Archive for the ‘Patients’ Category

Researcher takes aim at leukemia in earliest stages

By Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations


Kate Hyde, Ph.D.

Kate Hyde, Ph.D. R. Kate Hyde, Ph.D., a new assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was a post-grad, already working on the control of gene expression, genes involved in cancer, when her dad got sick.

It was leukemia.

They knew it was serious when he told his wife, who was always cold, that he finally understood what she’d been complaining about all these years.

And as tough as he was, it took him. He died in 2003, just short of two years after his diagnosis, just about typical for the kind of leukemia he had.

Cancer is . . . awful. Uncertainty, deterioration, tests, treatments that seem to beat you down as much as they help. Kate decided something: “I already knew I wanted to do research,” she said.

She knew she needed to pick something that she cared about, that she would work on for the entirety of her career. “So I picked this.”

At UNMC, she’s excited to be setting up her own lab for the first time. She is armed with a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence award and an idea.

As a postdoc she was working on a project, but it took forever. She asked her mentor for something to do in the meantime. He gave her something that had been set aside.

The initial experiment at first didn’t make any sense, but the result was interesting. One thing led to another, until she realized: “We could use this model to look at a pre-leukemic state.”

Now, she works with mouse models with a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. The difference is that now they can study the disease from its first mutation.

“When you see a patient in clinic, it’s only after full blown leukemia,” Dr. Hyde said. “You don’t know what the initial stages are. But with the mouse model, we can control when they start expressing the protein that we know is the first step. We look at the consequences of this one protein by itself without the complications of the other mutations found in patient samples.”

Understanding how this first happens is integral to drug design and drug testing, Dr. Hyde said. This is what she works on.

For her dad?

She had to laugh a little at that: “I’m not in there every day like, ‘This is for you, Dad!’ ”

But, she always knew she was going to be a scientist. All she needed was a direction. Now she has one.

And she can’t wait to get started at UNMC.

The Nebraska Medical Center To Expand Trauma Services To Provide 24-7 Care

Improved access to quality trauma care seen as the primary reason for expansion

Traumatic injury is the number one killer of Nebraskans under the age of 44, and a leading cause of death in older citizens. In Douglas County alone, more people die from trauma-related accidents than stroke. However, research shows that treatment at a Level 1 trauma center reduces the risk of death by 25%. As the premier health care facility in the region, The Nebraska Medical Center is expanding its trauma services to meet the needs of residents in Omaha and surrounding communities by preparing to provide them with a nationally-recognized Level 1 trauma center that will operate 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week.

“This is the right thing to do for everyone who lives here,” said P.J. Schenarts, MD, trauma medical director at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Although the trauma system we’ve used for the last 20 years is functional, we think we have an obligation to provide something more.”

Since 1993, The Nebraska Medical Center has worked cooperatively with Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center in a combined trauma system, one of the few systems of its kind that operates in this fashion in the United States. The joint program results in two part-time trauma centers that can’t be recognized by the American College of Surgeons – the national accrediting body that is the gold standard for trauma centers in the U.S.

Last year, while external, independent reviewers were re-assessing the Omaha trauma system for the State of Nebraska, they noted that while the current system met patient needs, it could be optimized even further. The surveyors specifically noted in their recommendations: “Most importantly; with outstanding new trauma leadership and executive commitment, The Nebraska Medical Center Trauma Center could function independently and provide outstanding Level 1 care to the greater Omaha community. This option should be explored vigorously.”

“The Nebraska Medical Center has been evaluating the possibility of becoming a Level 1 trauma center for several years now,” said Rosanna Morris, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer of The Nebraska Medical Center. “We have the resources and infrastructure in place to establish a dedicated trauma program. The timing is right. Level 1 trauma centers provide the highest quality of care to injured patients. It’s our duty to do everything we can to provide them with that.”

Health care reform was another factor in the decision to expand trauma services. “Nationally, there has been a constant push for health care systems to operate more efficiently,” said Morris. “This is just one of the ways we can do that. The many specialty services that we provide at The Nebraska Medical Center are also available to our trauma patients and will now be there for them every day of the week, around the clock.”

“The patients are our number one priority,” added Dr. Schenarts. “We provide specialty care in areas like vascular surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric trauma, ophthalmology and burn care every day as it is. It’s the right thing to do to provide access to that care for everyone in the region, regardless of what day of the week it is.”

A certification process will be performed by the American College of Surgeons in order for The Nebraska Medical Center to achieve official Level 1 trauma center verification status. Notice has been given to officials at Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center of the plan to opt out of the current system August 1, 2014. “We appreciate the partnership we’ve had with our colleagues at Alegent Creighton over the years,” said Morris. “We want to thank them for their teamwork and recognize the contribution they’ve made to trauma patients across the region for so many years.”

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).

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, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email 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 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 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.”

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.

Bone Marrow Brothers

They were brothers. Best friends. Bonded for life. They enjoyed skiing, hunting and riding motorcycles – things teenage boys do. But, in October 2012, life took a very dramatic turn for Tyler and Tanner Snow, when Tyler came home from college with a bad stomachache.

“It was hard because nobody knew what was wrong with him,” remembers 18-year-old Tanner. “It was a difficult and scary time.”

Tyler’s stomachache lingered for a week. When he started vomiting blood, his parents rushed him to the emergency room in Kearney, Neb. Doctors ran a number of tests and referred Tyler to Mojtaba Akhtari, MD, an oncologist/hematologist at The Nebraska Medical Center.

“When I first met Tyler, I thought his illness could be a diagnostic challenge,” says Dr. Akhtari. “He was very young, pale and chronically ill. I was worried about him.”

After running more tests, Dr. Akhtari was able to diagnose Tyler with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and aplastic anemia.

“PNH is a very rare blood disorder in which red blood cells are destroyed by the immune system and it could be associated with an empty-looking bone marrow,” explains Dr. Akhtari. “Aplastic anemia is when the bone marrow gets wiped out by the immune system and blood numbers drop. Patients need frequent transfusions and could die due to infection or bleeding.”

Given the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Akhtari began consulting with other doctors around the country. They came to the conclusion that Tyler would need a bone marrow transplant, or he may not live to see his 30th birthday.

“It didn’t matter what it took to get well,” says 20-year-old Tyler. “I didn’t have very long. Everything kept going downhill and I needed a life saver.”

bm_brothers_1Tyler’s brother, Tanner, was one of several family members tested to see if they would be a match.

Doctors began looking for a bone marrow donor. Immediate family members were tested first, but none proved to be a match.

“Our family is very close, so I was bummed when I found out I couldn’t help my brother,” admits Tanner. “I wanted to make things better.”

Determined to make a difference, Tanner looked to his fellow high school students for help. “Each year, the senior class does a blood drive. So, we decided to host a bone marrow drive too,” smiles Tanner. “It was great. We live in a small town, so people made meals and volunteered. Word got around. More than 100 people signed up on the bone marrow donor registry.”

Unfortunately, none of the donors in the brothers’ hometown of Litchfield, Neb., were a match. But, in May 2013, doctors found an anonymous donor.

“All I know is it’s a young male who lives outside the United States,” says Tyler. “I wrote my donor a letter and hope to be able to meet him one day.”

bm_brothers_2Tyler, the day after his transplant, flanked by brother Tanner (left) and a cousin.

Once the donor was located, things started moving quickly for Tyler. He had chemotherapy for six days prior to the transplant, in order to kill off the bone marrow that was already in his body. Finally, on June 12, the bone marrow transplant took place.

“The cool part was that I could see the clumps of cells going into my body,” remembers Tyler. “I immediately felt better. No more fatigue, no more headaches.”

Four months after the transplant, the Snow brothers were met with another surprise – this time on Tanner’s end.

“I got a phone call saying I was a bone marrow match for someone!” recalls Tanner. “All I know is that it’s a woman in her 40′s who has leukemia. It’s really exciting knowing I can help someone.”

While the transplant has yet to be scheduled, Tanner and Tyler are seizing the moment and encouraging everyone to sign up on the bone marrow registry.

“It’s so easy. Just go to and they’ll send you a free kit,” explained Tyler. “You could save a life.”

For now, the Snow brothers plan to live life to the fullest – knowing exactly what they’re grateful for this Christmas.

“We are so thankful for Tyler’s donor; but especially the doctors and nurses at The Nebraska Medical Center. They saved my brother’s life,” says Tanner. “This entire experience has brought our family closer together. You never know what will happen the next day.”

bm_brothers_3The Snow family (from left to right: Rod, Jenelle, Tanner and Tyler) have much to be grateful for this holiday after Tyler received a successful bone marrow transplant and Tanner is a match for someone he doesn’t know.

Truhlsens honored as outstanding philanthropists

November 18, 2013


Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D., and Dorothy Truhlsen cut the ribbon at the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute earlier this year.

Last week, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Nebraska Chapter honored Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D., and his wife Dorothy as Outstanding Philanthropists for the state of Nebraska.

The Truhlsens were honored Nov. 12 — National Philanthropy Day — for their generous commitment to improving access to the arts and their work in health care, including the creation of the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute at UNMC.

“Stan and Dottie Truhlsen are true givers to the Omaha community and the state of Nebraska,” said their nominator Carol Russell. “They are philanthropists, humanitarians and civic leaders, as well as being two of the nicest, most genuine people you could ever meet.”

At UNMC, their philanthropy has funded:

The Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute. The Truhlsen Eye Research Laboratories at the Durham Research Center. The Dr. Stanley M. and Dorothy Truhlsen Campus Events Center in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education.

Elsewhere, their philanthropy has funded:

The Stanley M. and Dorothy Truhlsen Lecture Hall at the Durham Museum. The Joslyn Museum Stanley M. and Dorothy Truhlsen Discovery Sculpture Garden. Many purchases and projects at the Joslyn Art Museum. A contribution toward construction of the Holland Performing Arts Center. Renovations to the sanctuary at Countryside Community Church and a gymnasium addition. Gifts to Prevent Blindness Nebraska, Goodwill Industries and many more organizations.

Dr. Truhlsen, emeritus professor and former chairman of UNMC’s Department of Ophthalmology, is national recognized in the field of ophthalmology. A 1944 graduate of UNMC, he has served as president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and president of the American Ophthalmological Society.


UNMC researchers work to improve outcomes of lymphoma patients

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations

fu, kai

Kai Fu, M.D., Ph.D. 

Researchers at UNMC have discovered that patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma don’t respond well to the standard drug therapy used to treat this type of cancer if they have high levels of a gene called STAT3.

The findings are published in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the medical journal of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

“These results are significant in that it gives oncologists a better understanding of the best way to personalize medical treatment for these patients and offer them hope for more positive outcomes,” said Kai Fu, M.D., associate professor in the department of pathology and microbiology.

STAT3, or signal transducer and activator of the transcription 3 gene, is part of a family known as the STAT genes that provide instructions for making proteins that are part of essential signaling pathways related to cell proliferation and survival within cells.

When these genes are activated, they move into the nucleus of the cell and bind to specific areas of DNA in regulatory regions near genes. The STAT proteins then regulate whether these genes are turned on or off.

Patients with this type of lymphoma are treated with a combination of immunotherapy using rituximab with a chemotherapy regimen that includes cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone, commonly referred to as R-CHOP.

“Using this combination of drug therapy usually has very good results but not in those patients with this specific type of lymphoma,” Dr. Fu said. “We wanted to find out why so we could figure out a way to change those outcomes.”

Dr. Fu and his team, along with UNMC investigators Julie Vose, M.D., James Armitage, M.D., John Chan, M.D., Dennis Weisenburger, M.D., and Timothy Greiner, M.D., initiated the study in 2005 with collaborators from 11 institutions around the world.

They began looking at the gene and found patients with high levels of the gene responded poorly to standard chemotherapy compared to those with lower levels.

The next step in the research is to use a specific STAT3 inhibitor to see if it helps the R-CHOP chemotherapy regimen work more efficiently and improve patient survival rates by identifying patients who are at higher risk, he said.

“We are very fortunate to be given the opportunity to be involved with many early phase clinical trials for the treatment of lymphoma including a new STAT3 inhibitor, which is based on this research,” Dr. Vose said.