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

UPMC Guides Colombian Hospital in Treating First Pediatric Cancer Patients

UPMC Guides Colombian Hospital in Treating First Pediatric Cancer PatientsThe life-changing medical protocols and practices of UPMC are now saving lives in Colombia.

The recently opened Cancer Institute at the Hospital Internacional de Colombia (HIC), in the town of Piedecuesta, has treated its first young patients as part of a long partnership between UPMC and Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia (FCV). The goal – to provide world-class cancer care close to home for children and adults who previously traveled hundreds of miles for such treatments.

Two-year-old Carlos, or “Carlitos” to hospital staff, was transferred to the hospital in late November because of fever and pain related to acute myeloid leukemia, the first of such patients at the HIC. Meanwhile, 4-year-old Jader was transferred to the HIC with fever, vomiting and severe headaches before he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his central nervous system.

Both boys have benefited from advances in technology, training and treatment protocols, or “clinical pathways,” that UPMC has brought to Colombia. Carlitos has been treated with chemotherapy and benefited from a team-based approach to managing the complications of his disease.  In addition to surgery, Jader received chemotherapy and radiotherapy, using one of South America’s first Varian TrueBeam STx linear accelerators. UPMC helped to commission the machine and provide training so that patients could receive high-dose radiation treatments that minimize side effects while targeting the most challenging tumors. (more…)

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UPMC Cancer Patients Come Together to Paint

UPMC Cancer Patients Come Together to PaintThe Hillman Cancer Center, part of the UPMC CancerCenter network, is attracting the artistic talents of its patients and staff thanks to a project called Lilly Oncology On Canvas.  It’s a paint-by-number project that encourages collaboration as each person puts their brush to a portion of the art work.

The project recently greeted visitors on the fourth floor of Hillman in the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers.

James Brown, a Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, resident, was leaving the Lemieux Center after blood tests when he stopped to check out the painting. He selected the orange paint for his portion. His wife, Joyce Brown, watched before she was then encouraged to select her favorite color – blue – to add her special touch.

“It’s a nice idea,” said Joyce Brown, who asked her husband for help to paint the edges so it would look a “little neater.”

The Browns were among the first to take part in the project at the Lemieux Center. As the day continued, more patients, visitors, nurses and other staff members added their colors to complete the painting. (more…)

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UPMC Mercy Places Catholic Mission at the Heart of Patient Care

UPMC Mercy Places Catholic Mission at the Heart of Patient Care

Auxiliary Bishop Waltersheid and the Rev. Schempp extend a blessing to a patient who is ill and his mother after a special Mass held at UPMC Mercy in honor of World Day of the Sick.

UPMC Mercy recently held a day-long conference for employees on the importance of their Catholic mission and to discuss the meaning of a Catholic identity. The hospital’s mission connects health care to social justice with a strong emphasis on caring for the poor and vulnerable.

The hospital embraced its Catholic mission with a special training led by the Rev. Albie Schempp, who started the day with a discussion on how Catholic teachings and mission are rooted in Holy Scripture. He was joined by Rev. Lawrence DiNardo, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and health care liaison, who assisted with the training on Catholic identity and social principles. Other topics included information on the biblical roots of their ministry, Catholic social teaching, and ethical and religious directives that inform UPMC Mercy’s decision-making process.

“The Catholic mission is at the heart of patient care at UPMC Mercy,” said Phyllis Grasser, vice president of Mission Effectiveness at UPMC Mercy. “Specifically, four key principles guide the hospital in providing care to the community – provision of excellent and compassionate care, provision of quality spiritual care services, provision of charity care to the poor and vulnerable, and following the ethical and religious directives.”

UPMC Mercy annually celebrates World Day of the Sick, which takes place Feb. 11 and is a day dedicated to prayer for patients and their caregivers. A special Mass was also led Tuesday by Auxiliary Bishop William J. Waltersheid in the hospital chapel.

“Compassionate care for the sick includes spiritual support as well as physical care,” said Sister Carolyn Schallenberger, nursing support coordinator, UPMC Mercy Patient Services. “While prayer for the sick is a daily intention, emphasis is made through this annual day of prayerful recognition.”


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Studying the Molecular Origins of Polycystic Kidney Disease

Studying the Molecular Origins of Polycystic Kidney Disease

A normal mouse kidney (top) and a mouse kidney lacking the Frs2α gene with cysts (bottom).

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited disorder strongly linked to mutations in genes PKD1 and PKD2 that causes development of fluid-filled cysts in kidneys of affected patients. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 600,000 people in the United States have PKD, and it’s the fourth leading cause of kidney failure.

Despite the efforts of many research groups worldwide, there are no cures for PKD, a goal that is hampered by an incomplete understanding of the roots of the disease. Existing animal models have yielded some insight into PKD, but the underlying molecular mechanisms that lead to formation of cysts remain unclear.

Recent research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC takes aim at this knowledge gap and may help in developing an effective therapy.

Led by Dr. Carlton Bates, chief of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine, researchers have developed a new genetically modified mouse model that may contribute significantly to understanding PKD.

To create the mouse model, researchers selectively deleted a protein called fibroblast growth factor receptor substrate 2-alpha (Frs2α), which transmits signals for fibroblast growth factor receptors, in a subset of kidney precursor cells in mice. Frs2α, a protein that Dr. Bates has studied extensively, is known to be important for the normal development and patterning of nephrons, which are responsible for blood and waste filtration in kidneys. (more…)

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