Tag Archives: national institutes of health

cancer

UA Shows Curcumin Effect on Colon Cancer

A team of researchers led by the University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center discovered that curcumin—the bioactive molecule derived from the spice turmeric—blocks the protein cortactin in colon cancer.

Cortactin, a protein essential for cell movement, frequently is overexpressed in cancer, thus facilitating cancer cell metastasis to other organs in the body.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and women. When cancer metastasizes to other organs, a patient’s chances of survival are greatly diminished. Thus, finding novel ways to prevent cancer metastasis remains an urgent need.

The National Institutes of Health-funded research recently was published in PLOS One.

The study was led by co-investigators Fayez K. Ghishan, MD, professor and head, UA Department of Pediatrics and director of the UA Steele Children’s Research Center; Pawel Kiela, DVM, PhD, associate professor, UA Department of Pediatrics; and Vijay Radhakrishnan, PhD, assistant scientist, UA Department of Pediatrics. The study was conducted in collaboration with Jessie Martinez, PhD, professor, UA Cancer Center, and Eugene Mash, PhD, professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Turmeric gives curry its yellow color and flavor. It is part of the ginger family and has been used for thousands of years to treat colds, inflammation, arthritis and many other ailments, including cancer.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and has been scientifically studied in many types of cancer. It has been shown to have a chemopreventative effect—the ability to reverse, suppress or prevent the development of cancer.

“What’s novel about our research is that our study identified one of the mechanisms by which curcumin can prevent cancer cell metastasis in colon cancer,” said Dr. Ghishan.

The research team discovered that the active part of the cortactin protein, known as Phopsho Tyrosine 421 (pTyr421), is hyper-activated in malignant tumors of the colon.

“We showed that the cortactin protein was hyper-activated due to a process called excessive phosphorylation,” said Dr. Kiela.

Phosphorylation is the addition of a phosphate group to a protein, and is responsible for turning proteins on and off, altering the protein’s function and activity. Too much cortactin, and its activation by phosphorylation, has been linked with cancer aggressiveness.

The researchers treated human colon cancer tumor cells with curcumin. “We discovered that curcumin turns off the active form of cortactin,” explained Dr. Radhakrishnan, who led the experiments in the lab. “Thus, when cortactin is turned off, cancer cells lose the ability to move and can’t metastasize to other parts of the body.”

More specifically, curcumin “turned-off” cortactin by interacting with, and activating, an enzyme known as PTPN1. This enzyme acts as a phosphatase to remove phosphate groups from cortactin—a process known as “dephosphorylation.”

“This effect, essentially known as ‘dephosphorylating cortactin’ correlated with reduced ability of colon cancer cells to migrate,” said Dr. Kiela. “This suggests that curcumin reduces cancer cells’ ability to migrate, meaning the cancer can’t metastasize.”

“By identifying the mechanism of action—that curcumin activates the enzyme PTPN1, which then ‘turns off’ the active component of cortactin pTyr421, we believe that chemopreventative drugs can be developed to target cortactin in cancer cells to prevent the cancer from metastasizing,” said. Dr. Radhakrishnan.

“Treatments aimed at the suppression of cancer metastasis remain an urgent therapeutic need,” said Dr. Ghishan. “Our findings have laid the foundation for future research to develop treatments using curcumin to prevent cancer’s deadly spread to other organs.”

cancer

TGen finds clue to stop spread of lung cancer

Two cell surface receptors might be responsible for the most common form of lung cancer spreading to other parts of the body, according to a study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The hepatocyte growth factor receptor (HGFR/MET) and fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 (FN14) are proteins associated with the potential spread of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to the TGen study published online April 8 by the scientific journal Clinical & Experimental Metastasis.

NSCLC represents more than 85 percent of all lung cancers, which this year will kill an estimated 159,000 Americans, making it by far the leading cause of cancer-related death. It has a 5-year survival rate less than 10 percent.

The invasive and metastatic nature of NSCLC contributes to this high mortality rate, and so finding the cause of this potential to spread is key to helping patients survive.

Therapies targeting MET and FN14 are in clinical development, which could lead to treatments that could help halt or slow the spread of this lung cancer.

“As the metastatic phenotype is a major cause of lung cancer mortality, understanding and potentially targeting these pathways may reduce the high mortality rate in advanced lung cancer,” said Dr. Timothy Whitsett, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s lead author.

Significantly, the TGen study found that MET and FN14 were elevated in metastatic tumors compared to primary lung tumors and suppression of MET activation or FN14 expression reduced tumor cell invasion.

“The elevation of these receptors in metastatic disease opens the possibility for therapeutic intervention,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, an Associate Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s senior author.

Dr. Glen Weiss, Co-Unit Head of TGen’s Lung Cancer Research Laboratory and Director of Clinical Research at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center, said, “This study identifies some targets that already have drugs in clinical trials, and helps put them into context for what might be a rational drug development approach for the treatment of this deadly cancer.”

Other institutes that assisted with this study are: the University of Arizona; St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; and Humboldt Medical Specialists.

The study, FN14 expression correlates with MET in NSCLC and promotes MET-driven cell invasion, was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and grants from the St. Joseph’s Foundation and the American Lung Association.

brain

PCH, Barrow and TGen earn NIH grant

Under a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Barrow Neurological Institute and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are studying the role of extracellular RNA (exRNA) as biomarkers in hemorrhagic brain injuries.

The study is being funded by a $4 million grant that is part of an international effort to determine the roles of exRNA in multiple biological processes.

The Phoenix Children’s group will focus on the evaluation of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in newborns, a form of bleeding in the brain that affects approximately 12,000 premature babies in the U.S. every year. Perinatal IVH is commonly associated with the development of cerebral palsy and hydrocephalous. It’s unclear, however, how hydrocephalous develops and how IVH impacts the potential for developing cerebral palsy.

This study is aimed to identify the modulating effects of exRNA on these processes and if so, to develop a testing mechanism to help clinicians identify children who are at increased risk. The development of a prognostic tool would guide doctors to more effective and less invasive treatments.

Investigators at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital are evaluating a similar model in adults. They are evaluating the role of exRNA in the development of vasospasm following hemorrhagic stroke.

For a video explanation of exRNA, check out this video.

cancer

TGen identifies key lung cancer enabler

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have discovered a protein, Mcl-1, that helps enable one of the most common and deadly types of cancer to survive radiation and drug treatments.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up about 85 percent of the nearly 160,000 Americans expected to die this year from lung cancer, which by far kills more patients than any other type of cancer; accounting for more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the U.S. annually. The 5-year survival rate for advanced NSCLC is less than 10 percent.

In the absence of more effective targeted therapies, most lung cancer patients currently rely on platinum-derived chemotherapeutics, such as cisplatin, or radiation therapy.

Previous TGen studies have shown that excessive activation of a cellular signaling mechanism known as TWEAK-Fn14 is linked to the survival and spread of cancer cells.

In a new laboratory study published in the scientific journal Molecular Cancer Research, TGen investigators found that a protein called Mcl-1 helps enable TWEAK-Fn14, which in turn helps protect NSCLC tumors from being destroyed by radiation and drugs.

“Our study demonstrates that the expression of Mcl-1 is necessary to promote the TWEAK-mediated survival of NSCLC tumor cells,” said Dr. Timothy Whitsett, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s lead author. “By deactivating Mcl-1, we believe we can give these lung cancer patients a better response to standard therapy.”

Employing a drug called EU-5148, laboratory researchers using lung cancer cell lines found they could block Mcl-1 function and halt the TWEAK-Fn14 cellular signaling mechanism.

“Inhibition of Mcl-1 function enhanced chemo- and radio-sensitivity in NSCLC cells. The depletion of Mcl-1 … was sufficient to abrogate the protective effects conferred on lung tumor cells by TWEAK-Fn14 signaling,” according to the study, Mcl-1 Mediates TWEAK/Fn14-induced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Survival and Therapeutic Response, published online Jan. 27, and awaiting print publication on April 14.

“This work positions both the TWEAK-Fn14 cellular pathway and the Mcl-1 protein as potential therapeutic interventions,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, an Associate Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s senior author. “Our evidence shows that, if we can bypass these mechanisms, it will be more difficult for these lung cancer cells to evade therapies.”

The study concludes that additional research of Mcl-1 and TWEAK-Fn14 mechanism is needed, eventually leading to clinical trials and more effective treatments that could reduce lung cancer mortality.

The drug, EU-5148, was provided by Eutropics Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge, Mass.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Goodyear) also contributed to this study.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer’s Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer's Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

native.american

UA Part of $6M research of American Indian Health

Public health researchers at the University of Arizona, along with researchers at two other higher education institutions in the state, have earned a $6 million grant to investigate health issues in American Indian communities.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded the five-year grant to a statewide team of researchers from the UA, Northern Arizona University and Diné College to establish the Center for American Indian Resilience, also known as CAIR.

The collaborative team will study why some American Indian communities facing high rates of chronic disease and poverty seem to thrive despite adversity.

“The basic practice of public health is about understanding ways to support healthy behaviors, and we know programs that are culturally relevant are more effective,” said Nicolette Teufel-Shone, professor of health promotion sciences at the UA’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“We will take a look at existing health behaviors and programs that target the prevention of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, to determine what is working and why,” Teufel-Shone said.

Teufel-Shone and Priscilla Sanderson, assistant professor of health sciences and applied indigenous studies at NAU, have been named CAIR’s co-directors. Diné College faculty on the project are Mark Bauer and Donald Robinson, both of the department of science education.
The UA public health college received $2 million of the CAIR grant, which includes collaborations with tribal communities and research projects.

“CAIR research will deepen our scientific knowledge of existing positive health outcomes in tribal communities, and then we will translate this knowledge to practice through public health education and policy,” said Sanderson, a member of the Navajo Nation.

Also under the grant, the UA public health college will collaborate with NAU and Diné College to support Diné College’s ongoing summer program to teach undergraduate students to consider and incorporate community strengths in their work as emerging public health professionals. The program combines classroom learning with hands-on experience through an internship in tribal communities.

The research project, directed by the UA, also involves a partnership with the Tucson Indian Center to interview elders about their concept of resilience and their perceptions of key factors that contribute to success in life.

Through this initiative, members of the Southwestern American Indian community will record video diaries to share their experiences of well-being.

“The goal of the video diaries project is to use existing information about which factors contribute to Native American resilience and spread this knowledge to other Native American communities,” Teufel-Shone said. “This way, researchers can learn lessons of how resilience is already effective in these communities, share experiences and allow community members to create new paths based on other people’s stories.”

Other UA College of Public Health participants include John Ehiri, director and professor; Division of Health Promotion Sciences; Agnes Attakai, director, Health Disparities Outreach and Prevention Education; Kerstin Reinschmidt, assistant professor, Health Promotion Sciences; and Rebecca Drummond, program director for Family Wellness.

NAU faculty and staff contributing to CAIR include Olivia Trujillo, professor of applied indigenous studies; Robert Trotter, Regents’ professor and chair of anthropology; Chad Hamill, assistant professor of music; Roger Bounds, associate professor and chair of health sciences; Lisa Hardy, assistant professor of anthropology; R. Cruz Begay, professor of health sciences; and Kelly Laurila, coordinator in anthropology. Paul Dutton, director of NAU’s Interdisciplinary Health Policy Institute, will facilitate the executive advisory board.

Diné College faculty on the project are Mark Bauer, PhD and Donald Robinson, PhD of the Department of Science Education.

pharmaceuticals

Arizona bioscience job growth outpaces nation

Arizona’s bioscience sector added jobs at nearly four times the national rate over the past decade and experienced double-digit job growth during the economic recovery, a new report shows.

Since Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was launched in 2002, Arizona’s bioscience jobs have increased by 45 percent to 99,018 in 2011. Nationally, the growth rate during this time was 12 percent. While hospitals dominate Arizona’s bioscience jobs, the state’s non-hospital subsectors grew 14 percent in 2011 alone.  During the economic recovery years of 2009-11, the state’s bioscience jobs increased 11 percent while there was no gain across the state’s private sector.

The new performance analysis of Arizona’s bioscience sector, commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, also found that the number of bioscience establishments in Arizona continues to grow faster than the national average and bioscience wages in the state are outpacing those in other private-sector industries.

The 10th-annual study, released Feb. 5 by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, did reveal funding challenges for the state.  In 2012, Arizona fell to its lowest venture capital investment level since 2009 and suffered a drop in National Institutes of Health funding while the top-10 funded states advanced.

“Arizona’s bioscience sector continues to significantly outperform the nation in terms of job and establishment growth and has made impressive gains in building a more concentrated industry base,” said Walter Plosila, senior advisor to the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.  “However, more attention must be paid to academic research performance and venture capital investment to continue the trend in years to come.”

Plosila added that progress has been made over the past decade on all 19 actions recommended by Battelle in 2002, including substantial progress on nine.

The Roadmap was launched in 2002 as a long-range plan to make the state’s bioscience sector globally competitive. The Roadmap was commissioned by the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation, which committed to 10 years of major funding of Arizona biosciences and formed a network of committees involving statewide experts to implement its recommendations.

There was also a major increase in bioscience establishments, rising 31 percent since 2002 to 892 firms, which is above the national growth rate of 23 percent.

Bioscience jobs in Arizona pay an average salary of $56,328, or 28 percent higher than the $44,098 for all private-sector industries. Since 2002, bioscience salaries have increased 44 percent.

“After 10 years, Arizona has carved a niche in the highly lucrative and competitive biosciences field,” said Martin Shultz, chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. “We’re one of the nation’s top emerging bioscience states, and our growth in high-wage jobs continued during both good economic times and bad.”

In terms of research dollars, NIH funding in 2012 was $174 million, or 19 percent greater, than the 2002 figure. This is a decrease from $184 million in 2011. While NIH funding, the gold standard for biomedical research funding, did increase slightly faster than the national average of 18 percent over the past decade, Arizona is no longer meeting its goal of obtaining funding at a growth rate higher than the top-10 funded states. In addition, its share of the funding pool remains nearly the same as it was in 2002.

The latest data also shows:
•    The largest non-hospital bioscience subsector continues to be research, testing and medical laboratories. This group now boasts about 8,900 workers across 466 establishments, roughly a 60 percent increase in both employees and firms since 2002. The other subsectors are drugs, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics; hospitals; medical devices and equipment; and agricultural feedstock and chemicals.
•    Venture capital investment was $22 million in 2012, which is the lowest figure since 2009. This was a drop of 68 percent from 2011, compared with a national decline of 49 percent.
•    Bioscience-related academic research and development expenditures at Arizona’s universities reached a record $452 million in 2011, a 55 percent increase since 2002. Arizona’s growth had outpaced the nation until 2009, but now trails the overall U.S. growth rate of 74 percent.
•    Arizona universities spun out seven bioscience companies in 2012. University discoveries have now led to 67 new bioscience startups since 2002 as well as 180 bioscience patents.

There were a number of major developments in 2012 that showed the collaborative nature of Arizona biosciences, including the completion of major projects, the approval of future pursuits, and an emphasis on education.

The University of Arizona opened its new Health Sciences Education Building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus that enabled the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix to increase enrollment and for Northern Arizona University to begin Phoenix-based physician assistant and physical therapy programs. In addition, final approval was granted by the Arizona Board of Regents for the UA Cancer Center-Phoenix to be built on the same campus in partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

A number of incubators and accelerators opened or expanded with more in the planning stages. BioInspire, an incubator for medical-device startups, opened in Peoria; GateWay Community College in Phoenix opened the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation; the Arizona Center for Innovation at the UA Science and Technology Park in Tucson opened upgraded facilities and launched new programming; Flagstaff received funding for a planned accelerator; and the statewide Arizona Furnace accelerator began awarding seed money and access to incubation space.

Among other major developments, the inaugural Arizona SciTech Festival attracted 200,000 participants from across the state during February and March 2012, making it one of the largest in the nation; Banner Alzheimer’s Institute launched a $100 million trial to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease; a new skin-cancer drug first tested by Translational Genomics Research Institute and Scottsdale Healthcare received expedited approval from the Food and Drug Administration; Arizona State University began leading the first national algae biofuel testbed; Mayo Clinic announced plans for a new cancer center on its north Phoenix campus; and Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert announced a $63 million expansion.

On Dec. 4, 2012, the Flinn Foundation and bioscience leaders from across Arizona came together at the Arizona Biltmore to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launching of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap. The Foundation announced it has committed to continue funding Arizona biosciences and coordinating the Roadmap as it enters its next chapter.

“We recognize this is a long-term pursuit,” said Jack Jewett, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation. “We will continue to strive to improve the lives of Arizonans today and tomorrow through new medical discoveries, access to clinical trials and the recruitment of top researchers, while also attracting high-wage jobs that will strengthen Arizona’s economy.”

The Flinn Foundation is a Phoenix-based, private, nonprofit philanthropic endowment. It was established by Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Flinn in 1965 with the mission of improving the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. The nonprofit philanthropy supports the advancement of Arizona’s bioscience sector, the Flinn Scholars program, arts and culture, and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.

banner alzheimers foundation - brain research

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute to open $16.3M Imaging Center

The opening of a $16.3 million state-of-the-art Imaging Center further cements the internationally-recognized work occurring at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) and advances statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease and other neuroscientific, cardiology and oncology research.

The Imaging Center, located at BAI’s campus in Phoenix, was made possible by $9.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and $7.1 million in philanthropic support from individuals, corporations and foundations. The center, which opens later this spring, will provide a shared scientific resource for researchers throughout the state and it will complement the scientific strengths of its partnering institutions.

The 18,000-square-foot facility features state-of-the-art imaging equipment including positron emission tomography (PET), CT and MRI technology. In addition, a cy*clotron and radiochemistry lab will allow the production of radiotracers to support PET studies across Arizona in the areas of neurology, oncology and cardiology. Radiotracers are used by PET researchers to study a range of biochemical and physiological processes in the brain and body.  In addition, BAI’s computational analysis laboratory will continue to develop, test, and use software to analyze PET and MRI images with unprecedented power.

“We are grateful to the National Institutes of Health, and extraordinary charitable contributions facilitated by Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation for the state-of-the-art imaging resources needed to make potentially transformational differences in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s disease, advance cancer research, unravel mysteries of the human mind and brain and support important biomedical research collaborations throughout the state,” said Dr. Eric Reiman, CEO of Banner Research, BAI executive director, and director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium.

The new Imaging Center will help BAI researchers in the effort to find treatments to ending Alzheimer’s before it impacts another generation. It will also add to the arsenal of research tools used by researchers in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, a leading model of statewide collaboration in biomedical research.

“Members of Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium played a huge role in our effort to secure funding for the Imaging Center and will continue to be key participants in our imaging research,” added Reiman.

The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium includes Arizona State University, Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), University of Arizona and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

In addition to the new Imaging Center, Dr. Reiman, Dr. Pierre Tariot, and their colleagues have developed the international Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) to find effective treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as quickly as possible. With its first prevention trial launching later this year, API will begin to evaluate the most promising therapies and do so as quickly as possible. The API is intended to evaluate promising prevention therapies in individuals at the highest genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, help set the stage for the field to rapidly evaluate the range of promising therapies and find ones that work as quickly as possible.

A key component of API is its national Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. People who are passionate about combatting the disease are encouraged to sign-up at https://registry.endalznow.org/. They will receive regular updates about the latest advances in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, the promotion of brain health, and opportunities to participate in prevention studies.

Evidence Based Design In Healthcare Facilities

The Right Prescription: Evidence-based Design In Healthcare Facilities

Evidence-based design in healthcare facilities plays a big role in promoting the healing process

Light a scented candle in one of the hydrotherapy rooms at CareMeridian, a Phoenix rehabilitation facility specializing in spine and traumatic brain injury, and imagine you are in a Scottsdale resort’s luxury spa.

The blue ceiling and sea-themed art on the wall, dimmable lighting and large window overlooking the outside garden are designed to evoke the tranquility of nature. The massive, high-back whirlpool tub, which faces away from the window so patients can enjoy natural light and privacy simultaneously, dominates the center of the space like a throne.

But the faux-wood-plank walls are, in fact, made of durable and easy-to-clean porcelain tile, and the flooring is designed to look elegant but provide easy wheelchair movement, an infection barrier and sound muffling, says Mark LaPalm, president of Blue Desert Interiors.

LaPalm piloted the makeover of an aging nursing home into the high-tech but homelike treatment center for catastrophically ill or injured patients.

The hydrotherapy rooms reflect his use of evidence-based design (EBD), a scientific approach to the architecture and engineering of new and renovated buildings.

CareMeridian administrator Lara Bowles says she is often tempted at the end of day to grab a book and some candles and de-stress in the spa-like setting.

But for a patient, the benefits are substantial — measurably and significantly lowering blood pressure and heartbeat as well as providing the medically indicated hydrotherapy treatment, she says.

Many other CareMeridian features, from use of color to placement of art to the floor and furniture coverings, are EBD-inspired, and Bowles says the design elements help relieve patient and employee stress and enhance patient healing.

Creating the right environment

For healthcare facilities, the EBD concept has become almost de rigueur, says architect Mark Patterson, SmithGroupJJR vice president and Phoenix-based health studio leader.

Patterson is one of about 1,000 healthcare design professionals accredited by the Center for Health Design, an organization with the stated goal: “A world where all healthcare environments are created using an evidence-based design process.”

The philosophy is simple, Patterson says, employing the same scientific principles to building design that govern the practice of medicine, that is, identify a problem, hypothesize a solution, test it, analyze results, and apply new knowledge.

A recent National Institutes of Health report compiled the results of hundreds of such studies indicating a direct correlation between facility design and patient safety.

Some of the bottom-line findings:

  • Single-patient rooms reduce the spread of infections, reduce medical errors and increase patient satisfaction.
  • Flooring materials, lighting and location of nursing work areas can impact patient safety, especially in reducing falls.

“Three common themes — promote healing, recruit and retain staff, and reduce operating costs — prevail in any healthcare project,” says Linda Delano, principal of Phoenix-based Building Possibilities. Delano’s client list includes small doctors offices, large corporate hospitals and everything in between.

It’s relatively easy to convince decision-makers at a large hospital group that eliminating multiple-patient rooms to reduce the spread of infection, or designing a room where the path from bed to toilet is short and obstruction-free, will reduce patient falls and save dollars in the long run.

“It can cost more to build, but if initial construction (of a hospital) is $12 million more, and they avoid one patient fall per year, they have made up for that in just a few years,”  Delano says.

But smaller healthcare providers are slow to come to the table, she says.

And for many of the ethereal elements of healthcare building design espoused by EBD proponents, the evidence is more anecdotal than measurable.

The hypotheses are many, for example, governing the impact of color, noise, daylight, nature, music, art and other environmental factors on patient healing.

Research has attempted to quantify these aspects through patient satisfaction surveys, staff interviews, and even calculating changes in patient length of stay and staff retention. But attributing even positive improvements to a single factor isn’t easy.

Still, Patterson says even if it’s difficult to measure, research shows a connection to nature positively affects patient outcomes.

And that governed the central design of Banner Page Hospital’s recent expansion, which was fashioned in the shape of a nautilus shell with the patient rooms spiraling from the central nurses station and the heads of ER beds facing windows overlooking the “healing garden.”

“It’s a beautiful setting. The staff likes working there, and the patients are happier (as) they are treated with dignity,” Patterson says.

Sometimes the one-with-nature theme can be achieved with simple design changes, Patterson says.

“At Banner Ironwood, we put windows at the end of the long hallways. The natural light brings a connection to nature,” he says. “And we added a smaller lobby, opening onto big external gardens.”

In fact, Banner is poised at the leading edge of the evidence-based design trend, Patterson says.

Kip Edwards, Banner Health vice president for development and construction, shies away from the term, but he is a big proponent of the EBD concept.

Banner is like a big research lab using standard designs that the organization is constantly analyzing and evolving as it plans new builds or renovations of older structures, he says.

For example, Banner’s own research yielded evidence that single-patient rooms provide better infection control, adhere to current and upcoming privacy laws, and, most importantly, promote healing. And they are bottom-line effective, Edwards says.

“There is a cost to single-patient rooms, but it’s fully warranted,” he says. “There are financial penalties for readmission, and just limiting infection problems probably pays for itself.”

Also among the Banner design initiatives garnered through research: reconfiguring nurses work areas to smaller stations outside patient rooms instead of big central hubs improved staff effectiveness and increased nurses’ time with patients — or at least patients’ perceptions of that, he says.

“We test that through patient satisfaction surveys,” he says.

As to the gardens and whether they help reduce patient stays, increase staff retention or boost Banner’s bottom line, Edwards says that’s just intuitive.

“The healthcare environment needs to be calming, peaceful, pleasant, conducive to helping heal. Gardens, natural light, pleasant colors — we think all are important,” Edwards says. “It’s not a fad. It’s well-founded in experience and logic.”

PCH ICUJeff Stouffer, HKS Architects’ healthcare academic and pediatric leader, says that it may not be voluminous, but there is documented evidence about the healing benefits of a connection to nature.

“Some research shows that patients use less medications and are discharged sooner,” he says.

HKS established an in-house research group to compile and analyze evidence to guide healthcare design.

“EBD is a key element in all our healthcare projects, especially in pediatric design,” says Stouffer, who recently completed a new 12-story tower at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The company was able to determine, through its own research, that standardizing medication room layouts reduces medical errors. As does standardizing the patient rooms’ size, shape, furniture and even headwalls, which provide access to essential medical services, he says.

Headed in the right direction

Another hot-button for EBD proponents is wayfinding, since studies show navigating through winding hospital corridors can be a big stress-inducer for hospital patients, families and visitors.

At CareMeridian, carpet design, wall art and T-junction focal points are designed to ease wayfinding, LaPalm says.

At PCH, each floor has a designated color and animal symbol, Stouffer says, making it easy for even pre-school-age patients and their families to orient themselves.

That’s one of many child-focused EBD elements HKS incorporated into the new wing.

LED lights along the floor that change color and keep kids hopping from one to another, and a “theater of light” in a three-story atrium are what Stouffer dubs, “positive distractions,” aimed at reducing stress for kids and their parents and “letting kids be kids.”

HKS research indicates children’s healing is impacted by parents’ involvement, so the PCH design focused on the worried parents as well as their sick children, he says.

That included orienting the front entrance towards the parking structure and designing family-sized patient rooms. The rooms in the new wing are big enough — and inviting enough — to accommodate parents overnight, even providing room for them to store belongings and work on laptops, Stouffer says.

And the requisite connection to nature is crucial for confined and anxious parents as well as the patients, so every room has a window with a mountain view.

“(Connection to nature) was a recurring theme when we met with parent advisory groups,” Stouffer says.

Scottsdale Healthcare Healing GardenScottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak’s healing garden incorporates water, light, “meditation pathways” and desert plants to provide a “therapeutic environment” for patients, according to global design firm Gensler.

It’s a good example of the company’s use of the EBD philosophy in healthcare settings, says Beth Harmon-Vaughan, director of Gensler’s Phoenix office.

But it’s only one tool in the architects’ toolbox, she says.

“EBD has been part of our approach for the last four or five years, but we are always looking to innovate, and a strictly EBD approach may miss opportunities,” Harmon-Vaughan says.

The relatively new trend is, in fact, always looking backwards at proven results, but Harmon-Vaughan says designers have to look ahead, too.

She cites, for example, a Tulsa, Okla., cancer-treatment facility Gensler recently designed.

“In this case, we wanted to dig deeper into interviews with doctors to understand the nature of the issues, and we discovered cancer treatment is going to change. They don’t know how it will change, but they know change is coming as the disease (morphs) from fatal to chronic,” she says. “So we needed to design around change.”

For example, the treatment center may need a large number of suites for chemotherapy infusion now, but infusion may not even be a regular cancer treatment in the future.

“They may not need 60 exam rooms with plumbing in the walls,” Harmon-Vaughan says.

The design solution, which she describes more as out-of-the-box than evidence-based, includes dismountable walls, nurses stations and even the vault, sliding barn doors, flexible flooring and under-floor access to everything — from technology to plumbing — that might otherwise be in the walls.

“We put it together like LEGOS,” she says.

And it’s not just cancer treatment centers that need to be adaptable.

“Right now, the healthcare industry is going though transformational change. Hospitals in 20 years won’t look the same, but the changes will be based on outcomes,” says SmithGroupJJR’s Patterson.

Since EBD is a process and not specific elements, Patterson says it will be a key factor in future healthcare design.

“I believe it is big. It’s not a fad,” he says.

Building Possibilities’ Delano agrees that as the body of evidence grows, the concept will be compelling to everyone in the healthcare industry.

“Will we call it EBD in 20 years? I don’t know. But we’ll still be using these principles,” she says.

Banner Good Samaritan

Banner Good Samaritan Earns Top Ranking For Kidney Transplant Centers

The National Institutes of Health funded a study by a Web-based service, called Konnectology which has identified the top 10 kidney transplant centers in the United States, and at the top of their list is Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.  All 246 kidney transplant centers in the United States were assessed using publicly reported data from the transplant centers and Medicare.

“We, at Banner Good Sam are very proud of this most recent accolade for our Transplant Center,” said Lauren Rutledge, Director of Banner Good Samaritan Organ Transplantation Center. “Our goal is to treat every patient dignity, respect, and excellent patient care.”

Banner Good Samaritan is Arizona’s oldest and most experienced transplant center. The first kidney transplant in Arizona was performed at the hospital on Violet Lopez in 1969.  There have been almost 3,200 kidney transplants performed at Banner Good Samaritan in the years following.

Konnectology found wide variations in patient outcomes among transplant centers. While the average survival rate for three years after transplant is high at 90 percent, survival varies widely depending on the center. The new method reveals that the risk of death is three times higher at the worst center compared to the best. A highly accurate scientific method was used to assess the transplant centers based on patient outcomes, experience and wait times.

Patients are referred to the Banner Good Samaritan Transplant Center from all over the western United States and are cared for by a skilled team of transplant surgeons and an interdisciplinary team dedicated to providing the best care available to patients requiring a transplant. The team provides an integrated approach to care that helps patients and their families before, during and after the transplant. This includes the highest standards of hospital and outpatient medical care, combined with a comprehensive network of support led by transplant nursing coordinators and social workers.

For more information about Banner Good Samaritan, visit bannerhealth.com.