Health Sciences Schools Announce Research Funding

Issue Date: 
February 26, 2007

The following projects conducted by faculty in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences recently were awarded new or renewal grants.

Therapeutic hypothermia’s effects on drug metabolism to be explored

Therapeutic hypothermia, which involves cooling the body to 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit in the 24-48 hours following certain types of primary injury, has shown promise in improving outcomes after cardiac arrest, stroke, and brain trauma.

However, reducing the body’s temperature also alters physiological processes unrelated to the injury itself; the potential results of such changes warrant further investigation. As a variety of medications are introduced to the system when a patient receives acute care, hypothermia’s effects on drug metabolism are of particular interest.

To explore how drugs are broken down and eliminated from the body at subnormal temperatures, Samuel Poloyac, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, has received a $1 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the function of cytochrome P450, the body’s major drug-metabolizing enzyme system, in therapeutic hypothermia in rat models.

Cytochrome P450 is responsible for the elimination of most prescription drugs, and the P450 enzymes also are implicated in many common drug-drug interactions.

Additionally, Poloyac and his team will seek to determine how the metabolic changes that result from hypothermia subsequently influence medication efficacy in patients being treated for cardiac arrest, stroke, or brain trauma.

UPCI research will explore protein receptor’s role in lung cancer development, treatment

Edwina Lerner Kinchington, a research instructor in the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has received a $100,000, two-year grant from The Joan Scarangello Foundation to Conquer Lung Cancer to evaluate the role of gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) in lung tumor growth.

The grant also will support Kinchington’s work to test the therapeutic potential of chemotherapy that inhibits both the GRPR pathway and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway.

GRPR is located on the X-chromosome, which allows women to express two copies of this gene compared with men, who only express one copy. This may indicate why the relative risk of lung cancer between men and women and the response to therapy appear to differ.

Through the grant, Kinchington hopes to understand more about the different expression of genes between men and women and to determine if using a combined therapy for GRPR and EGFR is an effective treatment for lung cancer.

GSPH investigators to study factors affecting major diseases seen in postmenopausal women

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health recently awarded 12 new contracts worth a total of $18,679,000 for studies that will investigate the impact of genetic and biological markers on common diseases affecting postmenopausal women.

Two of the awards were made to Pitt Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) investigators as part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a major 15-year research program designed to address the most frequent causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women—cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Jane Cauley, a professor in GSPH’s Department of Epidemiology, received a two-year contract to examine risk markers for fracture in groups of minority and White women. This study will be the first comprehensive investigation of biochemical factors leading to fracture in minority women. The results promise to explain differences in fracture rates and to help target prevention strategies.

Lewis Kuller, University Professor of Public Health in the epidemiology department, received a two-year contract to determine how differences in estrogen metabolism among women who receive either estrogen or estrogen plus progestin influence risk of hip fracture and breast cancer.

The research team will measure levels of two estrogen metabolites and evaluate their role as biomarkers of breast cancer and hip fracture. They also will study whether estrogen metabolism differs when estrogen is opposed by a progestin and if a hormone therapy recipient’s metabolism of estrogen relates to the risk of hip fracture.

School of Pharmacy to train Pennsylvania pharmacists in medication therapy management

The prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease has made complex medication regimens a fact of life for an increasing number of people. Because pharmacists play a critical role in the delivery of care to these patients, Pitt’s School of Pharmacy developed the Pittsburgh Model of medication therapy management, a prototype for a comprehensive program that encourages collaboration between physicians and pharmacists to optimize patient care.

A pilot study of the Pittsburgh Model had promising results, including improved health outcomes and fewer drug-related issues in patients. To expand the scope of this endeavor and create a statewide standard of care, the DSF Charitable Foundation, the charitable-giving organization of the David Scaife family, has awarded $250,000 to the pharmacy school in support of “The Pennsylvania Project: Preparing Pharmacists for Patient-Centered Care.”

By training pharmacists in Pittsburgh and faculty members from the Commonwealth’s five other pharmacy schools, the Pennsylvania Project strives to reach an even greater number of patients with comprehensive medication therapy management services, in addition to engaging more physicians as partners in such efforts. In addition to the direct training being supported by this grant, resources and materials will be developed for use in future education on the Pittsburgh Model.