University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) Sees Advances, Milestones in 2001

<p>During the past year, ... (AHSC)...saw many advances in research and patient care.</p>

University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) Sees Advances, Milestones in 2001

 
Nov. 27, 2001
From: George Humphrey, (520) 626-7301
---------------------------------------------------During the past year, the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC), which includes the UA Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, the School of Health Professions, University Medical Center and The University Physicians, saw major advances in research and patient care, as well as many honors, awards and other milestones. A few of the many AHSC highlights during 2001 include:

Dr. Raymond Woosley Appointed UA Vice President For Health Sciences
Raymond L. Woosley, MD, PhD, formerly the associate dean for clinical research at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, accepted the position of Vice President for the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC). He began his duties in September. A noted medical administrator, scholar and researcher (with special interests in the safe use of medications), Dr. Woosley, 58, also was the director of the General Clinical Research Center and the Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics at Georgetown. Dr. Woosley also had served as chair of Georgetown's Department of Pharmacology, 1988-2000. During his tenure, that department became one of the highest ranked pharmacology departments in terms of research funding, and achieved the largest endowment of any pharmacology department in the nation.
Prior to Georgetown, Dr. Woosley was professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, Tenn. Before that, he was one of the first scientists at Meyer Laboratories (now Glaxo-Wellcome) from 1968-71.


Dr. Majorie A. Isenberg Appointed Dean of Nursing
Marjorie A. Isenberg, DNSc, RN, FAAN, an internationally noted nursing educator, researcher and administrator, was appointed dean of the University of Arizona College of Nursing. She began her duties in January.
Prior to accepting the UA position, Dr. Isenberg was director of International Programs at Wayne State University College of Nursing. Since 1983, she has been involved in international teaching, research and consultation in regard to doctoral education and advancement of nursing science.

From 1993-99, Dr. Isenberg served as the associate dean for academic affairs at Wayne State University College of Nursing. A major focus of Dr. Isenberg's administration was development of partnerships with the School of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, as well as clinical partners, to create interdisciplinary initiatives for the preparation of health care providers dedicated to service to underserved communities.


Dr. G. Marie Swanson Appointed Dean at the UA College of Public Health
G. Marie Swanson, PhD, MPH, formerly professor in the Department of Family Practice and director of the Cancer Center at Michigan State University, was appointed dean of the University of Arizona College of Public Health. She began her duties in October. Dr. Swanson is founding director of the Cancer Center at Michigan State University (MSU), the only such center in the United States focusing on cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and supportive care to rural populations.
A nationally known epidemiologist, Dr. Swanson is a member of the National Board of the American Cancer Society, the Board of the Medical Follow-Up Agency of the Institute of Medicine, and an adviser for a Department of Defense prevention and health-promotion study of deployed forces. She also served on several national committees focused on health issues associated with service in the Persian Gulf War.


Dr. William S. Dalton Named Dean of the UA College of Medicine
William S. Dalton, MD, PhD, deputy director of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and associate vice president of health sciences at the University of South Florida, has been appointed dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. An internationally known cancer researcher with strong ties to Arizona, Dr. Dalton will begin his new duties Dec. 15. In 1988, Dr. Dalton became the founding director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the Arizona Health Sciences Center; in 1996 he was appointed deputy director of the Arizona Cancer Center. He joined the University of South Florida in 1997, where he also served as professor of oncology, medicine and biochemistry and as associate center director for clinical investigations at the Moffitt Cancer Center. In addition, he was founding chairman of the USF Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology.

UMC Ranked Among Nation's Top Hospitals in 10 Medical Specialties
University Medical Center is among the nation's best hospitals for 10 areas of specialty medical care, according to U.S. News and World Report's annual guide to "America's Best Hospitals."
U.S. News, in conjunction with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), objectively assesses hospital care for 17 specialties at more than 1,800 hospitals nationwide. The publication then ranks the top 50 hospitals in the nation in those 17 specialties. Rankings are based on reputation and various medical data. In the publication, University Medical Center is ranked as follows for specific areas of specialty care: 25th Heart; 28th Gynecology; 30th Cancer; 34th Rheumatology; 37th Neurology and Neurosurgery; 38th Geriatrics; 38th Respiratory disorders; 42nd Kidney disease; 42nd Urology; and 44th Orthopedics.


Digital Mammograms offered at UPI's Tucson Breast Center
State-of-the-art digital mammograms are available for the first time to Southern Arizona women at The University Physicians' Tucson Breast Center following installation of the Senographe 2000D digital mammography system. Manufactured by GE Medical Systems, the system produces breast images through computerization rather than on X-ray film.
"For women, the main advantage is that it's much quicker," said radiologist Per Granstrom, MD, the center's medical director and associate professor of diagnostic radiology at the UA College of Medicine. "For radiologists, it's a much more efficient way to store images. We don't have to physically go through a film archive to compare this year's mammogram with last year's. It's all there on the computer," Dr. Granstrom said. If a second opinion is needed, the image can be sent electronically to the second doctor's computer - a distinct advantage in this era of telemedicine.


AHSC Phoenix Campus Awarded $900,000 Grant from Flinn Foundation
The AHSC Phoenix Campus received a $900,000 commitment from The Flinn Foundation to support the startup of a research consortium to promote collaborations among health sciences researchers in Phoenix and Tucson. Michael S. Gordon, MD, associate dean for research for the AHSC Phoenix Campus, will oversee the two-year planning and development grant, which will build the Arizona Health Sciences Center Research Consortium. The consortium will focus on a variety of initiatives to promote educational, regulatory and research infrastructure needs. The research consortium represents a shared vision of the future and a firm belief that AHSC's research expertise, in union with Phoenix-area research physicians, can help make Phoenix a major hub for new drug discovery and development.


UA College of Nursing Awarded Prestigious Exploratory Research Center Grant
The UA College of Nursing was awarded one of only seven exploratory research center grants nationwide from the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institutes of Health. The three-year grant will establish a Center on Injury Mechanisms and Related Responses. The Center seeks to advance knowledge about the cellular mechanisms involved in, and responses to, tissue injury that result from altered health conditions such as stroke, HIV infection or cancer therapy.
"The exploratory center will provide an infrastructure that centralizes facilities and resources to support basic and clinical collaborative research endeavors," explains Ida M. (Ki) Moore, DNS, RN, FAAN, Center director and director of the Nursing Practice Division at the UA College of Nursing. Based at the College of Nursing, the Center's investigators represent a broad range of disciplines and expertise in methods encompassing molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and physical chemistry, biological imaging techniques and human physiological measures.


UA Respiratory Sciences Center Renamed 'Arizona Respiratory Center'
The Arizona Respiratory Sciences Center, a Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, was renamed the Arizona Respiratory Center. The new name was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents to more accurately reflect the expanded scope of the Center, which is nationally recognized as one of the top institutions for respiratory care. Designated in 1971 as the first Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine, the Center started as a small, specialized center of research in respiratory sciences. Today, it is an internationally known Center that combines the highest caliber of research, clinical care and teaching. The Center brings together experts in immunology, pathology, radiology, internal medicine, pediatrics, pharmacology, epidemiology, molecular genetics, computer science and many other disciplines to attack respiratory disease in children and adults.

UMC, TMC Share Distinction as Tucson's Consumer Choice Award Winners
University Medical Center and Tucson Medical Center were named co-winners of the 2001 Consumer Choice Award by National Research Corporation (NRC), the nation's leading health care performance measurement firm. This is the sixth year that NRC has bestowed awards on hospitals recognized by consumers in their individual markets. UMC held the award for 2000, and shared the award with TMC in 1999. UMC and TMC are among more than 122 hospitals in markets across the country to earn Consumer Choice designation for having their community's best doctors, best nurses, best overall quality and best image.

Arizona Telemedicine Program Honored as Best in Nation, Beyond
The Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center was recognized as the premier telemedicine program in the nation and beyond. At its annual meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the American Telemedicine Association awarded the Tucson-based program its prestigious President's Award, regarded as the top international award in the field of telemedicine.
A panel of distinguished experts in the field of telemedicine unanimously selected the Arizona Telemedicine Program from an extensive list of programs throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Selection for the award is based on delivery of clinical services, breadth of service and academic efforts.


UMC Surgeons Implant `LionHeart' Heart Assist Device
The University Medical Center Cardiothoracic Surgery Team performed another medical first in Arizona. Led by Jack G. Copeland, MD, UMC chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, the team successfully implanted the Arrow LionHeart(tm) -- a fully implantable mechanical heart assist device -- in a 66-year-old man from Sun Lakes, Ariz.
The patient, who was suffering from congestive heart failure, was the fifth individual in the United States to receive this new device, the first fully implantable left ventricular assist system. Designed for patients with end-stage congestive heart failure, the LionHeart marks a significant advancement in mechanical circulatory support technology because the system is totally implanted. Patients carry an external battery pack with a shoulder harness or a backpack, or pull it on a handcart. The LionHeart works alongside the patient's own heart, helping the left ventricle pump blood more efficiently.


College of Public Health Awarded $1.7 Million For Diabetes Prevention in Border Communities
The UA College of Public Health was awarded a $1.7 million federal appropriation for expansion of a collaborative program to enhance prevention and control of diabetes in border populations.
Previously, the College of Public Health received a $1.25 million federal appropriation to develop the Border Health Strategic Initiative (Border Health ¡Si!), a university-community coalition to reduce the health impact of diabetes in U.S.-Mexico border communities. The more recent $1.7 million appropriation allows continuation and expansion of that effort. The project will develop and test model community-based programs that reduce the devastating impact of diabetes in border communities. This initiative is administered through a contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the U.S.-Mexico Border Diabetes Prevention and Control Project. In addition to the College of Public Health, Border Health ¡Si! partners include the UA Rural Health Office at the College of Medicine and Cooperative Extension at the UA College of Agriculture.


Study Shows St. John's Wort Ineffective in Treating Depression
The UA Department of Psychiatry participated in the first large-scale, multi-center trial in the United States of the effectiveness of St. John's wort in treating moderately to severely depressed individuals. The results showed that the herbal remedy was no more effective than a placebo for the treatment of major depression of at least moderate severity.
Results of the double-blind, placebo-controlled study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study looked at 200 patients at 11 academic medical centers across the country who had been diagnosed with a depression of at least moderate severity.


UA College of Medicine Establishes New Department of Emergency Medicine
In recognition of the growing need for emergency medicine specialists in the United States, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a new academic Department of Emergency Medicine at the UA College of Medicine.
The new department was formed from the Section of Emergency Medicine of the Department of Surgery at the UA College of Medicine. The Department of Emergency Medicine is responsible for educational programs in emergency medicine as well as for strengthening the professional collaboration necessary for research and for high-quality clinical services in emergency care.


UA Rural Health Professions Program Encourages Practice in Rural Areas
A select group of physicians in rural communities throughout Arizona is spending part of the summer volunteering to mentor medical students at their practice sites. The physicians serve as rural faculty members in the UA College of Medicine's Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP). Established in 1997 by the Arizona Legislature, the program encourages medical school graduates to practice medicine in rural communities. The physicians serve as preceptors, or mentors, to UA medical students between the first and second years of medical school. The students serve four- to six-week rotations in June and July at the physicians' practice sites. Many of the students grew up in rural towns in Arizona and have a desire to practice in small communities, perhaps even returning to their hometowns.

Arizona Cancer Center Enrolling Men in Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial
Healthy men age 55 and older are needed for the largest-ever prostate cancer prevention study, launched by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Arizona Cancer Center, which is part of a network of research sites known as the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT, will determine if these two dietary supplements can protect against prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer, after skin cancer, in men.
More than 400 sites in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada are recruiting participants for SELECT, which will take up to 12 years to complete. The study will include a total of 32,400 men. "SELECT is the first study designed to look directly at the effects of vitamin E and selenium, both separately and in combination, in preventing prostate cancer," said Rick Ahmann, MD, principal investigator for SELECT at the Arizona Cancer Center.


UA Ophthalmologist's Research Could Lead to 'Super Vision'
Researchers at the University of Arizona are turning to optics technology used in telescopes to develop refractive surgery methods that could improve vision beyond the standard 20/20.
Jim Schwiegerling, PhD, a UA assistant professor with a joint appointment at the Department of Ophthalmology and the Department of Optical Sciences, leads one of several groups around the country using light-measuring technology employed by telescopes to measure aberrations of the eye that limit vision acuity. These measurements would improve the efficiency of refractive laser surgery, resulting in much sharper vision. Dr. Schwiegerling said that it theoretically is possible to achieve acuity as fine as 20/5. This research will be critical as a second generation of excimer lasers - currently used in photorefractive keratotomy (PRK) and laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgeries - are being developed.


Allergic Kids Breastfed by Asthmatic Moms at Higher Risk for Asthma
Children with allergies who were breastfed by mothers with asthma are at increased risk to develop asthma themselves, according to a study by Arizona Respiratory Center researchers published in the medical journal Thorax. Despite the findings, the lead researcher of the study believes the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risk of developing asthma. "Factors Influencing the Relation of Infant Feeding to Asthma and Recurrent Wheeze in Childhood," by UA research professor Anne L. Wright, PhD, and others, is the latest research to come out of the Tucson Children's Respiratory Study. This long-term study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, tracks 1,200 children born in Tucson between 1980-84 to identify risk factors for childhood asthma.

Resynchronizing Hearts is Focus of Study Involving Sarver Heart Center Doctors
Two UA Sarver Heart Center doctors are taking part in a nationwide study that will use implantable devices to treat patients with chronic heart failure.
Heart failure typically is treated with drug therapy alone. The COMPANION study, funded by the Guidant Corporation, will examine whether a new type of pacemaker can "resynchronize" the contraction of the heart and thereby improve the patients' health.

More than 2,000 patients at 80 medical centers nationwide will participate in the four-year study. The two Sarver Heart Center doctors participating are Paul Fenster, MD, a cardiologist, and Peter Ott, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist.


Writing Class for Arthritis Sufferers Focuses on Healing
Relief may only be a paragraph away. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, writing about stressful experiences or events reduces the symptoms of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Based on this research, the Arizona Arthritis Center, a Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine, hosted a writing class, "Enhance Healing by Writing." The study, conducted at the University of New York at Stony Brook, showed that the health of patients with mild to moderately severe rheumatoid arthritis or asthma who wrote about stressful life experiences improved significantly.

Tissue Expansion Enables Body to `Grow' Extra Skin
"Tissue expansion enables the body to 'grow' extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body," explains Kian J. Samimi, MD, assistant professor and section chief of Plastic/Reconstructive Surgery at the UA College of Medicine. A balloon is inserted under the skin near the area to be repaired and then gradually filled with salt water over time, causing the skin to stretch and grow. Once the normal skin is stretched enough to cover the affected area, a section of the nevus tissue is removed and the new skin is used to cover the wound. Tissue expansion offers a near-perfect match of color, texture and hair-bearing qualities. Because the skin remains connected to the donor area's blood and nerve supply, there is a smaller risk that it will die. And because the skin doesn't have to be moved from one area to another, scars are often less apparent. Tissue expanders also have been used in breast reconstruction with excellent results, Dr. Samimi says, adding, "It also can be used to replace disfiguring scars on burn patients, and for repairing or replacing areas of the scalp, where hair growth makes it difficult to replace lost tissue with skin from other areas of the body."

Genes Hold the Key to Asthma and Other Lung and Heart Diseases
"Only when we know which genes are involved in causing lung and heart disease can we develop cures for them," says Walter Klimecki, DVM, PhD, associate research scientist at the Arizona Respiratory Center and an investigator for one of the Center's largest genetics studies. "Genomic Applications for Heart, Lung, and Blood Research" seeks to discover the variations in genes involved in the immune system that contribute to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), myocardial infarction (heart attack), and deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Among the most common diseases of the lung, heart and blood, they are responsible for close to $100 billion per year in health care costs. "We believe these diseases share an important common feature: they are influenced by the immune system and inflammation. Using all of the available scientific information, including the recent work of the human genome project, we will choose 50 immune
system genes that may play a major role in this process," explains Dr. Klimecki. "These genes will be analyzed in 90 people to compare the sequences, one person to the next, to find variations. Then we will test populations of people with asthma, COPD, myocardial infarction and DVT against healthy populations to determine whether these gene variations are associated with these diseases. This will be the first step to finding the genes that cause, or cause susceptibility to, these diseases."


UA Ophthalmology Researchers Study Cannabinoids to Treat Glaucoma
Two UA Department of Ophthalmology scientists are studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which cannabinoids lower pressure in the eye. According to their research, cannabinoids could play an important role in the future treatment of glaucoma.
Cannabinoids are a family of compounds, which includes the psychoactive components of marijuana and hashish. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana, binds to and activates specific receptors in the body, known as cannabinoid receptors. W. Daniel Stamer, PhD, and Robert Noecker, MD, are studying how these receptors are involved in the regulation of intraocular pressure in the eye. They have identified specific receptors that activate upon the binding of cannabinoids in the two regions of the eye that control intraocular pressure. Their research could lead to the development of eye drops that specifically target the ocular cannabinoid receptor that lowers pressure while producing none of the psychoactive side effects.


UA Neurosurgeon Uses Horses to Teach Course on Bedside Manners
For two hours on Friday afternoons, medical students from the University of Arizona College of Medicine meet at a ranch just outside of Tucson to learn horsemanship exercises. Through these exercises, the students also learn something even more valuable -- more effective bedside manners. The medical school class is called "Medicine & Horsemanship: An Introduction to Human Nonverbal Interaction at the Bedside." "Think of it as 'horse whisperer meets brain surgeon'," explained Allan J. Hamilton, M.D., F.A.C.S., head of the UA Department of Surgery. A Harvard-trained neurosurgeon specializing in brain and spinal cord tumors, Dr. Hamilton created this course to help young physicians learn how to handle difficult moments such as when a parent needs to be told their child has died, or when a patient has to be told of a bad outcome on a test. "I am not equating patients with horses," Dr. Hamilton stressed. "However, horses can teach us a great deal about nonverbal communication that is applicable to our interactions with patients."

Researcher Looks for Ways to Keep People Young at Heart -- Literally
Researchers in the lab of Doug Larson, PhD, are trying to figure out how to keep the heart young even as the rest of the body ages. "It's pretty obvious that the cardiac function in the older individual is less than the young individual," says Dr. Larson, a UA Sarver Heart Center member and a professor of surgery and pharmacology. "Our question is: Why?" The aged heart doesn't contract as well, relax as well or pump as much blood. Dr. Larson's lab believes one cause could be the simultaneous aging of the immune system. As the immune system ages, it becomes less regulated, which can lead to the release of certain hormones that reduce heart function. By blocking the hormones, heart function could be restored, Dr. Larson says. The research taking place in his lab one day could lead to drugs that would improve the quality of life for older people by delaying the onset of serious heart problems and prolonging their lives.

Skull-Base Surgery Makes Previously Inoperable Brain Tumors Operable
Just 10 years ago tumors located in the undersurface of the brain, or the "skull base," were considered inoperable. Today, the specialized field of skull-base surgery is achieving remarkable results in treating tumors in hard-to-reach areas of the brain. Advances in diagnostic imaging, surgical techniques and instruments, and a better understanding of the skull-base anatomy allow neurosurgeons like Miguel A. Melgar, MD, PhD, assistant professor and chief of Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Surgery in the UA College of Medicine, to remove these tumors -- while dramatically reducing the risks. "Skull-base surgery refers to techniques required to obtain access to the small recesses of the undersurface of the brain," Dr. Melgar explains. "To reach that area of the brain, surgeons must be able to disassemble the skull, then put it back together."
Because skull-base surgery is a relatively new field, only a few neurosurgeons in the world are specially trained and qualified to perform this intricate surgery. With the help of a grant from Medtronics/Midas Rex, Dr. Melgar is developing a skull-base surgery laboratory to train physicians in skull-base neurosurgical skills."


UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Creates Hand & Upper Extremity Service
The UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery appointed Joseph E. Sheppard, MD-CAQ, board certified in orthopaedic hand surgery, to head its new Hand and Upper Extremity Service. Dr. Sheppard and Marci Dara Jones, MD, who joined the UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery last fall, provide hand and upper extremity (wrist, elbow and shoulder) evaluation, treatment, surgery, and rehabilitation. Conditions treated by the UA Hand and Upper Extremity Service include traumatic injuries; cumulative trauma and repetitive motion disorders; congenital deformities; arthritis; fractures; nerve compression; and athletic and work-related injuries.

UA Program in Integrative Medicine Graduates 3rd Class of Fellows
The University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine -- the nation's first postgraduate fellowship program in integrative medicine - held a graduation ceremony for its third class of residential Fellows. Under the direction of Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the UA Program in Integrative Medicine, and Victoria Maizes, MD, the program's medical director, the Fellows spent two years studying the theory and practice of integrative medicine. Integrative medicine seeks to combine the best ideas of conventional and alternative medicine into cost-effective treatments that will be in the best interests of patients and that aim to stimulate the human body's natural healing potential. The Fellowship Program is designed to train national leaders who will establish similar programs in this new discipline at other schools and bring integrative medicine into major health care systems.

Dr. Jack Copeland Receives National Award for Work with Heart Devices
Jack G. Copeland, MD, received the 2001 Barney Clark Award, a recognition of his success in the use of artificial hearts and heart-assist devices. The award commends Dr. Copeland for "interjecting science into the process, and for leadership in moving the TAH (total artificial heart) from failure to highly successful clinical applications."
Under the leadership of Dr. Copeland, chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery and co-director of the UA Sarver Heart Center, University Medical Center in 1985 marked the first use in the world of a total artificial heart, the "Phoenix Heart," as a "bridge to transplant." Dr. Copeland went on to help develop the CardioWest Total Artificial Heart, which has been used as a bridge to transplant in more than 175 patients worldwide since its first use in 1983. The device currently is undergoing approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Copeland received the award, presented by the Medforte Research Foundation in conjunction with the Utah Artificial Heart Institute, at the annual conference of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, held in New York.


UMC Offers New, Minimally Invasive Repair of Aortic Aneurysms
Surgeons at University Medical Center are performing a new procedure to repair abdominal aortic aneurysms that drastically reduces a patient's recovery time from approximately two months to two weeks. To repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm, doctors traditionally had to open the entire abdomen to reach the blood vessel. Now, they can get to the aneurysm through two tiny incisions. "When compared to the conventional surgical procedure, the new, minimally invasive endovascular repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm offers a shorter hospital stay, a rapid return to normal physical activity and a reduction in mortality and complications," explains Joseph L. Mills, MD, professor and section chief of vascular surgery in the UA College of Medicine. An aortic aneurysm is the ballooning of the walls of the aorta, the major artery from the heart. It can rupture if left untreated, and less than 50 percent of all people with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm survive.

UMC Performs 600th Heart Transplant
University Medical Center completed its 600th heart transplant, giving a new heart to a 28-year-old Glendale man. Francisco Arabía, MD, led the transplant team.
UMC's and Arizona's first heart transplant was performed by Jack G. Copeland, MD - chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery and co-director of the UA Sarver Heart Center - on March 27, 1979. In 1988, UMC performed the world's first coronary artery bypass on a transplanted heart. The following year, UMC performed the state's first heart transplant on a patient with cystic fibrosis.

Reaching No. 600 and achieving high success rates "show how consistent the team has been," Dr. Arabía said. "It has been able to provide a good service to the Tucson community as well as to the state. The results continue to be among the best in the world." UMC's heart transplant survival rates are 93 percent at one year and 78 percent at five years. That compares with the national averages of 85.5 percent and 70 percent nationally, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing.


New Procedure May Provide Possible Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
The Arizona Cancer Center is sponsoring a pilot study using ductal lavage, an experimental technique of extracting milk-duct cells, that potentially could be used to identify risks for breast cancer.
More than 95 percent of all breast cancers start in the lining of the milk ducts, but it usually takes eight to 10 years before a routine mammogram or physical exam spots the problem. Researchers are hoping this new procedure can be used to detect pre-malignant and malignant breast cells long before they can become visible tumors. Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, one of the study's principal investigators, says that because ductal lavage may provide an opportunity to look for the very beginnings of abnormal changes, it can offer high-risk women unique, early information when used in conjunction with mammography and breast examination.


Local Students, Teachers Complete UA's Disadvantaged
High School Student and K-12 Science Teacher Research Programs
Future medical breakthroughs may be made possible by the research activities of a select group of high school students and science teachers who participated in the Disadvantaged High School Student Research Program and the K-12 Science Teacher Research Program at the UA College of Medicine. Twenty-eight financially, socially or educationally disadvantaged high school students and 12 K-12 science teachers were paid to work full-time for eight weeks on current biomedical research projects with distinguished UA College of Medicine researchers in their laboratories and medical clinics. Each student in the Disadvantaged High School Student Research Program works with a researcher and often with medical students. "The programs also encourage the students, teachers, researchers, professors and practitioners to maintain contact throughout the year," says Marlys Witte, MD, UA professor of surgery, who directs both programs.

UA Orthopaedic Surgery Holds Free High School Football Injury Clinic
Twenty percent of children participating in sports activities are injured each year and the rate of injury in high school football is seven times higher than any other prep sport. To help meet the needs of those injured football athletes -- and help ease the minds of their parents -- the UA College of Medicine's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery operated a free Saturday sports clinic for athletes suffering from aches and pains following Friday night games. The clinic was staffed by William Grana, MD, head of the UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Andrew Brown, MD, assistant professor with the department. Both doctors have extensive sports medicine experience. Dr. Grana has worked with a variety of athletic teams and organizations, including Oklahoma State University and the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team in Seoul, South Korea. Dr. Brown has worked with the athletics departments at the University of Colorado and University of Iowa.

$8.25 million grant funds clinical cancer drug evaluation program
The Arizona Cancer Center was awarded an $8.25 million Survival Signals for Molecular Target Assessment (SSMTA) grant from the National Cancer Institute. Led by Principal Investigator Garth Powis, DPhil, and a team of basic researchers and clinical investigators, the grant will study the effects of new anticancer drugs on the unique signaling pathways that allow human cancer cells to survive. The 51/2-year grant is one of only three such NCI grants in the United States and entails very close cooperation between the NCI and the Arizona Cancer Center. "This grant puts the Arizona Cancer Center at the forefront of new drug development," said Dr. Powis, director of basic research at the center. "It combines the resources of the NCI, the Arizona Cancer Center, pharmaceutical companies and the patient -- everyone with an interest in curing cancer. It really is a cutting-edge, bench-to-bedside transitional project."

Sarver Heart Center Doctor Studies New Drug to Prevent Stroke
A study at the UA Sarver Heart Center is looking at a drug that could make it easier to prevent stroke in patients suffering from a common heart rhythm irregularity known as atrial fibrillation. The drug most commonly used to reduce stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation is warfarin, which slows the rate at which blood clots by suppressing the production of some clotting factors. But management of the drug can be complicated.
Paul Fenster, MD, a Sarver Heart Center cardiologist, is studying a drug called melagatran, which slows the rate of clot formation in a different way. It inhibits a clotting agent called thrombin, and is a member of a class of drugs called "direct thrombin inhibitors." Melagatran does not require blood draws and has been proven in studies to be effective in preventing the formation of unwanted clots after surgery. Unlike other direct thrombin inhibitors, which are administered intravenously, melagatran is taken orally.


UMC Offers New Treatment for Narrowing Inside Coronary Artery Stents
UMC is offering a new treatment option for patients who suffer from instrastent restensosis - the narrowing that can occur inside the scaffolds placed inside coronary arteries after angioplasty to hold them open. Called coronary brachytherapy, the procedure involves placing radioactive beads near the stents for a few minutes, via a catheter that runs through their veins, to kill obstructive scar tissue. The procedure does not involve surgery and patients usually can go home the day after the procedure. Samuel Butman, MD, director of the UMC Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and a member of the UA Sarver Heart Center, said, "This hopefully will obviate the need for coronary bypass surgery in some patients."'

UA Scientists Using Adult Stem Cells to Grow New Heart Tissue
Using adult stem cells, bioengineering researchers at AHSC are studying ways to grow functional human heart tissue to repair damaged hearts, an undertaking that could lead to the development of tissue-engineered replacement hearts and other major organs in the laboratory. The $4 million study, funded by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), focuses on culturing "patches" of living tissue that could be grafted onto damaged hearts to induce growth of new blood vessels. Eventually researchers hope their work will enable scientists to grow a fully functional human heart. Researchers work with adult stem cells that have the ability to develop into specialized cells, such as cardiac cells. These cells could give scientists a virtual never-ending supply of cardiac cells for tissue engineering. And they may hold clues to solving the problem of organ rejection by using the patient's own cells to grow new organs, says Stuart K. Williams, PhD, professor and chairman of the UA Biomedical Engineering Program.

UA Researchers to Study Risky Decision-Making in Adolescents
Why are some teen-agers more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors than others? Researchers at the UA College of Medicine Informatics and Decision Making Laboratory received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to find out.
Valerie F. Reyna, PhD, professor, UA Department of Surgery, and director of the Informatics and Decision Making Laboratory, said the study will examine about 1,000 adolescents to determine how decision processes differ across ethnic groups, how decision processes differ for abstinent-versus-sexually active adolescents, and how decision processes differ for those who do, and those who do not, engage in STD/HIV risk behaviors, such as unprotected intercourse and intercourse with multiple partners, Dr. Reyna says. The five-year study also will evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs designed to reduce risky sexual behavior.


UA Researcher Receives $1.5 Million to Study Protein Linked to Glaucoma
A scientist at the UA Department of Ophthalmology was awarded $1.5 million from the National Eye Institute to uncover the role of a mysterious protein linked to the most common form of glaucoma. W. Daniel Stamer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UA Department Ophthalmology, is studying the protein myocilin, which is the protein encoded by the GLC1A, the first gene linked to open-angle glaucoma. "The mystery of myocilin is not only its linkage with glaucoma, but also that it is a newly discovered protein with no known function," says Dr. Stamer. "The genetic link provides glaucoma researchers for the first time with a specific player at the molecular level involved in the pathology of glaucoma. This research seeks to determine the pathway by which myocilin functions so more effective treatments can be developed to correct for its dysfunction."

NIH Awards $7.4M Grant to UA Project
A research project headed by Frank I. Marcus, MD, founding head of cardiology at the UA College of Medicine, has been awarded $7.4 million to study an unusual heart disease that accounts for 3 to 4 percent of deaths in young athletes. Called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), the condition mostly affects people between the ages of 20 and 40, although it also is responsible for up to 5 percent of sudden unexplained deaths in the general population under the age of 65. In ARVD, part of the right heart muscle degenerates and is replaced by fatty tissue; its first symptoms are palpitations, rapid abnormal heart rhythm or sudden death. The five-year, multi-center, multi-national study aims to improve the methods of diagnosing ARVD, to determine the abnormal gene or genes responsible for the disease and to learn how best to treat the condition.

UA College of Public Health Receives TPD Grant
The UA College of Public Health received a $53,000 grant from the Tucson Police Department to help fund an alternative justice program for victims and first-time offenders of rape and sexual assault. The Southern Arizona Center against Sexual Assault (SACASA) and the Pima County Attorney's office are key partners in the project. The program, Responsibility and Equity for Sexual Transgressions Offering a Restorative Experience (RESTORE), offers a new option for sexual assault cases that reduces time between the crime and consequence and creates a process to hold offenders accountable for their acts. RESTORE is a joint effort of the UA College of Public Health and SACASA. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall has endorsed the plan.

AHSC Names Future Building After Roy Drachman
Paying tribute to Roy P. Drachman's countless, lifelong contributions to the advancement of the University of Arizona, the UA is naming a future Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) building after the native Tucsonan. Drachman, a member of one of Arizona's pioneer families, was born in Tucson and attended local schools and the UA. His association with the UA has been long and generous. When completed, Roy P. Drachman Hall will serve as a gateway to the AHSC and provide a permanent home for the new UA College of Public Health, which is spread among 19 sites on campus. The new structure also will consolidate state-of-the art instructional facilities for the UA Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, providing space to expand these academic programs in response to the national shortage of health care professionals. Canyon Ranch founder Mel Zuckerman is playing a significant role in the project. A large portion of his $10 million gift to the College of Public Health, as well as contributions from Drachman's friends, will match funds from the UA to complete the financing of this innovative, public-private partnership.