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Archive for November, 2018

Cancer Research Accelerates New Therapies

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From left to right; Chi Lin, MD, PhD, radiation oncologist, Michael Hollingsworth, PhD, researcher and Surinder Batra, PhD, researcher

One of the differentiators of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is the integration of scientists and clinicians, which allows them to collaborate in the evaluation of our cancer patients to design new treatments.

One example of this bench-to-bedside research coming to fruition can be seen through the collaboration of Chi Lin, MD, PhD, a radiation oncologist and researcher Surinder Batra, PhD, associate director for education and training at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. Through Dr. Batra’s basic science research lab, a pathway was discovered in which cholesterol is converted into other compounds in pancreatic cells that contributes to radiation therapy resistance. Dr. Batra’s lab then found another drug that is effective in inhibiting this cholesterol synthesis pathway, thereby increasing radiosensitivity in tumor cells.

This laboratory discovery is now available to patients through a clinical trial that combines chemotherapy with this drug to sensitize pancreatic tumors to radiation. “This is very important because current protocols for radiation therapy are very limited in their effectiveness on pancreatic tumors,” says Michael Hollingsworth, PhD, associate director for Basic Research at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

“While pancreatic cancer is still extremely difficult to treat, we are making huge progress in understanding the disease,” says Dr. Hollingsworth.

“Our goal is to turn these discoveries into improved diagnostics, new therapies and other ways to improve survival and quality of life for these patients.”

Nebraska Medicine Once Again Ranks Among the Best

 

Becker’s Hospital Review recently released the 2018 edition of the “100 hospitals and health systems with great oncology programs” list and Nebraska Medicine holds an esteemed spot on it.

The hospitals and health systems selected for this list are at the forefront of cancer treatment and research. Like many of the institutions featured, Nebraska Medicine has earned National Cancer Institute cancer center designation.

In June 2017, Nebraska Medicine opened the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which features a 24/7 infusion center that serves as a treatment facility and provides urgent care services. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Nebraska, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center comprises more than 200 specialists and researchers.

The Becker’s list also includes cancer centers with busy research institutes, multiple clinical trials and safety designations that exceed national benchmarks. Hospitals and health systems highlighted here have invested in growing oncology departments and regional cancer centers, providing an important service to patients locally and nationally.

“We are grateful to be included on Becker’s List for the 100 Great Hospitals in America in 2018 and are equally proud to be included on their list of 100 hospitals and health systems with great oncology programs,” says Sarah Thayer, MD, PhD, surgical oncologist and physician-in-chief at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “I consider these designations as living examples of how our team works together on behalf of the patient. Our ability to see through different lenses while treating holistically sets our team and hospital apart.”

View the list of all the hospitals and health systems that received the Becker’s Hospital Review designation.

UNMC leading national study to test drug to treat life-threatening illness

Stem cell transplants have saved countless lives of patients with blood cancers and other diseases. But, a side effect of the life-saving treatment also can rob patients of quality of life and in some cases, their life.

Vijaya Bhatt, M.B.B.S., University of Nebraska Medical Center assistant professor of internal medicine and oncology/hematology, has received a grant for up to $1.2 million to determine if a drug called ruxolitinib, is effective for treating a certain type of graft versus host disease (GVHD) called sclerotic. The grant is funded by Incyte, a global biopharmaceutical company.

UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, are world-renowned for their expertise in transplantation and are only one of the few centers nationwide testing the drug for the purpose of treating GVHD.

The drug, which reduces inflammation, has proven effective for other uses, and shows promise as a treatment for patients who develop GVHD after receiving an allogeneic transplant. An allogeneic transplant uses a matching donor’s cancer-free stem cells, which are then infused into the cancer patient.

Sometimes donor cells attack the recipient’s healthy tissues and organs, which can impair function and is a significant cause of medical problems, including death.

Dr. Bhatt, principal investigator of the study, said GVHD is difficult to treat since first line treatments often fail.

Finding another treatment is important because of an estimated 40,000 patients undergo allogeneic stem cell transplants every year and about 30 to 50 percent of patients develop acute GVHD and about 30 to 70 percent develop chronic GVHD. The research team will focus on the chronic GVHD, which comes on slowly and continues sometimes for years.

Dr. Bhatt and co-principal investigator, Stephanie Lee, M.D., at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will recruit 47 study participants from five centers: UNMC, Fred Hutchinson, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, Fla.; University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; and the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Cleveland, Ohio.

The UNMC study site also will involve Ram Mahato, Ph.D., professor and chairperson in the UNMC College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmaceutical Science, and Lynette Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNMC College of Public Health Department of Biostatistics.

“When I joined UNMC three years ago, I felt the need to work on improving care of patients with GVHD,” Dr. Bhatt said. “Since then, we’ve established a multidisciplinary team in which we work with other providers who are instrumental in helping treat our patients.”

He said patients who’ve been treated with the drug have experienced good results so far. “It seems to be effective and doesn’t have as many side effects as some of the other medications,” he said.” Our hope is that it will improve how patients feel and improve the quality of their life.”

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

Bariatrics Center Earns Reaccreditation

The Bariatrics Center at Nebraska Medicine was recently awarded the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) Center of Excellence.

“The MBSAQIP designation is an important program certification, because it shows our commitment to the care of the bariatric patient,” says Corrigan McBride, MD, Bariatrics Center medical director.

MBSAQIP works to advance safe, high-quality care for bariatric surgical patients through the accreditation of bariatric surgical centers. A bariatric surgical center achieves accreditation following a rigorous review process during which it proves that it can maintain certain physical resources, human resources and standards of practice. The hospital is reviewed every three years to ensure it has all the equipment, personnel and resources to care for patients.

“As part of the review process, we track all our patients for their quality outcomes,” says Dr. McBride. “The process shows our dedication to continuously improving the care of our bariatric surgery patients.”

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