NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Archive for January, 2016

Chief Nurse Executive Elected to PONL Board

Lorenz_Holly_Letter_Photo_PathwaysHolly Lorenz, M.S.N., R.N., UPMC’s chief nurse executive, has been elected as 2016 president-elect for the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders (PONL).

“I’m excited to represent UPMC as president-elect of our state nurse leadership organization, PONL.  This is a great opportunity to influence nursing leadership across the state as well as at UPMC,” Lorenz said.

The mission of PONL is to serve as the voice of nursing leadership in Pennsylvania. The organization works to advance the profession by encouraging nurses to seek advanced degrees, emphasizing nurse advocacy, and fostering nurses as leaders.

“PONL’s vision mirrors our UPMC strategic vision for nursing.  I am eager to share our strategies with PONL and to spread new innovative programs across UPMC.   I am appreciative to have this opportunity and want to thank my colleagues for their support in electing me,”  Lorenz said.

Read More

Pitt Researcher Awarded $1.9 M to Study Gene Mutations in Deadly Oral Cancer

ThinkstockPhotos-503258063Daniel Johnson, Ph.D., has received a $1.9 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue work into understanding how gene mutations affect oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), determining the risk to patients from various therapies and developing new treatments.

Approximately 40,000 cases of the deadly cancer OSCC are diagnosed each year in the United States, and they are strongly associated with tobacco and alcohol consumption or infection with human papilloma virus. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the mainstays of treatment for advanced OSCC, but these therapies frequently result in disfigurement and adverse reactions. Patients whose cancer recurs often develop resistance to existing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“Efforts to combat OSCC have been severely hindered by an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms of disease progression and a lack of molecular markers that can be used to predict responsiveness to chemotherapy and radiation,” said Dr. Johnson, professor of medicine at Pitt and a senior scientist in the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Head and Neck Cancer Program (more…)

Read More

Pitt Vaccine Researcher Among First to Study Zika Virus Causing Birth Defects in Brazil

ErnestoMarques-labWhen Ernesto Marques, M.D., Ph.D., first started hearing of strange rashes in Brazilian patients, he didn’t think much of it – perhaps it was a mild strain of dengue.

So the University of Pittsburgh scientist and Brazilian citizen was quite surprised when his laboratory tests came back revealing it was a mosquito-borne virus called Zika that had most recently been implicated in outbreaks nearly half a world away in Polynesia.

And now, nine months later, the finding has reached new urgency as babies are being born with microcephaly, a congenital smallness of the head associated with incomplete brain development, to mothers most likely infected with Zika during pregnancy.  Normally the northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco sees 10 cases of microcephaly per year. In the past year that number has skyrocketed to 500, possibly more, according to Dr. Marques.

“It’s such an obscure virus with no previous reports of any really severe disease associated with it,” said Dr. Marques, associate professor in Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research. “It’s a virus nobody really cared about until now. So it’s basically a whole new disease to us – we have no good diagnostic tools, no vaccine, and very little is known about how it causes disease in people.” (more…)

Read More