School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
WSU team launches tech-driven transdisciplinary blood pressure control study
In Headlines on November 14, 2013
A project staff member demonstrates use of the kiosk blood pressure education at Detroit Receiving Hospital. Photo by Mary Simmons.

A project staff member demonstrates use of the kiosk blood pressure education at Detroit Receiving Hospital. Photo by Mary Simmons.

Two project staff members demonstrate AchieveBP kiosk use at the Clinical Research Center. Photo by Mary Simmons.

Two project staff members demonstrate AchieveBP kiosk use at the Clinical Research Center. Photo by Mary Simmons.

Julie Gleason-Comstock, Ph.D., is principal investigator of the study ďAchieving Blood Pressure Control through Enhanced Discharge."

Julie Gleason-Comstock, Ph.D., is principal investigator of the study ďAchieving Blood Pressure Control through Enhanced Discharge."

A multidisciplinary team at Wayne State University is using a $74,986 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation to test a two-part model that could improve long-term outcomes for patients with uncontrolled hypertension by using interactive kiosk-based educational modules.

The School of Medicine’s Julie Gleason-Comstock, Ph.D., M.C.H.E.S.,  is the principal investigator of “Achieving Blood Pressure Control through Enhanced Discharge,” also known as “AchieveBP,” a one-year project launched Aug. 1 and supported by an Investigator Initiated Grant from Blue Cross. WSU emergency medicine associate professor Phil Levy, M.D., M.P.H., is the co-principal investigator on the grant.

“The primary aim of the study is to determine if enhanced discharge from the emergency department using information technology will improve patient blood pressure control,” Dr. Gleason-Comstock said. Study participants are recruited during discharge from the Detroit Receiving Hospital Emergency Department, with follow-up at the Clinical Research Center located in the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development.

The study will track and compare with a standard discharge control group up to 115 patients at seven-, 30-, 60- and 180-day follow-ups using the kiosk and medication to test the patient-activated, self-management model outside of the standard of care.

The grant is administrated through the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Studies. John Boltri, M.D., chair of the department, noted the importance of the study as a commitment to collaborative research with the potential to improve the health of the residents of greater Detroit.

Dr. Gleason-Comstock is an assistant professor in the school’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences and Cardiovascular Research Institute, and the WSU Center for Urban Studies. Dr. Levy is an associate professor of emergency medicine, associate director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, and director of the Clinical Research Center. Additional investigators include Alicia Streater, Ph.D., a research associate in urban health in the Center for Urban Studies; Joel Ager, Ph.D., a Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences professor and biostatistician; and Allen Goodman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Economics specializing in health care costs and effectiveness.

“It’s the future of research,” Dr. Levy said of the project. “We could really transform the way patients learn about their individual disease process.”

Dr. Levy led another BCBSMF-funded study published in 2012 that found nine of 10 tested African-American patients with hypertension also suffered hidden heart disease caused by high blood pressure, despite showing no symptoms. The study was a strong reminder that emergency patients with chronic disease are generally a high-risk group – a group the new “Achieve BP” study hopes to reach and educate. “It not only works in developing infrastructure and highlighting translation research, it (also) was born out of the needs of the community,” Dr. Levy said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 228.3 in every 100,000 Michigan residents 35 and older died of hypertension-related causes in 2009. In African-Americans, the rate was 381.9 deaths for every 100,000, and in whites it was 211. All Michigan rates were higher than national statistics. In rates of hypertension hospitalizations of Michigan residents 65 and older who are Medicare beneficiaries, African-Americans had higher rates (14 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries) than whites (3.6 per 1,000). Again, both rates were higher than national numbers.

This grant follows a feasibility study funded by the Cardiovascular Research Institute in 2010 with Dr. Gleason-Comstock and research colleagues Dr. Nancy Artinian from the School of Nursing and Dr. Cathy Jen from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science that examined using an interactive kiosk to deliver health information at a Detroit primary care clinic. Results of short-term outcomes were published in 2013. The kiosks were acquired through a partnership with American TeleCare Inc. Patients began participating Oct. 1.

“I am pleased and proud that the Cardiovascular Research Institute played a role in supporting the feasibility study that provided the foundation for AchieveBP” said Karin Przyklenk, Ph.D., director of the institute. “Drs. Gleason-Comstock and Levy have developed a project that exemplifies the dual hallmarks of the institute – multi-disciplinary collaboration and innovation – and demonstrates our commitment to discovery, patient care and the community.”

WSU Family Medicine teams up with Detroit Lions Living for the City
In Headlines on November 14, 2013
Luis Perez, Lions' senior vice president and CFO, presents Dr. Maryjean Schenk with a personalized jersey to mark the partnership.

Luis Perez, Lions' senior vice president and CFO, presents Dr. Maryjean Schenk with a personalized jersey to mark the partnership.

Perez and Dr. Schenk team up in their gifts to commemorate the signing of the agreement.

Perez and Dr. Schenk team up in their gifts to commemorate the signing of the agreement.

Flanking Dr. Schenk and Perez for the celebration are, from left, student Tanya Troy; student Tim Jelsema; Dr. Dana Rice; Jasmine Grotto, Lions Corporate Communications and Community Relations; Robert Wooley, director of Community Relations and Detroit Lions Charities; and Dr. Juliann Binienda.

Flanking Dr. Schenk and Perez for the celebration are, from left, student Tanya Troy; student Tim Jelsema; Dr. Dana Rice; Jasmine Grotto, Lions Corporate Communications and Community Relations; Robert Wooley, director of Community Relations and Detroit Lions Charities; and Dr. Juliann Binienda.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine has partnered with the Detroit Lions Living for the City philanthropic initiative that focuses on sustainable community health, wellness and development.

In a partnership that’s the first of its kind between a National Football League franchise and a university medical school, the Detroit Lions and WSU School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences will work with Detroit residents, especially children, to teach methods to improve health, conduct health fairs and plan other programs, event and activities.

“Having a highly respected academic resource like the Wayne State University School of Medicine further validates our Living for the City health and wellness efforts,” said Tom Lewand, Detroit Lions president. “This partnership will also strengthen the impact that we both have in our community.”

Launched in 2012, the Detroit Lions Living for the City supports transformational efforts that improve the well-being of metropolitan Detroit’s underserved. The initiative supports organizations that pursue integrated approaches to physical fitness, healthy eating, housing, land use and environmental planning, public transportation and community infrastructure.

Lions representatives and Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., vice dean of Medical Education, signed the documents cementing the partnership at the School of Medicine on Nov. 11, the day after the Lions beat the Chicago Bears.

“Given the school of medicine’s mission, this partnership fits right in,” said Dr. Schenk, who presented Luis Perez, the Lions’ senior vice president and chief financial officer, with a School of Medicine sweatshirt to commemorate the agreement signing. “This pairs our medical students with the youth in the community to improve health. Everybody benefits from that.”

Perez in turn presented Dr. Schenk with a personalized Lions game jersey emblazoned with her name and the number 1.

Following the launch of Living for the City, Dana Rice, Dr.P.H., research associate of family medicine and public health sciences, and spouse of former Detroit Lions safety Ron Rice, began meeting with team officials to discuss ways in which the department could partner with the community program.

“Based on those conversations, we both felt that the relationship between our major academic medical institution and our local NFL team could only enhance both missions,” said Dr. Rice, who will take the lead on the affiliation for the WSU School of Medicine.

The school joined Living for the City as part of the federally-funded Bridges to Equity program, which is housed in the Family Medicine Department. Bridges to Equity develops and implements educational programming to engage medical students in inter-professional collaboration with public health students and faculty on community-based projects to reduce health disparities.

“This collaborative effort will provide another structured active learning approach for the students in this area as well as an opportunity for faculty and staff to share their expertise and knowledge on a variety of public health and medical issues with the Detroit Lions and their partners,” said Juliann Binienda, Ph.D., assistant professor of family medicine and public health sciences, and principal investigator of the school’s Bridges to Equity program.

To date, School of Medicine students have participated in the Detroit Lions’ 2012 Hometown Huddle, which took place at the Detroit Lions Academy, and was a major partner for the 2013 Meet Up & Eat Up at Eastern Market. The program taught children how to shop for and eat healthier foods.

"We have a ton of students who like to volunteer, but when I threw in the name 'Detroit Lions' (in an email seeking volunteers) within five minutes we had twice as many volunteers as we needed,” said Tim Jelsema, a medical student participating in Living for the City activities. “The events create a springboard of education for younger students.”

Tanya Troy, a student in the master’s of public health degree program, agreed.

“This is really a great opportunity for students to get out and talk about nutrition and healthy eating,” she said. “You can plan to do that all you want, but doing it is much different. We get to work with young people and get accustomed to it.”
Researcher secures NIH grant to study protein's role in triple negative breast cancer
In Headlines on November 12, 2013
Malathy Shekhar, Ph.D.

Malathy Shekhar, Ph.D.

Malathy Shekhar, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has received a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the role of a cellular protein critical to the development and spread of breast cancer.

The $363,300 grant will fund her study, "Targeting Rad6 Postreplication DNA Repair in Treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer."

Rad6 is a cellular protein involved in the development and spread of breast cancer. A successful method to target Rad6 could be more effective in treating cancers, particularly triple negative breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive subset of breast cancers for which no targeted therapy is available, Dr. Shekhar said. While early phase clinical trials with inhibitors of PARP1, a DNA repair protein, reported effectiveness in breast cancers with BRCA mutations, PARP1 inhibitors have been ineffective in triple negative breast cancer. Since triple negative breast cancers comprise tumors with BRCA defects, there has been a recent shift in treating these cancers with platinum-based therapy, which works by causing DNA damage. The BRCA/Fanconi anemia and postreplication DNA repair pathways, working together, play a critical role in repairing platinum-induced DNA damage. As the name suggests, postreplication DNA repair, also known as damage tolerance pathway, gives cells the ability to tolerate DNA damage. Consequently, elevated activities of these repair mechanisms contribute to tumor progression and therapy resistance.

Dr. Shekhar's laboratory first identified Rad6, a fundamental component of the postreplication DNA repair pathway, and showed it plays a critical role in maintenance of the genomic integrity of breast cells.

"Overexpression of Rad6 in normal breast cells induces genomic instability, breast cancer development and resistance to chemotherapy," Dr. Shekhar said. "Clinically, Rad6 expression is positively associated with breast cancer aggressiveness and resistance to chemotherapy. Thus inhibiting Rad6 would be therapeutically beneficial."

Her laboratory recently identified a small molecule inhibitor that selectively inhibits Rad6 activity and survival and growth of Rad6-overexpressing triple negative breast cancer. The goal of this project is to investigate the functional role and communication between BRCA/Fanconi anemia and Rad6 DNA repair pathways in triple negative breast cancer and to develop a novel targeted therapy for treating that form of cancer.

The NIH grant is R21CA178117.

Researcher secures DOD grant to study microRNA role in prostate cancer racial disparities and aggressiveness
In Headlines on November 12, 2013
Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., M.D.

Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., M.D.

African-American men have a 60 percent higher risk of developing prostate cancer than European-American men, and a 2.4 times higher risk of dying from the disease. Some of the reasons can be attributed to differences in screening practices and treatment, but further research is needed to determine more explicit explanations.

Researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine recently received a $684,000 research grant from the Department of Defense to explore the genetic and epigenetic factors -- factors that interact with genes -- that might contribute to this racial/ethnic disparity in prostate cancer risk and progression. They will look at MicroRNAs -- small RNA molecules that play a role in gene regulation and expression that are detectable in circulating blood as well as tissues -- as potential biomarkers for prostate cancer and tumor aggressiveness as well as prognosis.

“Little is known about the role of miRNAs and their biogenesis in prostate cancer,” said Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of oncology. “In addition, less is understood about the possible race-specific role of miRNAs in prostate cancer aggressiveness and outcomes. Our research will look at polymorphisms in genes in the miRNA biogenesis pathway and plasma miRNA levels to see if they are potential indicators for prostate cancer aggressiveness or outcome and how these associations might link to race.”

Dr. Bock and her collaborators will exam the association of inherited polymorphisms in genes in the miRNA biogenesis pathway, as well as the association of plasma miRNA levels with prostate cancer aggressiveness and biochemical recurrence in 480 African-American men and 320 European-American men.

“This project may show that certain miRNAs are potential targets for treatments with demethylating agents to prevent or slow prostate cancer, and that these target miRNAs may vary by race,” Dr. Bock said. “Identifying risk profiles of men who may benefit from such treatment based on race, inherited genotypes or plasma miRNA levels will provide momentum for developing the field of personalized medicine.”

The Department of Defense project number for this grant is PC121963.
NIH's Alan Guttmacher, M.D., to present Distinguished President's Lecture at School of Medicine Nov. 15
In Headlines on November 7, 2013
Alan Guttmacher, M.D.

Alan Guttmacher, M.D.

A National Institutes of Health director will visit the Wayne State University School of Medicine Nov. 15 to present the Distinguished President’s Lecture on the topic “The Future of Biomedical Research: A View from the NICHD.”

Alan Guttmacher, M.D., is director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Washington, D.C. He will speak from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Green Lecture Hall, located on the second floor of Scott Hall, 540 E. Canfield St., Detroit.

RSVP at specialevents.wayne.edu/guttmacher-lecture.

The School of Medicine is home to the NICHD’s Perinatology Research Branch.

Dr. Guttmacher oversees the NICHD’s activities as the NIH focal point for research in pediatric health and development, maternal health, reproductive health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, rehabilitation medicine and other areas.

Dr. Guttmacher is a pediatrician and medical geneticist who joined the NIH in 1999 to work at the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he oversaw that institute’s efforts to advance genome research, integrate that research into health care and explore the ethical, legal and social implications of human genomics. His areas of expertise include the development of new approaches for translating genomics into better ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.

He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and completed an internship and residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in medical genetics, all at Harvard and Children’s Hospital of Boston. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine.

WSU doctors win Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award
In Headlines on November 6, 2013
Dr. Juhasz, left, and Dr. Mittal accept the Dr. Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award.

Dr. Juhasz, left, and Dr. Mittal accept the Dr. Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award.

Csaba Juhasz, M.D., Ph.D.

Csaba Juhasz, M.D., Ph.D.

Sandeep Mittal, M.D.

Sandeep Mittal, M.D.

In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute presented its 19th annual Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards on Oct. 29.

The awards honor individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves by educating people about breast cancer, conducting breast cancer research and promoting breast cancer awareness through early detection, treatment and survivorship.

Two members of the Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty – Csaba Juhasz, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and neurology; and Sandeep Mittal, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., associate professor of neurosurgery and co-team leader of the KCI Neuro-Oncology Multidisciplinary Team – received the Dr. Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award for demonstrated leadership in breast cancer research.

Drs. Juhasz and Mittal, a neurologist and a brain surgeon respectively, pioneered an imaging method that allows visualization of breast cancer metastasis at such high resolution that tumors in the brain can be more accurately categorized. Their work can lead to treatments that are much better able to target the disease.

“I am honored to receive this award, which recognizes not only me but also the efforts of a team of dedicated specialists from multiple disciplines,” Dr. Juhasz said. “I take this award as an encouragement that we are on the right track, and also as an inspiration to continue our work until we succeed. I am convinced that our pre-clinical and human studies will help patients with both primary and metastatic disease.”

The award is named for the man who served as president of the Michigan Cancer Foundation, the forerunner of KCI. Dr. Brennan, who died in 2010, was a nationally-renowned oncologist who served as president until 199l.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award. We have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of the primary disease,” Dr. Mittal said. “We are now focusing on developing ways to predict which patients are more likely to develop brain metastases, as well as trying to prevent the disease from spreading to the central nervous system. These efforts will no doubt help to improve the lives of patients with breast cancer.”

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