School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
WSU, Karmanos contribute to study outlining how patient immune systems may affect cancer growth
In Headlines on September 19, 2014
Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Samples from 332 African-American patients in metropolitan Detroit analyzed in a Wayne State University School of Medicine lab have helped scientists at the University of California at San Diego discover that a cancer’s stage can affect whether cell surface sugars promote the cancer or inhibit it.

Associate Chair and Professor of Oncology Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., was contacted by study principal investigator Ajit Varki, M.D., because of her ongoing involvement in studies of the genetic contributions to lung cancer risk and progression.

During cancer development, tumor cells decorate their surfaces with sugar compounds called glycans that differ from those found on normal, healthy cells. Sialic acids at the tips of these cancer cell glycans are capable of engaging with immune system cells and changing the latter’s response to the tumor – for good and bad.

“These cell surface glycans can promote or inhibit cancer progression, depending upon the stage of the disease,” said principal investigator and UCSD researcher Ajit Varki, M.D. “Our findings underscore the complexity of cancer and the consequent challenges in conquering it. The immune system may be a double-edged sword in cancer, tumor-promoting or tumor-inhibiting, depending upon circumstances.”

The researchers found that receptors called siglecs on subsets of neutrophils and macrophages (two types of immune cell) can bind to sialic acids on the surface of tumor cells. Depending upon the stage of cancer and the tumor model used, the scientists reported that interaction between immune cell siglecs and tumor cell sialic acids produced opposite outcomes.

“I suggested that we could test our samples for the presence of the Siglec-9 polymorphism in African-American lung cancer cases and African-American controls to determine if presence of this polymorphism was associated with either lung cancer risk or outcomes after a diagnosis,” said Dr. Schwartz, who also is deputy center director of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

The polymorphism studied only occurs in African-Americans.

Siglecs might prove viable drug targets for preventing early cancer progression. Dr. Schwartz investigated the data to assess whether they had a natural siglec variant that reduced binding to tumor cell surface sialic acids. Such patients have a greater chance for survival after two years, but the effect diminishes and disappears later.

Department of Oncology Research Assistant Chrissy Lusk conducted the data analysis, with genotyping from the WSU/Karmanos Genomics Core.

“We have conducted a number of lung cancer case-controls studies funded by National Cancer Institute and were in the process of testing individuals for other genetic polymorphisms. I supported the additional genotyping for the Siglec-9 polymorphism from my research funds,” Dr. Schwartz added.

“Engagement of myelomonocytic Siglecs by tumor-associated ligands modulates the innate immune response to cancer” was published in the Sept. 15 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Schwartz lab samples came from patients diagnosed over several years at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and throughout the metropolitan Detroit area as identified through the Detroit Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program registry housed at WSU. Dr. Schwartz is principal investigator of the National Cancer Institute-funded Detroit SEER registry. The patients were followed for survival outcomes.

“Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death, and while progress is being made to improve outcomes, it is slow,” she said. “Fewer than 20 percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer are alive five years after diagnosis. There continue to be racial disparities in survival as well, with African-Americans having poorer outcomes than whites. We continue to search for targets that might be exploited to advance therapy. The study suggests that Siglec-9 is associated with altered survival and therefore additional work needs to be conducted to determine if it is a good therapeutic target.”

The research was partially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Samuel and Ruth Engelberg Cancer Research Institute and the National Institutes of Health (grants R01CA38701, R01CA14176 and R01060691).

Graduate Student Research Day attracts more than 110 students
In Headlines on September 19, 2014

The Wayne State University School of Medicine hosted its 18th annual Graduate Student Research Day on Sept. 18, an event highlighted by a series of oral and poster presentation sessions.

More than 110 students participated in the day-long event, contributing work performed at the School of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Karmanos Cancer Institute, the Kresge Eye Institute, Henry Ford Hospital, and several Wayne State University departments, including Biological Sciences, Physics, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, among others.

Topics presented included those drawn from basic science, medicine and a variety of interdisciplinary translational approaches. Exciting new techniques, strategies and technologies were presented as part of the student-run event.

Stephen Lanier, Ph.D., Wayne State University’s vice president for Research, welcomed participants and guests, and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs for the School of Medicine Stanley Terlecky, Ph.D., officiated the meeting on behalf of the Office of Graduate Programs.

Randal Kaufman, Ph.D., professor of the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute and director of the institute’s Degenerative Diseases Program, presented the invited keynote address, “Is Protein Misfolding in the Endoplasmic Reticulum Oncogenic,” to a standing-room-only audience.

Dr. Kaufman’s talk was followed by the announcement of oral and poster presentation winners, including Mohamad El Chami, Melissa Wrobel and Steven Jones in the oral presentation category, Brittany Haynes (first place) and Gregory Moyerbrailean (second place) in one poster session, and Nihar Mehta (first place) and Aditya Dandekar (second place) in the other poster session.

The meeting concluded with the Graduate Student Research Day 2014 student-organizing committee, led by Andreana Holowatyj and consisting of Chelsea Richardson, Daniel Radecki, Aaron Burr, Leena Kadam, Fatme Hachem, Priyan Weerappuli and Rayna Rosati being lauded for their efforts on behalf of their student colleagues at the school and the university.

Dr. Prasad honored by Society for Zinc Biology
In Headlines on September 19, 2014
Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D.

Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D.

The International Society for Zinc Biology has honored Wayne State University School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D.,  by electing him an honorary member of the society.

Wolfgang Maret, the society’s president, said Dr. Prasad, a world-renowned expert in zinc and its effects on health, is the only scientist in this membership category in the organization. He received the honor this week at the society’s fourth International Conference in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Dr. Prasad’s achievements were also recently recognized by the American College of Physicians in a brochure designed to celebrate the college’s 100th anniversary in 2015. The brochure, titled “100 Years of Excellence,” features a timeline denoting milestones of the college and its members. One of those entries reads: “1963 - Ananda S. Prasad, M.D., M.A.C.P., discovers the important role of zinc in human nutrition. His studies on zinc later led to the discovery of its therapeutic role in macular degeneration as well as management of sickle cell disease, Wilson's disease, acute diarrhea, and pneumonia. His work has been continuously funded since 1963. He became an ACP Master in 2000.”

The brochure, an ACP official said, will be used in an annual campaign asking members to contribute toward the educational programming the college provides to medical student and resident members of the organization.

Dr. Prasad’s important strides began when one of his former professors received an invitation from the Shah of Iran to establish a medical curriculum at the University of Shiraz Medical School and invited Dr. Prasad to accompany him. Two weeks after his arrival, a 21-year-old man who looked like an 8-year-old boy came to see Dr. Prasad. The patient lacked secondary male characteristics, was considered mentally lethargic and ate clay. Dr. Prasad diagnosed the man's condition as extreme anemia, but couldn't understand how such a condition came about because most males do not develop anemia without bleeding.

The condition was so prevalent in Iran that it was considered epidemic. Dr. Prasad studied the condition and hypothesized that because plants do not grow without sufficient zinc, perhaps people do not either.

In the developed world, zinc abounds in a variety of food sources, such as fresh fish, red meat, oysters and dairy products. In developing countries, diets primarily consist of breads and grains, which contain phytate, a substance that binds zinc and iron and prevents both minerals from being absorbed by the human body.

In 1961, Dr. Prasad published an article in the American Journal of Medicine suggesting for the first time that zinc deficiency could account for human growth retardation. In a subsequent paper based on studies done in similar patients from Egypt, Dr. Prasad established the study subjects suffered zinc deficiency. That study was published in The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine in 1963 and later was republished in 1990 as a landmark article in the same journal.

After the publication of the 1961 and 1963 papers, Dr. Prasad started administering zinc through clinical trials, and his subjects began growing taller and developing male characteristics. In 1975, he suggested the National Research Council set the Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc at 15 milligrams per day.

His zinc studies have saved countless lives in African and Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In these areas, the mortality rate from infantile diarrhea approached 85 percent. When the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopted zinc supplements to combat infant diarrhea in these regions, the mortality rate dropped to 15 percent.

Dr. Prasad received a congressional commendation for his lifelong studies involving zinc in 2011.

Class of 2015 trio to compete in Ultrasound World Cup
In Headlines on September 15, 2014
Nicole Messenger

Nicole Messenger

Michael Devisser

Michael Devisser

Jacob Price

Jacob Price

Three fourth-year medical students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine will put their ultrasound skills to the test at the Ultrasound World Cup next month.

The event is part of the third annual World Congress on Ultrasound in Medical Education, set for Oct. 10-12 in Portland, Ore. The Class of 2015’s Nicole Messenger, Jacob Price and Michael Devisser will compete Oct. 11 against up to nine other teams of three in a sono-competition that will include live scanning, simulation and more.

Competing teams include medical students from the Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky and the University of California Irvine. The event will take place at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

“My teammates and I are interested in pursuing careers in emergency medicine, and are fascinated by ultrasound,” Messenger said. “This seemed like a great way to get more involved in the emergency medicine field and gain better exposure to ultrasound.”
Detroit Lions 'Meet Up & Eat Up' fall season kicks off Tuesday
In Headlines on September 15, 2014
Detroit Lions mascot Roary has fun with the WSU Public Health Student Organization.

Detroit Lions mascot Roary has fun with the WSU Public Health Student Organization.

Public health and medical students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine will join Detroit Lions players, mascot Roary and Executive Chef Joe Nader from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Detroit Eastern Market to kick off a new season of “Meet Up & Eat Up with the Lions and Ford.”

The fall program is an extension of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s statewide summer campaign encouraging children to Meet Up & Eat Up at hundreds of summer food sites in Michigan.

Additional Meet Up & Eat Up fall dates include Sept. 23 and 30, and Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28.

The School of Medicine is among the initiative’s partners scheduled to be on site to educate the community and children from Detroit Public Schools about eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and about where to find fresh produce in the city. The event will also address food insecurity and hunger in Detroit.

The School of Medicine first partnered with the Detroit Lions’ Living for the City campaign in 2012. The philanthropic initiative focuses on sustainable community health, wellness and development. The school and the team launched an official partnership in November 2013, the first of its kind between a National Football League franchise and a university medical school.

Since then, the Lions and the school’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences have worked with Detroit residents, especially children, to teach methods to improve health through health fairs and other programs.

The young students at Eastern Market will enjoy a morning of activities that include  educational lessons on the impact of nutrition by WSU’s public health and medical students, a “Play 60” recess session, a tour of the market and a healthy snack demonstration by Chef Nader.

"The Lions are proud to partner with the Ford Motor Company Fund and an impactful coalition of community organizations to promote health and wellness," said Detroit Lions Team President Tom Lewand in a news release. "Together, along with our players and alumni, we will engage Detroit youth to improve nutrition and increase physical activity while emphasizing the importance of making healthy choices."

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.

For more information, visit

Shiffman Director Martin named to National Library of Medicine Board
In Headlines on September 11, 2014
Sandra Martin

Sandra Martin

Sandra Martin, the director of the Wayne State University Shiffman Medical Library, has been named to the U.S. National Library of Medicine Board of Regents.

Her four-year appointment to the board will run through 2018.

“I am awed by the honor to serve on the NLM Board of Regents,” said Martin, who returned this week from her first meeting of the board, “even more so to recognize how unique the opportunity is to form policy and shape the activities of the largest medical library in the world along with medical professionals and leaders in the health care industry. I am excited by the opportunity to be at the table when after almost 10 years the library will begin a long-range planning process, which adds to the uniqueness of the opportunity.”

The board serves as the advisory body to the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, the assistant secretary of Health, the director of the National Institutes of Health and the director of the National Library of Medicine. The board is the final review body for the library’s extramural grant program.

The world’s largest biomedical library, the NLM maintains and makes available a massive print collection and produces electronic information resources on a “wide range of topics that are searched billions of times each year by millions of people around the globe.” The library also supports and conducts research, development and training in biomedical informatics and health information technology.

Martin, a Distinguished Member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals, previously served in positions with the Medical Library Association and the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries.

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