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

Archive for October, 2016

National Tissue Chip Testing Center to be established at Pitt’s Drug Discovery Institute


The University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute (DDI) is among three institutes in the country to be awarded a grant to establish a new Tissue Chip Testing Center (TCTC). The grant, led by Dr. Mark Schurdak, associate professor of computational and systems biology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of operations at the DDI, was awarded under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) tissue chip initiative.

More than 30 percent of drugs that show promise during pre-clinical trials in animal models fail in human clinical trials due to toxicity. Additionally, approximately 65 percent of candidate drugs fail due to inadequate efficacy.

The goal of the tissue chip initiative, developed by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, is to develop three-dimensional platforms on which living tissues and cells can be grown.

The human tissue chips, or organ-on-chips, are designed to serve as accurate human organ models for experimental testing. Using a tissue chip system that more closely resembles human organs will dramatically increase the speed and effectiveness of drug testing.

The TCTCs established through this grant will help test and validate tissue chip platforms that have been developed over the past four years as part of the NCATS tissue chip initiative. To support the informatics needs of this initiative, the DDI is creating a Microphysiological Systems (MPS) testing database Center, which will serve as one of the TCTCs. The other two centers will be established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University.

Data generated by the TCTCs on diverse organ systems will be stored in the MPS database and made accessible to the broader research community. The MPS database center will also develop and implement tools to evaluate the performance of the tissue chips, including their reproducibility and ability to predict clinically relevant drug responses. The center’s approach will exploit Pitt’s strengths in drug discovery science, informatics, and database development and management.

Read More

UPMC Honors Breast Cancer Awareness Month with BRA Day


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, University of Pittsburgh Department of Plastic Surgery and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC recently hosted its annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day Pittsburgh. The awareness event educates women on their reconstruction options and provides resources to women who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but data shows that less than 25 percent of women undergoing breast cancer-related surgeries are fully aware of their breast reconstruction options or the quality of the surgical outcomes they can expect. BRA Day aims to raise national awareness and ensure all women and their families understand the reconstruction options after fighting breast cancer.

The highlight of this year’s event at Bar Marco was an art show displaying mannequin busts artistically rendered by local artists. There were a wide array of unique mannequins and paintings displayed, and an opportunity for attendees to bid on the art work.

Pat Miller, a two-time breast cancer survivor and local artist, created a mannequin for the event. Her piece of art was created using different skin colors cut out of magazines, and it symbolized her journey through breast cancer. The mannequin was created to display the beauty of diversity, Miller said, and represented how reconstruction helped her to view her physical scars as beautiful.

Read More

Glimmer of Hope Continues Support of UPMC Premenopausal Breast Cancer Research and Care


On Monday night, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based breast cancer organization, will host its annual Bid for Hope, which raises money and awareness for premenopausal breast cancer research at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI). Over the past 15 years, Glimmer of Hope and its Bid for Hope event have been instrumental in providing funding to assist in the development of clinical research to patient services for young women with breast cancer.

A total of $150,000 has been raised from this event, and 100 percent of the proceeds will support breast cancer research and care, including patient navigation, supporting integrative medicine such as massage and acupuncture, as well as enhanced mammography research at Magee and MWRI for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

“We are honored to present our gift to Magee,” said Diana Napper, founder and president of A Glimmer of Hope Foundation. “We believe in the care Magee provides for the women in our community and beyond, and with this gift, new research and continued guidance will allow that care to grow even stronger.”

Over the past 15 years, Glimmer of Hope and the event have been instrumental in providing funding to assist in the development of clinical research to patient services for young women with breast cancer at Magee and MWRI. To date, the annual event has been the catalyst for raising $2 million for the cause.

“Over the years, support for premenopausal breast cancer from and A Glimmer of Hope Foundation has been unwavering,” said Judy Herstine, administrator of the women’s cancer program at Magee. “The services they help us provide truly make a difference in the lives of our patients every day, and the research they support will bring us a greater understanding of the disease we are fighting together.”

Read More

UPMC and Pitt School of Pharmacy Host Drug Take-Back Day


UPDATE ON OCT. 24: This year’s events at 14 UPMC facilities and the University of Pittsburgh’s Nordenberg Pharmacy collected nearly 1,200 pounds of unwanted medications, eliminating their potential for abuse or improper disposal.

Abusive use of prescription pain killers and over-the-counter drugs has been on the rise in recent years. Consumption of unused or expired drugs could have negative consequences for people who take them, and improper disposal can be harmful for the environment. Drug Take-Back Days are critical in preventing drug overdose, illicit drug use and water contamination.

UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy have once again partnered with local security forces and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to host Drug Take-Back Day. Members of the general public are invited to anonymously turn in their unused or expired drugs for proper disposal on Friday. The events are free, and those who dispose of their drugs are encouraged to conceal their personal information on prescription medication vials.

Except where noted below, all locations are open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and all medications must be in their original containers.

Read More

Honoring UPMC’s Service Heroes

aces_burn_cntr_mercy_20160913-037People may not be able to see their capes, but there are service superheroes at UPMC.

They are the winners of UPMC’s Award for Commitment and Excellence in Service for 2016 — a group of employees recognized for delivering life changing medicine each and every day.

This year, UPMC celebrated and honored 251 individuals and one team from across the health system whose outstanding achievements support UPMC’s values and commitment to putting patients, employees, health plan members and the community at the center of what they do.

Those honored included:

  • A patient business services representative who doesn’t rest until her customers gets the financial assistance they need.
  • An environmental services team member who accompanied a senior resident to surgery because she had no family to wait for her.
  • A nurse who performed CPR and saved a life – on her wedding day.
  • A health plan representative who advocated for a member and her family when they were almost out of options, getting her the treatment she desperately needed.
  • A nutrition manager who investigated every menu item to help protect a patient with an unusual food allergy.

“These exceptional people embody the values that drive all that we do at UPMC,” said Greg Peaslee, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for UPMC. “Life changing ideas, innovative solutions, and, most of all, compassionate care start with them. Simply put, each of them, through their actions, make UPMC a better place to work.”


Read More