WVU Medicine Cabinet News Stories

WVU cancer researcher awarded grant for study on cholesterol-lowering medicine

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A researcher at West Virginia University is trying to determine whether a drug commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol can help prevent a serious complication associated with a type of bone marrow transplant used in cancer treatment. Mehdi Hamadani, M.D., of the Osborn Hematopoietic Malignancy and Transplantation Program at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, received a $60,000 grant from the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation for novel research on atorvastatin, otherwise known as Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering medicine. He is leading a clinical trial to determine if atorvastatin will prevent acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in patients who’ve undergone matched sibling bone marrow transplantation.  A bone marrow transplant patient develops GVHD when the donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s tissues and vital organs such as the skin, liver and gastrointestinal tract. The condition can be acute or chronic depending upon how soon it develops after the transplant; it also puts the patient at risk for life-threatening infections. “At least one out of every three patients who undergo matched sibling stem cell transplantation develops GVHD,” Dr. Hamadani said. “It is the second most common reason patients die after a transplant.” There are various drugs being used to prevent the condition, but there is no standard method of prevention.  Hamadani is cautiously optimistic that atorvastatin will improve patient outcomes. Three of the patients enrolled in his research study at WVU are doing well and have had no side effects from the drug.  “If this phase 2 trial shows that atorvastatin is safe and effective, the next step would be a multi-center phase 3 trial involving hundreds of transplant patients to see how the drug compares to current approaches to prevent GVHD.” The clinical trial offered at WVU’s Cancer Center is based in part on Hamadani’s earlier research that showed statin drugs, such as atorvastatin, have potential for reducing the incidence of acute GVHD.  Upon selecting Hamadani as one of five winners of the New Investigator Award, the associate executive director of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) called Hamadani’s research study “outstanding.” The ASBMT is an international professional association for clinical and laboratory researchers, which strives to promote the advancement of the blood and marrow transplantation field.  “We are very proud of Dr. Hamadani,” Laura Gibson, Ph.D., deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, said. “The ASBMT is comprised of renowned BMT physicians and basic scientists. To receive an award from this elite group speaks highly of the scientific merit of Mehdi’s research and is characteristic of his significant contributions to the research team at WVU.”   [...]

WVU Department of Community Medicine to sponsor T-shirt design contest

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Calling all artists! The West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine Alcohol Education Program is sponsoring a T-shirt design contest. The contest is open to all WVU students on all campuses. Those wishing to enter the contest should create an original design addressing alcohol safety for spring break. While students should be fun and creative with their ideas, entries should not be obscene or indecent. Designs can be up to three colors only. The grand prize winner will receive a 32 GB Apple iPad with Wi-Fi and will have his/her design made into a T-shirt to be produced prior to spring break.  The deadline for submission is noon on Friday, Feb. 25. Students can submit their entries either in a high quality 8.5-inch-by-11-inch print out or send them electronically. If sending a digital entry, the required format is a JPEG file (300 DPI). Submissions should be sent to Dr. Ruth Kershner at the Department of Community Medicine, P.O. Box 9190, Morgantown, W.Va. 26506 or email at rkershner@hsc.wvu.edu. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Dr. Kershner or call 304-293-7440. Entries may also be submitted through Campus Mail. For more information on the WVU Department of Community Medicine see www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/cmed.   [...]

Making memories last

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Findings presented in new research by a team of West Virginia University scientists could eventually lead to innovations in the treatment of memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Han-Ting Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., WVU School of Medicine assistant professor, was the lead author of the study published in the January 5, 2011 edition of the weekly “Journal of Neuroscience.”  He said the results may be the foundation for the development of new memory-preserving drugs. Scientists had previously isolated an enzyme they believed contributed to memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. Called phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), the enzyme breaks down a cellular molecule important for maintaining memory. That molecular substance acts as a signaling pathway in the brain that “turns on” memory genes. Previous studies found that drugs blocking PDE4 improved the function of these pathways, but caused nausea and vomiting. One of four subtypes of the enzyme, PDE4D, seemed to be responsible for the unwanted side effect. With the support of the National Institute of Aging, Dr. Zhang’s group altered the genes of mice to remove the PDE4D subtypes that led to the nausea and vomiting. “PDE4D is the important target for memory,” Dr. Zhang said. “There’s potential here for development of new treatments for memory loss associated with central nervous system disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.” Though Zhang says there’s far more study needed before PDE4D inhibitors will be formulated and approved for use with humans, the WVU study leaves scientists around the world very optimistic memory-enhancing drugs that do not cause nausea and vomiting could be on the horizon. Zhang was recently recognized as one of the most outstanding Chinese scientists in the United States during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s January visit to Washington, D.C. Based on his research achievements and influence in the Chinese community, Zhang was invited by the Chinese embassy to join other top Chinese professionals and students to meet President Hu. Meeting attendees were praised for their significant contributions to their respective fields, and were applauded for strengthening the relationship between China and the United States through their work. Zhang is in the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry and part of the WVU Center for Neuroscience.  He is president of the Chinese Professionals Association of West Virginia.   [...]

Interactive DVD helps educate teen girls

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease (STD) are major public health issues in West Virginia. A West Virginia University faculty physician helped develop an interactive program that educates teenaged girls by illustrating the choices available in risky situations. It will be put to use in five West Virginia counties this year, thanks to a $7.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health. “What Could You Do?” is a theory-based interactive STD education video that was designed to go beyond traditional sex education methods by presenting typical young women in situations where the “right” paths aren’t always clear. WVU Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Professor Pamela J. Murray, M.D. M.H.P., worked with a multidisciplinary team led by Julie Downs, Ph.D., and Baruch Fischhoff, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University, to develop the original version of “What Could You Do?” in the1990s. The video has been shown to increase abstinence, prevent condom failure and reduce reported STD diagnosis. “There are a number of different components to it,” Dr. Murray said. “In the first part, you meet a group of young women who are sitting around talking about boyfriends and going for checkups for STDs, and then you get to pick a character and follow her story.” When each storyline comes to a point where a critical decision has to be made, viewers choose from a handful of possible actions. In one scenario, a girl kissing a boy at a party is asked to go somewhere where the two can be alone. The viewer can opt for the girl to go with the boy, decide to leave the party or go spend time with another friend at the same party. Murray said that while developing the program, researchers learned the variety of potential actions doesn’t always occur to young women actually in the moment.  “In checking the original concepts with young women, part of the feedback was that they didn’t really see many choices. They felt that once they were alone with a guy, sex was inevitable,” Murray said. “We programmed the intervention so the viewers had to stay on screens where they were asked to examine different choices as if they were in the situation. We made them realistic, and even if you picked the low-risk choice, you still have to continue with the story and examine additional scenes and choices.” The project is part of a large federal initiative to test evidence-based programs in clinical settings. Participants (14-19 year old females) will be followed for 18 months to see if watching the intervention decreases rates of pregnancy, and chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.   Changes in technology led to the need to update the program. In addition to funding content updates, the HHS grant will make the program available to a far wider audience on DVD and the internet. The updated version will be used by agencies in both rural and urban areas, including: Boone, Braxton, Harrison, Mercer and Randolph counties in West Virginia; Uniontown, Washington, Aliquippa and Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Columbus, Ohio.  [...]

WVU Health Sciences Wellness Program offering healthy eating classes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – If your New Year’s resolution included eating better, The Wellness Program at the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center could be your ticket to success. The Wellness Program and Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield have partnered to provide a four-week class – Eat Well for Life – the aim to help you feel better. Eat Well for Life is a specially designed program to help you discover easy meal planning tools, smart shopping strategies and healthy ways to cook great-tasting foods. It will be offered on four consecutive Tuesdays, beginning January 25, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the John E. Jones Conference Center, which is located on the ground floor of the Health Sciences building. For members of Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the classes are free. The cost of each course for non members is $60, which includes all four classes and materials. “These programs are unique because they are being provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield – an insurance company that is promoting prevention and not just treatment for good health,” Dave Harshbarger, manager of The Wellness Program at the WVU Health Sciences Center, said. For more information on the classes, including registration, call 304-293-2520. For more information on The Wellness Program see www.hsc.wvu.edu/wellness.   [...]

Photos of WVU Children’s Hospital NICU babies to be on display at Zenclay

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The walls at Zenclay on University Avenue in Morgantown will soon be adorned with photos of some very special smiling faces: kids who were cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. The collection, called “Blossoms in the Winter,” will be featured during a gallery showing from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23 at Zenclay. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served. The photos in the collection were taken by Emily Polak, daughter of Mark Polak, M.D., director of the NICU, who along with fellow neonatologist Susan Lynch, M.D., wanted to create an awareness of the NICU’s new Family-Centered Care Team. “This team was created to support families on the journey through their babies’ stay in the NICU, focusing on the most critical babies, which are those born at least 13-weeks premature and weighing less than 2.2 pounds,” Dr. Polak said. “The team walks with these families on their journey through pregnancy, birth and challenged survival or death. This honors the baby as well as the family. Parents can create a loving experience for themselves and their baby, and healthcare professionals, families and friends can offer support in various forms during their journey.” The family-centered approach also includes interdisciplinary care coordination and a follow-up clinic after babies are discharged from the NICU. The event is free and open to the public. WVU Children’s Hospital Director Cheryl Jones, R.N., Dr. Polak and Dr. Lynch will be in attendance. Some of the parents of the photographed children will be there to share their stories on an individual basis with guests. The photos will be on display at Zenclay until Jan. 29. At that time, they will be moved to the NICU. “They’re family photos,” Dr. Polak said. “They’re going to make our NICU house a home.” To RSVP for the event, contact Andrea Parsons, WVU Children’s Hospital development officer, at 304-598-4346 ext. 5 or parsonsa@wvuhealthcare.com. For more information on WVU Children’s Hospital see www.wvukids.com.   [...]

WVU School of Dentistry to offer free children’s exams Feb. 4

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University School of Dentistry will launch National Children’s Dental Health Month by offering free examinations, appropriate x-rays and fluoride treatments to children on Friday, Feb. 4 in the WVU Pediatric Dentistry Clinic. The exams are offered to children ages 1 to 17 from 8:45 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:45 p.m. The appointments are part of the annual “Give Kids a Smile!” national dental access program of the American Dental Association and the West Virginia Dental Association. Appointments are required, and space is limited. To schedule an appointment for the free exam, call 304-293-0401 starting Monday, Jan. 24. WVU dentistry and dental hygiene students will perform the care under the supervision of the faculty. “This program allows our students and faculty to reach out to people in our community who lack access to dental care because they don’t have insurance,” Louise Veselicky, D.D.S., interim dean of the WVU School of Dentistry, said. “We encourage area residents to take advantage of this opportunity to visit the clinic and learn of the services we can provide to their children.” The 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health stated that nearly one in six children over age 5 will have a cavity by age 17, and nearly eight in 10 children already have dental decay. Dental problems result in nearly 51 million hours of missed school time each year. Complications arising from untreated diseases of the mouth can lead to problems in eating, speaking and learning. More than one third of adult West Virginians have lost six or more teeth as a result of decay or gum disease. This is almost twice the national average. “Starting proper dental care early in life will help children form good oral habits that will carry into adulthood. Dental visits beginning no later than 1 year of age have been shown to prevent or reduce the severity of dental disease,” Elliot Shulman, D.D.S., associate professor of pediatric dentistry, said. “It is vitally important that parents take an active role in their children’s oral health education and supervise or assist them in tooth brushing.” Dr. Veselicky said, “The WVU School of Dentistry has a long tradition of working to improve the oral health of the citizens of the state. We are pleased to be a part of this effort.” For more information on the WVU School of Dentistry see www.hsc.wvu.edu/sod.   [...]

Applebee’s event to benefit WVU Children’s Hospital

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Diners at the Applebee’s on Van Voorhis Road in Morgantown can help West Virginia University Children’s Hospital just by paying their checks. Applebee’s will host Dining to Donate from 11 a.m. to midnight on four consecutive Thursdays: Jan. 20, Jan. 27, Feb. 3 and Feb. 10. When patrons present the Dining to Donate flier to their servers, 15 percent of their checks will be donated to the WVU Dance Marathon, which in turn donates the money to WVU Children’s Hospital. Each year, WVU students spend 18-hours dancing in the Mountainlair Ballrooms to raise money for WVU Children’s Hospital. This year’s Dance Marathon will be held from noon on Feb. 26 to 6 a.m. on Feb. 27. To date, the event has raised more than $230,000. To participate in the Dining to Donate event, a flier must be obtained prior to going to Applebee’s. To get a flier, contact Lora Edgell at 304-598-4346 ext. 2 or edgelll@wvuhealthcare.com.   [...]

WVU Children’s Hospital changing the way it cares for its tiniest patients

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s a special section of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital with the words “Wee Care” over the doorway; it’s called the Small Baby Pod. This is where the unit’s tiniest patients receive care and where a new approach to that care is taking place. Mark Polak, M.D., director of the NICU, said that changes in the care of newborns have occurred in the last 30-plus years. Intensive care units have been established and expanded. Equipment and drugs have changed. But the one thing that has not really changed is the care plan. A multidisciplinary team that included physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists and palliative care staff decided that patients would benefit from a unified approach for care built on evidence-based best practices, Polak said. “What we’re doing does not involve a new structure or a new piece of equipment but instead involves a change in thinking,” he said. “It’s a huge investment. But here the investment is in our minds.” The Small Baby Pod houses babies born before the 26th week of pregnancy and those who weigh less than 2 pounds. Dr. Polak said these babies are born healthy but they are immature in all their organ systems, which can make them as sick as those who have the flu or were involved in a car accident. He anticipates that there will always be four babies in the pod, which is as many as it can hold. They will be there for about one month and then move to another part of the NICU for the remainder of their stay. To better accommodate the needs of the babies, the lighting and sound levels in the Small Baby Pod are decreased. Babies born so prematurely should be in darkness, Polak said. These changes help make them more comfortable. Another change involves recognizing and addressing the emotional needs of the parents. Expectant parents prepare themselves to take their baby home shortly after birth. Parents of NICU babies, especially those in the Small Baby Pod, face a hospital stay of six months or longer, Polak said. Palliative care staff can help the parents with the emotional upheaval of having a baby in the NICU. “What we’re doing now is as close to ideal as possible based on what has been published,” he said. “We can make a big difference on their time in the hospital and not only increase the quality of care we provide but also increase their quality of life.” For more information on WVU Children’s Hospital see www.wvukids.com.   [...]