Archive for September, 2013

UNMC’s lung cancer research program making strides

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations


Apar Ganti, M.D.- 


UNMC’s lung cancer research program is growing.

A decade ago there were clinical trials for lung cancer patients at UNMC, but the research enterprise was not what it could have been.

“Today,” said Apar Ganti, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, oncology and hematology, “although not where we would like to be yet, we have a number of researchers across the campus who are engaged in lung cancer research that encompasses the spectrum, including basic science, translational research, clinical research and patient-based research.”

Some areas of emphasis include: 

  • Clinical research which has included extensive publication on outcomes from lung cancer in older patients and those who cannot tolerate standard therapy, led by Dr. Ganti and Anne Kessinger, M.D., professor of oncology and hematology.
  • A grant from the Affordable Care Act-devised Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute that focuses on patient satisfaction from chemotherapy in stage four lung cancers. Research will help patients and medical practitioners make better decisions on treatment options. Monirul Islam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health, serves as principal investigator.
  • Research on MUC4 and other mucins and their roles in early-stage lung cancer by Dr. Ganti and Surinder Batra, M.D., professor and chairman, department of biochemistry and molecular biology. Some promising preliminary research has been published in the April 2013 Journal of Thoracic Oncology. This work is supported by a Career Development Grant to Dr. Ganti from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Karin Trujillo, M.D., assistant professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, is leading the effort to develop a lung cancer registry, tumor bank and tumor registry.
  • Similarly, there is a movement towards developing a lung cancer screening program at UNMC. This effort is being spearheaded by Rudy Lackner, M.D., professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery.
  • The Batra and Ganti labs are currently developing new spontaneous animal models for lung cancer.

The Nebraska Medical Center recognized in national rankings

by Taylor Wilson, The Nebraska Medical Center

campusThe Nebraska Medical Center is ranked among the nation’s best hospitals for its cancer care, and as the top hospital in Nebraska, by U.S. News and World Report.

U.S. News and World Report surveyed the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals to come up with this year’s list of Best Hospitals. Fewer than 150 of those hospitals are nationally ranked. The Nebraska Medical Center is ranked 45th nationally for its cancer care. This places the hospital in the top three percent of the 4,806 analyzed for the latest Best Hospitals rankings to be ranked in even one of the 16 specialties.

The Nebraska Medical Center was also “high-performing” in eight other specialties including:

  • Ear, Nose & Throat
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatrics
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology & Neurosurgery
  • Orthopaedics
  • Pulmonology
  • Urology

Of the 16 specialties studied by U.S. News and World Report, The Nebraska Medical Center was recognized in nine.

“These rankings are proof of the tremendous amount of work our physicians and staff have done to care for our patients; many of whom have come here from all over with very serious and rare conditions,” said Glenn A. Fosdick, president and CEO of The Nebraska Medical Center. “It’s an honor to be recognized as a leader in so many different areas.”

The hospital rankings, said U.S. News Health Rankings Editor Avery Comarow, are like a GPS-type aid to help steer patients to hospitals with strong skills in the procedures and medical conditions that present the biggest challenges.

“All of these hospitals are the kinds of medical centers that should be on your list when you need the best care,” said Comarow. “They are where other hospitals send the toughest cases.”

Fosdick said having such a wide variety of specialties recognized is motivation for the medical center to keep moving forward.

“We are proud of these rankings, but there is always room to improve,” Fosdick said. “We are constantly looking at ways to improve the quality of our care, to offer new and innovative treatments, and to help all of our patients to receive the extraordinary care they deserve.”

The rankings were published by U.S. News in collaboration with RTI International, a research organization based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Highlights of the 2013-14 rankings will appear in the U.S. News Best Hospitals 2014 guidebook, to go on sale in August.

The complete rankings and methodology are available here.

Investigators to launch clinical trial testing Parkinson’s therapy

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations



Howard Gendelman, M.D. 

The Nebraska Neuroscience Alliance at UNMC is embarking on a translational clinical trial using Leukine, a drug used to boost the immune system in cancer patients, to test a unique immune therapy in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The NNA unites three of UNMC’s top neuroscience programs — the departments of neurological sciences and pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, as well as the Munroe-Meyer Institute.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of neurons that produce dopamine, a nerve-signaling chemical which controls movement and balance. About a million people in the United States and more than 4 million people worldwide have the disease.

Video: Howard Gendelman, M.D., discusses the study.

Degeneration and loss of these dopamine-producing neurons typically occur after age 60, and it is estimated that one person in 20 over the age of 80 has Parkinson’s.

“The study will determine whether the drug Leukine can transform the immune system in Parkinson’s disease from one that causes harm to the brain to one that protects it, elicits nerve cell repair and ultimately affects disease symptoms.”
R. Lee Mosley, Ph.D. 

Neurodegeneration occurs when a normal protein, called alpha synuclein, clumps, changes shape, and accumulates in the brain. The accumulation of protein clumps alerts the immune system, which launches an attack, causing inflammation and eventual destruction of dopamine-producing nerve cells.

“The project is a collaboration between neurologists and neuroscientists,” said Howard Gendelman, M.D., principal investigator and chair of the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience.

Specifically , “the study will determine whether the drug Leukine can transform the immune system in Parkinson’s disease from one that causes harm to the brain to one that protects it, elicits nerve cell repair and ultimately affects disease symptoms,” said R. Lee Mosley, Ph.D., a co-principal investigator and associate professor in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.

In a year-long, double-blind clinical trial, beginning this fall, 16 patients will be monitored using magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging to pinpoint those areas of the brain affected by the disease and determine if Leukine works.

This is the first time MEG has been used to monitor Parkinson’s disease and the effects of a treatment, said Tony Wilson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.

If this therapy is useful, Dr. Gendelman said, it sets the stage for more comprehensive studies looking at the effectiveness of other potential vaccine and immune changing therapies.

“Since current therapies have not led to a breakthrough, it is certainly worthwhile to consider new approaches,” said John Bertoni, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurological sciences and director of the Parkinson’s clinic at UNMC. “This is the first step and we are cautiously optimistic, but we will need to analyze the information we gain very carefully.”


Alan Langnas, D.O., named president of national surgeons group


Alan Langnas, D.O. 

Alan Langnas, D.O., began his term as the president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons in May.

Dr. Langnas is a professor of surgery-transplant at UNMC and chief of the Transplant Center at the Nebraska Medical Center. He will serve as ASTS president through July 2014.

See Dr. Langnas discuss his education and experience here.

“Dr. Langnas truly represents the ‘triple threat’ in academic surgery as he lead his Division of Transplant Surgery to the forefront in clinical practice, education, and research,” said David W. Mercer, M.D., chairman and the McLaughlin Professor of Surgery in the department of surgery.

“While some programs follow the standard of care, Dr. Langnas ‘pushes the envelope’ by challenging existing paradigms to formulate new standards of care that improve outcomes in patients with end stage organ dysfunction.

“UNMC and the ASTS are truly fortunate to have such a gifted and innovative individual serve in a leadership capacity,” Dr. Mercer said.

The ASTS represents transplant surgeons in the United States, and by default, the institutions they lead, Dr. Langnas said. The organization is engaged in advocacy on legislative issues at the state and federal level, but also promotes research and education.

“One area we are focusing on is trying to revamp and redesign the transplant fellowship training program, moving more toward education and away from service,” Dr. Langnas said.

Dr. Langnas received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and medical education at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He began his internship at Botsford General Hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan in 1982. In 1987 he began his transplantation fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital and completed a second year of fellowship training at UNMC. On completion of his fellowship in 1989, he joined the faculty of UNMC. He has been chief of the section of transplantation surgery and the director of the transplantation fellowship at UNMC since 1997.

The American Society of Transplant Surgeons is composed of about 2,000 transplant surgeons, physicians, scientists, advanced transplant providers and allied health professionals.