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

Archive for July, 2016

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Participates in White House Cancer Moonshot Summit

STANLEY_CUP_MoonShotGroupThe University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) participated in the nationwide Cancer Moonshot Summit on June 29. The summit was hosted and led by Vice President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. with over 270 organizations participating regionally, including UPCI.

The Cancer Moonshot initiative was launched in January 2016 during President Obama’s State of the Union Address. The $1 billion initiative aims to make more therapies available to patients, improve cancer treatment and make it more detectable. The ultimate goal is to double the rate of progress in cancer research towards a cure. (more…)

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Pitt Receives Prestigious NIH Award to Support Development of Million-Person Precision Medicine Study

AERIAL_UPMC_OAKLAND_CAMPUS_20130426_RETOUCHThe National Institute of Health announced Wednesday that $4.2 million is to be awarded to the University of Pittsburgh to build the partnerships and infrastructure needed to launch the Cohort Program of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). Over five years, the total amount awarded to Pitt could reach $46 million, pending progress and availability of funds.

The PMI Cohort Program, announced during President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, aims to extend precision medicine to all diseases by bring together over 1 million participants  in this national research effort.

Pitt is one of several NIH-selected Healthcare Provider Organizations (HPOs), a network of health and medical centers that will engage their participants in the PMI Cohort Program and ensure participants in PMI research represent the geographic, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of the country. (more…)

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Cricket Superstar Makes Comeback From Injuries After ACL Surgeries at UPMC


West Indian cricket superstar and all-rounder Kieron Pollard returned to the field in under four months not just once, but twice, post-op following reconstructive ACL surgery performed by
UPMC’s orthopedic surgery chair Dr. Freddie Fu, M.D in 2013 and 2015.

Mr. Pollard, 29, also plays cricket for the Mumbai Indians of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Drafted in 2010, he quickly rose to international acclaim. Unfortunately, Pollard’s career took a hit after an ACL injury to his left knee in 2013.  He sought care in Pittsburgh from Dr. Fu, and was able to make a remarkably quick comeback after surgery.

The 2015 IPL season was arguably Mr. Pollard’s best ever, with the Mumbai Indians winning the IPL final championship. However, Mr. Pollard suffered yet another ACL injury, this time to his right knee, in late November 2015 at the Cape Cobras’ Ram Slam T20 Challenge, this one potentially career-ending.

“I spun to my left and heard a big, long, loud crack,” Mr. Pollard said. “I immediately knew it was my ACL.”

This injury was more severe than the first, as it included a tear in his meniscus.

Mr. Pollard wanted to get back to the field as soon as possible and wanted to receive the best care available. Following the success of his first ACL injury, Mr. Pollard again traveled to Pittsburgh to receive care from Dr. Fu, who is known worldwide for treating knee-related sports injuries.

Although typical ACL surgery recovery time is several months to a year, Mr. Pollard worked hard to recover sooner.

“I just wanted to do what was necessary to get back playing at a high level,” he said. “I challenged myself to physical therapy six to seven hours a day.”

Mr. Pollard’s hard work paid off as he returned to the field for a professional match this past April.

“I bring it down to willpower,” he said. “I put in the hard work and got rewards.”

The precision and care of Dr. Fu and his team also helped Mr. Pollard’s recovery. In addition to being chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, Dr. Fu is a past American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) president. Recently, he was inducted into the AOSSM Hall of Fame.

“Unlike where I’m from, everything was in place the day of surgery,” Mr. Pollard said of Dr. Fu’s professionalism. “Everything was structured. That impressed me the most. Every time I step on the cricket field now, it’s thanks to Dr. Fu, his staff and all they have done for me.”

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Michael Walsh Dickey Selected to Serve on Language and Communication Study Section

Dickey_headshotMichael Walsh Dickey, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been selected to serve as a member of the Language and Communication Study Section, Center for Scientific Review.

Members are selected on the basis of their quality of research accomplishments and publications in scientific journals, as well as other significant activities, achievements and honors. Study sections review grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), make recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH national advisory council, and survey the status of research in their fields of science.

Dr. Dickey earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University. His research focuses on language comprehension and production in adults, the neural bases of these abilities, and their impairments in aphasia. As a research health scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, he also conducts clinical trials focused on the treatment of adult neurogenic language disorders.

Dr. Dickey started serving as a member of the study section in July and will serve through June of 2020.

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UPMC Investigates Innovative Treatment Methods for Aortic Aneurysms

Daniel Gardone was the first patient worldwide to receive an innovative implant that uses a stent with tree-like branches to treat aortic aneurysms, bulges in the body’s main artery that can rupture, causing serious bleeding and possibly death.

Following Mr. Gardone’s back surgery in December 2014, an X-ray found an aneurysm in his arch, or the apex of the aorta, located at the top of his chest behind the sternum. The Penn Hills resident was quickly referred to Michel Makaroun, M.D., chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC.

Instead of undergoing major open heart surgery, Mr. Gardone opted in April 2015 to receive a new generation of implant — a thoracic branch endoprosthesis device — placed in the largest and first branch of the arch considered the most difficult and problematic location for such a procedure.

In June, during his one-year checkup, he received the good news: He was cleared for another year after his endovascular aneurysm repair.

“I chose what I had done because it was the least invasive option,” said Mr. Gardone, 64. “I have no major issues now other than a few minor aches and pains, but that is what happens when you get into your 60s.”

Between 12,000 and 15,000 people die from aneurysms of the aorta every year. Commonly found in the belly and upper body, aortic aneurysms mostly affect people 60 years old and older. Those at risk of developing one include people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, as well as smokers. Symptoms can include throbbing or deep pain in the back or side, as well as pain in the buttocks, groin or legs, but oftentimes no symptoms are present.

The Division of Vascular Surgery at UPMC continues to investigate innovative treatment methods for these potentially deadly aneurysms, participating in three clinical trials using new state-of-the-art devices made of nickel titanium stents and covering materials of either Dacron or Teflon.

By providing blood supply through integrated branches similar to tree branches, the implant allows the complex aneurysms to be treated with a less invasive approach than previously used. For over 20 years, repair through small groin incisions has become the standard of care. However, the success of that minimally invasive approach is still limited when the aneurysm involves critical branches providing blood supply to the brain or abdominal organs.

MAKAROUN_MICHEL_MD_VS_20141204Companies now developing these complex products must test areas of fatigue and design connecting segments in lengths and diameters that can fit most patients, noted Dr. Makaroun.

Physicians from the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute have successfully implanted such branch devices into six patients thus far.

“This is the next phase in conquering areas that remain inaccessible today with standard devices,” Dr. Makaroun said. “These new advanced stent-grafts hold the promise of extending minimally invasive surgery to almost all aortic aneurysms, no matter the location.”

For more information about the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, click here.

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