety of smoking topics, such as their cravings to smoke, urge to buy cigarettes, unplanned purchases of cigarettes, the perception of social acceptability of smoking, and about how much they notice tobacco marketing,. Interviews will be conducted by the Survey Research and Data Acquisition Resource (SRDAR) at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

Data also will be gathered about tobacco marketing from stores that sell tobacco in each participant’s neighborhood. This study is believed to be the first smoking cessation study to use geographical information technology to link tobacco marketing data from retail stores to information collected from smokers.

“The information obtained from this study will contribute to a greater understanding of the factors that impact smoking behavior,” said Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI. “The study results can guide health care professionals as they consider policies that support tobacco cessation and will ultimately help smokers quit.”

For more information or to participate in the study, interested parties can call the toll-free number for the project: 1-855-600-6960.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu and follow us on social media.


Pediatric obesity, from global to local

Michael Huckabee, Ph.D.

Parents today may outlive their children, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

We are raising the first generation of youth who will live sicker and shorter lives than their parents, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The global pediatric obesity epidemic is a primary example of why this may be true. Credible research steers us toward solutions on this one. Here’s a sampling of what the world, and Nebraska, are learning about preventing pediatric obesity.

China. Chinese researchers believe that economic expansion and exposure to western influences has led to their upsurge in pediatric obesity, associated with an increase in juvenile type 2 diabetes which has doubled within five years. Little research has been done to assess the population’s health status, and a call is made for more health screenings and lifestyle interventions.

Sweden. More than 200 families are enrolled in a study to determine the earliest changes in children that may be related to obesity. The study uniquely includes a cohort of children who are severely obese compared to a cohort of children who are lean. They are followed with health screenings including body measurements; surveys of diet, exercise and other behaviors; and blood tests measuring various hormones, growth factors, and genetics. The study began in 2010 (with likely 100 more families to be enrolled this year), and the research is already helping determine predictors of childhood diabetes related to obesity.

Central Illinois. It’s no surprise that a home that is secure and without distress leads to improved childhood eating practices rather than emotional eating. Secure parents play an important role as they are flexible in expressing emotions without excess, avoiding home stress. A recent Illinois study found that insecure parents are more likely to suppress their emotions which can trigger intense emotional outbursts. These parents tend to give in to children’s demands for unhealthy snacks in response to distress or bad moods, and they permit increased television viewing. Both are associated with weight gain. On the other hand, a secure home more likely has four or more family meals a week, associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and less high-calorie foods, all reducing the risk of childhood obesity.

Michigan and Massachusetts. This study continues to fuel the “obesity paradox” – that lower household incomes have more obese children. More than 100,000 families represented, the study found that poorer economic status was associated with children watching more television, having less exercise, and eating more fastfood and less fruits and vegetables.

Omaha. Starting when Omaha only had a half mile of bike lanes, Healthy Kids, Health Communities fostered the development of now 30 miles of bike lanes, bike racks on busses, an urban pocket park for mountain biking, and increased community gardens. Attention has been given to northeast and southeast neighborhoods where the aforementioned obesity paradox is alive and well. There, farmers’ markets brought healthy eating options, and the state’s first USDA-funded WIC Farmer’s Market coupon program served 3,300 families.

Lincoln. Teach a Kid to Fish is a public health initiative in Lincoln which promotes the message of 54321Go!, referring to the goal of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, 4 glasses of water a day, 3 servings of low-fat dairy a day, 2 hours or less of screen time, and 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu and follow us on social media.


Study may show new option for ovarian cancer patients

karpfAdam Karpf, Ph.D.

A study by UNMC and Roswell Park Cancer Institute shows that a combination treatment strategy may provide a new option for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

The study, published in Cancer Immunology Research, found clinical benefit for women who were treated with the drug decitabine prior to administration of chemotherapy and a cancer vaccine.

“We’re encouraged by the results from the phase I clinical study and look forward to extending this concept to the phase II setting, where treatment efficacy is the principal end point,” said Adam Karpf, Ph.D., associate professor, Eppley Institute, and member, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, at UNMC.

A prerequisite for the immune system to recognize and attack a tumor is the presence of high levels of a protein not normally found in healthy cells. Proteins with this profile are called tumor antigens and can be good targets for anticancer vaccines.

Phase II

Dr. Karpf’s co-principal investigator was Kunle Odunsi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of gynecologic oncology and director of the Center for Immunotherapy at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.

Based on the encouraging findings of the Phase I trial, the investigators are planning a Phase II trial at UNMC and Roswell Park to specifically evaluate the clinical efficacy of this novel chemo-immunotherapy approach in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

For the original study, see Cancer Immunology Research 2014; 2:37-49. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Grant, the Anna Maria Kellen Clinical Investigator Award, and Eisai Pharmaceuticals. Drs. Karpf and Odunsi have declared no conflicts of interest.

“Preclinical studies by our group have shown that a specific class of tumor antigens is regulated by DNA methylation,” Dr. Karpf said. “Based on this knowledge, we developed the new clinical regimen.”

The investigators conducted a phase I dose-escalation trial of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor decitabine, recruiting 12 women with epithelial ovarian cancer who had not responded to multiple lines of chemotherapy, with an estimated progression-free survival time of three months. Patients received decitabine on day one, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin on day eight, and the cancer vaccine on day 15.

The investigators established the best sequence of drug administration: decitabine was effective only when administered before chemotherapy; it was ineffective if given after chemotherapy; vaccine administration was the last step.

Of the 10 patients evaluated, five had stable disease for up to 7.8 months, and one had a partial response with disease remission that lasted 5.8 months.

The dose escalation data suggested that lower doses of decitabine are associated with improved clinical response using this regimen. The treatment was well tolerated, and adverse events included hematologic side effects that were clinically manageable.

One remarkable result was that the therapeutic regimen led to a phenomenon called “antigen spreading,” Dr. Karpf said. “Although we immunized against a single antigen, we found induction of immune responses against an additional three antigens. We believe this may have resulted from the decitabine treatment.”

UNMC HIV research part of New England Journal of Medicine article

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations


Uriel Sandkovsky, M.D. 

A recent study involving HIV researchers at UNMC revealed that a new, simplified drug may be the most effective treatment for people infected with the disease.

The research was featured in the Nov. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study compared the traditional drug therapy currently used and thought to be the “gold standard” to a new medication called dolutegravir. When combined with two commonly used HIV medications, dolutegravir is more effective — 88 percent compared to 81 percent — in reducing the viral load of HIV found in a patient’s bloodstream and has fewer side effects.

“The significance of the study was found in the number of people who discontinued taking the traditional drug therapy because of side effects compared to the newer drug,” said Uriel Sandkovsky, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine with the HIV Clinic and transplant infectious disease program at UNMC and the lead UNMC researcher on the study.

As researchers and physicians search for ways to help patients, this study will help in determining which HIV drug therapies are tolerated by the most people, he said.

Dr. Sandkovsky was one of the authors of the study, which included more than 100 investigators from 15 countries. The double blind controlled trial started in 2010 and is still ongoing, he said.

The study is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline and ViiV Healthcare.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago patients would take 15 pills multiple times a day. Now we are down to a daily combination pill. That’s a great improvement,” Dr. Sandkovsky said.

Currently there are three once-a-day treatments that combine three or more drugs in one pill to offer patients for treatment.

“Now we have one more medication to offer our patients, that we know is actually more effective with the least side effects,” Dr. Sandkovsky said.

“At the HIV Clinic we take research very seriously, carefully evaluating clinical trials in order to offer what we think is the safest and the best option for our patients,” he said. “We have Susan Swindells, M.B.B.S., as a great leader and a fantastic team to support all we do.”

Time out with T.O. – Global memories

by Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations


Lance Villeneuve and Elizabeth Blowers 

It’s often said that the college years are the best years of our lives.

Much is learned in the classroom, but it’s what takes place outside the classroom that typically produces the memories that last a lifetime.

For UNMC students, the International Student Research Forum (ISRF) has become one of those memorable experiences outside the classroom.

For the past nine years, the ISRF has given students seeking their Ph.D. an opportunity to see the world and expand their scientific horizons.

“It’s become a world stage for them to present their research and make connections for their future careers,” said Jialin Zheng, M.D., director of the Asia Pacific Rim Development Program for UNMC and one of the organizers of the ISRF, along with Keith Swarts, business services, and Jayme Nekuda, benefits & work life program.

The ISRF brings together top doctorate students from different countries and universities and typically rotates between four countries.

The founding universities include UNMC, Griffith University, Australia, Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Tokyo, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Other universities may host the forum. In 2014, the ISRF will be hosted for the first time by the University of Southern Denmark on June 1-4.

For Lance Villeneuve, a fifth-year student studying Parkinson’s disease in the laboratory of Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., the ISRF has become an annual goal. He’s participated in the past three as a moderator and student leader.

“I formed lifetime friendships with my first trip to Japan,” he said. “I love networking with people internationally and learning about research going on around the world. It’s an eye opener and made me a better researcher.”

Villeneuve grew up in Omaha and went to the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate degree. He plans to become a M.D./Ph.D. and is in the process of applying for medical school.

For Elizabeth Blowers, a fourth-year student conducting cancer research in the lab of Amarnath Natarajan, Ph.D., Eppley Institute for Cancer Research, the ISRF is “probably one of the best research forums I’ll ever go to.”

“In America, we have our own take on science,” said Blowers, an Indiana native who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and plans to pursue a research career. “With the ISRF, I’ve learned that each country has its own style of science.”

Travel and lodging expenses are covered for ISRF participants — memories are included.

UNMC part of international hepatitis C registry to improve treatment

by Vicky Cerino

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is involved in an international registry that’s evaluating new treatments for hepatitis C, a disease that threatens many baby boomers.

Many of the estimated 3 million people in the U.S. who have the virus – an overwhelming majority are baby boomers – don’t know they are infected. Hepatitis C is responsible for 12,000 deaths annually in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


UNMC, a regional referral center for hepatitis C, is part of the Hepatitis C Therapeutic Registry and Research Network, or HCV-TARGET. The network will track thousands of patients over the next five years to monitor the effectiveness and safety of new drugs to determine which ones are most effective and can cure the disease most quickly with the fewest side effects.

The project is important because in the next couple of years, several new, more superior medications will be approved for hepatitis C therapy, said Mark Mailliard, M.D., chief of the UNMC Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

“With the availability of new drugs, we will be able to capture a wealth of information that’s critical to determining which drugs are best and for which patients,” Dr. Mailliard said. “This is a great example of translational research at its best – taking the latest research discoveries to patients.”

The network is made up of university and community physicians at 103 sites in 31 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Europe, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It’s estimated about 2 percent of the world’s population is infected with hepatitis C. If left untreated, the virus causes liver damage, cancer or cirrhosis. Fatigue may be the only symptom of the disease.

Anyone being treated for the virus using newer medications is eligible to participate in the registry.

Dr. Mailliard said most of the current drugs used to treat hepatitis C – typically interferon and ribavirin – have many side effects and require self-administered injections. But he said, over the next three years, the use of interferon will slowly go away because of new drugs that will be more effective with much less side effects.

“We’re really very excited about the registry. So far we’ve provided outcome data on more than  120 patients of the 2,000 studied so far,” Dr. Mailliard said. “Our treatment success rate was significantly better than the average rate.”

People born between 1945 and 1965 are encouraged to get tested since many don’t recognize they are at risk for the disease. A simple blood test can diagnose the disease.

“Not only will treatment reduce the chance for liver failure and liver cancer, the diagnosis reminds patients of the danger of alcohol use and obesity, which increase the risk of getting cirrhosis and cancer,” Dr. Mailliard said.

Hepatitis C virus is usually is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood — mostly by sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the U.S., hepatitis C also was commonly spread through blood transfusions.

The network receives support from pharmaceutical companies.

Those currently being treated for hepatitis C can learn more about participating in the registry by contacting Mary Capadano at (402) 559-3652 or mcapadano@unmc.edu. For more information about hepatitis C, go to www.cdc.gov.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.