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Dr. Matthew Gentry

Video: UK scientist explains his unique path to studying disease

When UK researcher Matthew Gentry began his career studying the biology of plants, he didn’t realize he’d someday be pursuing a cure for a human disease.

“You have to be willing to go where the science takes you,” says Gentry, a professor in the UK College of Medicine.

In Gentry’s case, the journey began when he found that a certain plant protein behaved similarly to the human protein that plays a role in Lafora disease – a rare congenital neurodegenerative condition that causes severe epilepsy, loss of speech and muscle control, and dementia, eventually leading to death.

This discovery provided information that medical researchers around the world are using today to test potential therapies for this deadly disease.

The research was also a step toward the development of methods to modify starch, with applications in the manufacturing of products such as plastics, animal feed, glue and clothing.

On a molecular level, the overlap between plant and human biology is tremendous, Gentry explains.

“Not long ago, the prevailing thought was that you could either work to cure a disease or you could work to figure out how something [a plant, a cell] functions,” Gentry says. “We are now at the point where the two intersect.”

Gentry spends much of his time advocating for more science funding through his work with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The current funding landscape is such that scientists must spend more and more of their time writing grants, which takes them away from doing meaningful research, he explains.

He also hopes that more of this funding will support the types of basic research that shed light on cellular function and dysfunction.

“This type of research can have implications for many diseases, not just one,” he says. “We need to be careful not to silo all the research dollars for specific diseases because that sometimes doesn’t allow the best science to get done.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Dr. Gentry’s innovative research.


Next steps:

UK is researching how a mobile application teaches patients diaphragmatic breathing, a technique which may alleviate muscle tension in victims of violence.

UK study looks to mobile app to help victims of abuse manage pain

Women who have suffered from sexual or physical abuse often have residual muscle tension and pain, a symptom of extended stress and activity within the body. Now, two UK researchers are studying how a smartphone app could help these women manage chronic pain.

Charles Carlson, the Robert H. and Anna B. Culton Endowed Professor in the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women, says a significant portion of the clinic’s female patients have suffered from sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives, which often results in tension throughout the body that can lead to pain.

Trauma often causes a prolonged state of increased sympathetic tone within the body,” Carlson said. “The chronic hypervigilance may be associated with scanning for danger around every corner. [This can lead] to a state of prolonged and unnecessary muscle tension and eventually, if unchecked, may contribute to muscle-based pain conditions such as myalgia. It is not surprising, therefore, that a significant number of our patients with chronic pain reported experience with physical or sexual abuse.”

Carlson, who is also a professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, and Matt Russell, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, want to help patients learn to calm their hypervigilance through strategies that can manage the excessive activation of muscle-based pain. Their previous research shows that patients with chronic pain can find relief through self-regulation strategies that include slow-paced, diaphragmatic breathing – a form of relaxation training.

App teaches self-guided breathing

With the help of a smartphone app that teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing, the researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial at the UK Orofacial Pain Clinic, working with patients experiencing myalgia and other chronic pain in the head and neck regions.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a practice most people can learn, so Carlson and Russell are exploring whether patients can help manage their pain by learning to breathe diaphragmatically without the use of a professional therapist. By providing patients with a mobile application that teaches the diaphragmatic breathing approach, the team hypothesizes patients will learn to self-regulate their body’s sympathetic tone to manage their pain.

“We designed the smartphone application to teach patients the basics of paced, diaphragmatic breathing with audio directions only,” Russell said. “Then, we use a visual aid to help pace their breathing, an important piece of strengthening the parasympathetic response.”

The current project will examine the effectiveness of the smartphone health intervention to improve treatment outcomes above standard dental care. The participants recruited through the Orofacial Pain Clinic will receive either standard dental care alone, or standard dental care plus the mobile application on their iPhone/iPad or a provided iPod Touch. Patients using the application will track their daily breathing practices and pain levels, while those receiving standard dental care alone will track only their pain levels. All participants will complete weekly assessments, and at each clinic follow-up visit, participants’ progress will be monitored by collecting measures of their current self-regulation skills.

While a quick iTunes search can result in hundreds of apps that promote breathing strategies to treat various ailments, Carlson emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence.

“To our knowledge, there are no published studies empirically validating that these applications can deliver on their promises,” he said. “As clinical scientists, we believe that before we tell our patients our application will help, we need evidence from a scientific study.”


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UK scientist joins program that promotes diversity in research

Dr. Brittany Smalls, an assistant professor in the UK Center for Health Services Research, has been selected as a scholar in the 2017-18 Programs to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research Advanced Health Disparities Research Training program.

As a scholar for this program, Smalls will receive advanced training that facilitates successful team science and contributes to decreases in health disparities through research. This year-long mentoring experience will offer training that includes experiential skill development in grantsmanship, scientific writing strategies, epidemiological/bio-statistical methods and more.

The program was established to provide junior faculty from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research with opportunities to gain the knowledge and tools they need to carry out independent and meaningful research and advance their careers.

This initiative is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The institute provides global leadership for research, training and education programs to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung and blood diseases and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives.


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RB2

UK’s new research facility will target Kentucky’s health concerns

Lisa Cassis

Lisa Cassis, PhD, UK vice president for research

Written by Lisa Cassis, PhD, UK vice president for research.

If you’ve driven along Virginia Avenue in Lexington, toward the main UK campus, you’ve probably seen the steel skeleton of the new research building under construction. This is Research Building 2, or RB2, a precious resource and a vehicle for UK to reduce the health disparities that most impact Kentucky.

This building will house researchers that focus on the following health disparities: cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and substance abuse. These conditions have a major adverse impact on the health of Kentuckians, contributing to death rates from each disease that rank within the top 11 states in the nation.

RB2 will enable multidisciplinary research that approaches these disparities from numerous fields and perspectives healthcare researchers (both basic and clinical), public health, behavioral sciences, agriculture outreach and extension, economics, and engineering working in close proximity and collaboratively to develop solutions to these complex problems.

This $265-million building (funded half from the state of Kentucky, half from university resources, including private gifts) is scheduled to open in summer of 2018.

Thoughtful design and collaboration

The design of this modern research facility embodies a lifestyle that reduces health disparities, including a healthy food choice restaurant, a room to house bicycles for travel to and from the facility, and prominent staircases to encourage physical activity.

Within the laboratories, the design and focus comes with a specific scientific underpinning: Much of discovery today, whether at the cellular or community level, happens at the intersection of disciplines. By placing investigators together in “neighborhoods,” this facility is designed to foster discovery and collaboration so that what happens in the course of basic research can be translated to answers and solutions at the community level.

When researchers who are working on the same problem say, cancer but from different angles (economics, biomedicine, public health), work next to each other in a single building, it facilitates communication and promotes new avenues for problem solving. Through this design, the project will improve the lives of Kentuckians by providing modern space that lends itself to multidisciplinary research that is needed to address entrenched health problems.

Tackling Kentucky’s worst problems

While each of these major diseases influence citizens across the Commonwealth, they are of immense concern to our citizens residing in rural Appalachia, a region with some of the most pronounced rates of chronic diseases in the country.

A recent report from the University of Washington showed rates of death from cancer in the United States dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2014. However, these gains were not distributed equally across the country. Clusters of high mortality were found in many states, including Kentucky.

Four main factors are thought to drive these disparities: socioeconomic status, access to healthcare, quality of available healthcare and prevalence of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity. The Appalachian region of Kentucky experiences a perfect storm of these factors driving disparities.

A primary focus of research within the new building will be determining factors that drive more disease risk and burden in Appalachia, and developing preventive and therapeutic approaches that are optimized to have greater benefit to those living in this region.

Harnessing our strengths

RB2, the Biological Biomedical Research Building and the Lee T. Todd Jr. Building will be linked in complex, to further foster collaborative and multidisciplinary research. The connecting conduit building, serving as the spine of the complex, has been named the Appalachian Translational Trail, as it will house the nucleus of translational researchers who bring together all disciplines.

The real power of research is realized in bringing different groups of experts together, and in order to tap into that power, we applied a multidisciplinary approach to the planning of this new building. We began by aligning our work with the goals of UK’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. These goals invest in UK’s existing strengths and areas of growth in selected focus areas that benefit and enrich the lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth; recruit and retain outstanding faculty, staff and students; improve the quality of the research infrastructure across campus; and strengthen engagement efforts and translation of research. The planning and implementation of RB2 touches on each of these goals.

The health disparities we are targeting are areas of current UK strength in research and healthcare. We have strong individual investigators across all colleges at UK, as well as existing collaborative research centers that can bring intensified focus in these areas. We’ve tapped these experts, based on thematic areas in each of these health disparities, to use data to evaluate our current resources and identify areas in which we could strategically invest to expand resources and hire new investigators, who will most likely be housed within RB2, to make the biggest impact for Kentucky.

By growing our research enterprise to focus on the most critical health needs of Kentucky, we can translate basic science findings to clinical practice and to the community to fight these devastating health disparities and improve the quality of life for Kentuckians. We thank Kentucky legislators for their support of RB2, and we will do everything in our power through this precious resource to make that difference.


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basic research

Cuts to basic research funding could threaten the health of Kentucky

Written by Jay Blanton, executive director of UK Public Relations & Marketing.

Colorectal cancer incidence rates have declined by 25 percent in Kentucky in less than 10 years. Death rates have dropped by 30 percent.

Why?

Among other reasons, screenings have increased significantly, led by University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare researchers along with changes in state policy.

It’s one example of the impact that basic scientific research combined with outreach into communities can have in Kentucky. Basic scientific research is at the cornerstone of each innovation and, led by UK, it’s making a difference across Kentucky.

“Everything that we do came from a research question that was originally asked by someone either in the U.S. or internationally, so it impacts every part of our day-to-day lives,” said Lisa Cassis, UK’s vice president for research, who is nationally known and funded for her research in metabolic and obesity-associated diseases.

“Screening for colorectal cancer, for example, is a practice that most of us probably assume is routinely applied according to clinical guidelines. However, research makes a difference by asking the question: Is the screening routinely applied? And if not, then why, and how can we increase screening for this condition?” Cassis said.

Researchers at universities across the country have expressed concern over a recent proposal for next year to cut funding for biomedical research by nearly 20 percent.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, recognizes the value of research and recently supported an increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year.

McConnell and Kentucky Congressmen Andy Barr and Hal Rogers also were vocal supporters last year of the 21st Century Cures Act, which authorized federal funding increases for research on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and opioid abuse  all issues of concern for Kentuckians. And McConnell and Barr reaffirmed their support for UK’s research efforts recently during a news conference to announce $11.2 million in federal funding to launch a new Center for Cancer and Metabolism at UK.

Nevertheless, the threat of cuts looms large and would, if enacted, hamper UK’s ability to continue to make progress in addressing the state’s health disparities, as well as threaten thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic impact for Kentucky.

Specifically, Cassis and UK President Eli Capilouto recently cited several economic and health statistics regarding the impact in Kentucky of federal funding for basic scientific research:

  • With the proposed reduction of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for next year, an estimated 219 jobs at UK alone would be cut, with an effective loss of 339 jobs across the Commonwealth.
  • UK’s research enterprise has an annual economic impact of more than $580 million and more than 8,000 jobs.
  • Increasing research activity by just 15 percent means an additional nearly $90 million in economic impact and nearly 220 jobs.
  • Institutions in Kentucky earn $163.6 million ($92.4 million earned by UK) of NIH’s $26.4 billion in funding. At an estimated 13 jobs per $1 million in NIH awards, this support generates 2,886 intra/interstate jobs and has an estimated $431.6 million economic impact in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • The proposed cuts would significantly hamper UK’s ability to conduct research – and provide advanced medical healthcare – related to challenges where Kentucky is among the nation’s leaders in incidence rates for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and death from opioid abuse. The CDC estimates hundreds of lives are lost in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District every year due to these largely preventable illnesses.
  • The National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides funding to 112 land-grant institutions in the U.S. to support: agriculture, food safety, agribusiness, bioenergy, 4-H, youth development and family consumer sciences.
  • One in six patents in agriculture science nationally grew from land-grant university research.
  • Six of the 10 major vaccines currently used to protect against equine infectious diseases were developed by faculty in UK’s Department of Veterinary Sciences.

Capilouto said UK’s goal with basic scientific research is to translate it as quickly as possible into treatments and solutions for communities across the Commonwealth.

“What we want to do is get the very best of our research quickly to the bedside,” Capilouto said. “We want to be able to take what we’ve learned and translate it quickly to a community to make a difference. We systematically and successfully do that at the University of Kentucky because of our capacity, our depth.”

“We can’t cut back on the pace of progress now,” Capilouto said. “Doing so threatens Kentucky’s future.”

Watch the video below to learn more about the impact basic research has on the health and wellness of Kentucky.


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Specialized research nurses who work with the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science provide outpatient, inpatient, and off-site care for research participants, along with an array of other research support services.

UK’s clinical research nurses help make discoveries happen

Across the University of Kentucky, clinical research nurses carry out clinical procedures and care for those who participate in research studies. They not only provide the best possible patient care, but they also help make discoveries that advance healthcare altogether.

Research nurses have long been at the heart of health research, but it wasn’t until late 2016 that the American Nurses Association recognized clinical research nursing as nursing specialty practice.

For Linda Rice, a registered nurse and director of clinical operations for the clinical services core (CSC) of the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), the designation of a clinical nursing specialty for research means a great deal.

“It means a lot to me that my colleagues recognize our specialty – that all the time and effort and years of training are acknowledged by our board and peers,” Rice said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing my profession grow, and knowing that the decisions we make to take care of our patients are based on evidence-based research. It does take nurses to conduct successful clinical research, and they have to specifically trained – it’s a body of knowledge and experience.”

Working across medical specialties

Rice oversees a team of nurses who assist in conducting research in the CCTS inpatient and outpatient research units for adults and children. They also provide additional clinical research services, such as study coordination.

Over the last three years, the CCTS CSC has averaged between 1,200 and 1,500 inpatient bed-nights per year, 1,600 to 1,800 outpatient days per year, and 500 to 700 offsite visits per year. During this time, the clinical research nursing team has also had to perform increasingly complex tasks, such as euglycemic clamps, oral glucose tolerance tests, muscle/bone biopsies, a wide variety of infusions (like monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapies), pediatric care and off-site care.

In total, about 56 research nurses work in research across medical specialties at UK, such as cancer, neurology, surgery, neonatology/pediatrics, cardiology, behavior science and substance use disorders, emergency care, and infectious diseases.

‘Research is the hope of the future’

Rice entered the field after encountering research nursing in her undergraduate training. Hoping to use this aspect of her education, she applied for a research coordinator job. The possibility of finding ways to improve patient care has motivated her work for nearly three decades.

“I love being on the cutting edge,” she said. “I love knowing, as a nurse, what other things are out there that are being trialed to improve care for patients. I was drawn to this profession because I wanted to help people. And what better way than to be on the front end of trying to make things better? Someone told me once that without research, there is no hope. Research is the hope of the future for better health. And to help facilitate that is such a reward.”

The primary task is the same in research nursing as in standard clinical nursing: to care for people, in this case research participants. But research nurses must possess a repertoire of knowledge and skills far beyond clinical practice. They must also know the complex tiers of institutional and federal regulations that govern health research in general, as well as the intricate protocols and diverse clinical skills required by each specific research study.

No two days are alike

Kathy Holbrook is a registered nurse and is a clinical research coordinator who also works with the CCTS. She’s been a research nurse for 13 years but said that when she started in the field, she didn’t know exactly what she was getting into.

“I learned as I went along,” she said. “But you’re still a nurse first. That means you’re ensuring the health and safety of whomever you’re taking care of. For me, it’s research volunteers.”

Holbrook finds the her work in research nursing to be invigorating and appreciates that no two days are ever alike. At any given time she might be working on several research studies in different medical specialties that require her to perform an array of tasks.

“We do a lot of data collection and we make a lot of observations to support the thesis of the protocol,” Holbrook said. “We educate our participants and volunteers on what it means to be a participant in research. And research protocols have you do procedures you might not often do in bedside or clinic nursing. The variety is endless, and that’s one of the things that keeps it fresh and interesting.”

Working closely with study volunteers and researchers is another highlight of the job, Holbrook said.

“It’s very heartwarming to know that people are willing to give of themselves for altruistic reasons,” she said. “And in working with the researchers, we get to see people being creative and thinking outside of the box to really look at something differently and ask how we can do something better.”


Next steps:

  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
  • Learn more about the groundbreaking translational research happening at UK CCTS.
This year's CCTS conference acknowledges the significant challenges of translating knowledge into new interventions for individual and community health.

UK conference highlights impact of research on community health

The UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) this week hosted its 12th Annual Spring Conference highlighting the impact that collaborative team science can have in bringing translational medical research to communities across Appalachia.

The conference brought more than 800 researchers, clinicians, students and partners to Lexington to discuss this year’s theme of “Clinical Trial Networks and Team Science: Moving Discoveries to Interventions.” The CCTS, funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health, hosts the conference each year to share science and enhance research collaborations.

The CCTS doesn’t focus on any one type of disease, but instead provides pilot funding, a spectrum of research support services, and training and education to accelerate discoveries related to health issues affecting Kentucky and Central Appalachia.

This year’s conference theme acknowledges the significant challenges of translating knowledge into useful interventions for individual and community health, a process that often takes years or decades. Multidisciplinary research teams and networks of clinical trials, however, can quicken the process by combining expertise and leveraging existing research systems.

“In the not-so-distance past, ‘medical research’ conjured the image of a single investigator, alone in their lab with a microscope,” said Dr. Philip A. Kern, director of the CCTS. “But as research methods have become more specialized and health problems more complex, multidisciplinary collaboration is critical to gaining new knowledge and turning discoveries into new interventions. Combining the expertise of multiple specialties and bridging our work across the clinic, the lab and communities is essential to making real advancements to improve health.”

Reflecting the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, the conference was held in conjunction with the UK College of Dentistry Research Day, the UK College of Engineering Biomedical Research Day, the UK College of Health Sciences Research Day​, the UK College of Nursing Scholarship Showcase, the UK College of Public Health Research Day and the UK MD/PhD Program Research Day.

Representatives from Marshall University, a partner of the CCTS in the Appalachian Translational Research Network, were also in attendance, as were colleagues from the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health.

A special ‘thank you’ to Dr. Lowe

A special recognition award was presented to Jane S. Lowe, PhD, administrative director of the CCTS, who is retiring after more than 25 years of academic and research administration.

“Dr. Lowe has been at the heart and soul of the CCTS since its inception, and will be forever linked with our center,” Kern said. “Over the years, as members of the leadership of the center and of the university have come and gone; as faculty, staff and students have traversed its waters; as local and national policies and priorities have changed  the one true constant of the UK CCTS has been Jane Lowe. She has faithfully served as an intrepid founder, an exacting archivist, an unrelenting challenger and our most ardent supporter. Without reservation I can say that Dr. Lowe’s leadership has been at the core of every success of the CCTS.”


Next steps:

  • Learn how a $19.8 million grant from the NIH has put CCTS in elite company among research institutions across the country.
  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
UK nurse anesthetist tests new way to reduce post-surgery memory loss

UK nurse anesthetist tests new way to reduce post-surgery memory loss

No patient wants to remember the traumatic experience of going under the knife.

With the conveniences of modern medicine, anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists erase the memory and pain of invasive surgeries by administering medicines that induce relaxation and unconsciousness. Patients awake from a deep sleep with no memory of the surgery, the incision or the physical harm done to their bodies.

But 10 years ago, Zohn Centimole, a nurse anesthetist at UK HealthCare, noticed his elderly patients were concerned about short-term memory loss, which they attributed to anesthetics. While only temporary, the cognitive deficits caused by anesthesia can linger for several days post-surgery, a period of time when important medical decisions and conversations take place.

Investigating better anesthesia techniques

One of Centimole’s senior patients, who had experienced memory changes after a previous surgery, feared the same effect as she prepared for another surgery. Rather than worry about her postoperative pain and recovery, the patient was fixated on whether she would retain her mental capacity post-surgery.

“My conversation with her that day was one of those imprinting memories,” Centimole said. “Her fear was so sincere and impactful that I can still see her face and everything about the situation.”

This motivated Centimole to investigate more precise techniques of delivering anesthesia and minimizing exposure in middle-aged and senior patients. Centimole, a native of Plum Springs, Ky., harnessed the brain-reading capabilities of a Bispectral Index (BIS) monitor, an electroencephalographic (EEG) technology, to tailor anesthesia to the individual needs of patients.

A collaborative approach to research

Centimole recently defended his doctoral dissertation in the UK College of Nursing, which found anesthesia guided by EEG-derived monitoring was superior to the standard administration and effective in reducing cognitive decline three to five days post-operation. The Bispectral Index System (BIS) measures EEG and converts changes in real time to a score, which anesthesia providers associate with depth of consciousness.

The CANTAB-MCI (Cambridge Cognition) cognitive battery was used to evaluate patient cognitive performance before operation, three to five days post-operation and three to five months post-operation. With its touch-screen format, the battery reduces administrator bias and is cost effective. The EEG-guided technique showed to reduce the cognitive deficits experienced in the post-surgical period, with patients reporting higher cognitive functioning immediately after their surgery.

Collaborating with faculty members in the UK Department of Surgery, the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the UK College of Nursing, Centimole conducted an experiment to test the cognitive functioning of surgical patients. He compared those whose anesthesia levels were monitored through a cognitive battery with patients who received surgery without the cognitive battery, as well as a control group of individuals unaffected by anesthesia.

Centimole recruited patients for the study in the preoperative clinic, often recruiting a spouse as the non-surgical counterpart for the control group. Eighty-eight surgical patients were randomized to the BIS cognitive battery condition or the non-battery condition. Both experimental groups, as well as individuals in the non-surgery control group, completed the CANTAB neuropsychological functioning test. The test measures the test taker’s short-term memory, reaction time, verbal memory and visual learning capabilities.

Encouraging results

The 39 surgical patients who received the BIS cognitive battery condition demonstrated high levels of cognitive functioning post-surgery. Centimole also found that patients who smoked reported lower cognitive function post-surgery, suggesting a correlation between smoking and lower cognition after surgery. The results of the study suggest that EEG-derived technology has the potential to assist anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists in tailoring their care to individual cognitive characteristics.

“We were looking for a way to assess cognitive frailty in patients,” Centimole said. “Being precise and tailoring anesthesia will vary from patient to patient. EEG-derived technology allows you to balance exposure without unwanted side effects. We want to keep tight control over exposure, and this is what that device was engineered to do.”

Centimole believes EEG-derived devices can enhance care and improve engagement and alertness in patients who were disadvantaged by the memory loss caused during their surgery. Further, the CANTAB-MCI battery was cost-effective, and it showed the potential to help providers evaluate frailty in patients preparing to undergo surgery.

“The novelty of the project is knowing there is a relationship between EEG-guided anesthesia and cognitive function,” he said. “But we also present evidence that this cognitive battery is financially appropriate and has a great ease of use.”


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A new study by UK Markey Cancer Center shows that chloroquine – an anti-malarial drug – may be useful in treating patients with metastatic cancers.

New study shows anti-malarial drugs may be able to treat cancer

A new study by UK Markey Cancer Center researchers shows that chloroquine – a drug currently used to treat malaria – may be useful in treating patients with metastatic cancers.

Published in Cell Reports, the study showed that chloroquine triggered the secretion of Par-4 – a protein that kills cancer cells and can limit metastasis – in both mouse models and in cancer patients in a clinical trial.

In order for Par-4 to be effective in stopping cancer cell growth, it requires the help of a protein called p53. P53 directly induces another protein called Rab8b, which is responsible for transporting Par-4. Unfortunately in many types of cancer, the p53 protein is often mutated or has its pathways disturbed, allowing metastasis to continue.

The study found that when chloroquine is introduced, it’s able to induce p53- and Rab8b-dependent Par-4 secretion from normal cells to help stop cancer metastasis in p-53 deficient tumors.

The study was led by the lab of Vivek M. Rangnekar, the Alfred Cohen endowed chair in oncology research at the UK Markey Cancer Center and a professor in the UK Department of Radiation Medicine. UK Researchers Ravshan Burikhanov and Nikhil Hebbar in Rangnekar’s group were co-first authors in the study.

“Because p53 is often mutated in tumors, it makes the tumors resistant to treatment,” said Rangnekar, also the co-leader of the Cancer Cell Biology and Signaling research program and associate director at Markey. “However, this study shows that the relatively safe, FDA-approved drug chloroquine empowered normal cells – which express wild type p53 – to secrete Par-4 and stop metastasis in p53-deficient tumors.”

At the UK Markey Cancer Center, one clinical trial using chloroquine for Par-4 induction in a variety of cancer patients is ongoing. Researchers are now planning a second clinical trial that would involve giving a maintenance dose of chloroquine to patients who are in remission, with the hopes of preventing cancer relapse.

This research was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health and the UK Markey Cancer Center/Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Kansas University Cancer Center and Osaka University in Japan collaborated with UK scientists in this study.


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Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.

Our 2016 Year in Review

From inspiring patient stories to groundbreaking achievements and recognition, 2016 was a year to remember for all of us here at UK HealthCare.

Here are a few highlights.


UK HealthCare named the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

Kentucky's best hospitalIn August, UK added another first-place finish to our resume as UK HealthCare’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital was named Kentucky’s Best Hospital in the 2016 U.S. News and World Report Best Hospital Rankings. We are also the only hospital in the state rated as High Performing in Cancer, and we ranked No. 45 nationally in Geriatrics. Other High Performing specialty areas include: Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, and Pulmonology.

Learn more about our No. 1 ranking and what it means for our patients.


Patient with rare neuroendocrine cancer finds help through clinical trial

Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.Diagnosed with rare neuroendocrine cancer, Geri McDowell was running out of options for treatment.

That’s when her doctor from the UK Markey Cancer Center recommended a clinical trial that might offer hope for recovery.

Read Geri’s story.


$19.8 million award puts UK in elite company

In October, the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) was awarded a four-year, $19.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will allow CCTS to continue its mission of translating scientific discoveries into tangible applications for individual and community health.

Learn more about this prestigious award and what it means for people across Kentucky and Appalachia.


New Chandler Dining opens to the public

Chandler DiningChandler Dining, UK HealthCare’s new state-of-the-art dining experience, opened in August and it’s unlike any hospital cafeteria you’ve seen before. From pizza and pasta to salad and sushi, Chandler Dining has something for everyone, and it’s open to the public.

Learn more about visiting Chandler Dining.


Lexington couple welcomes quintuplets

Mom Katie Schaftlein bonds with baby Sadie for the first time.On Nov. 11, Lexington couple Lucas and Katie Schaftlein welcomed quintuplets Sadie, Savannah, Scarlett, Sofia and Lucas into the world. It just so happened to be Katie’s birthday, too, giving Mom a special birthday wish. With the help of an interdisciplinary team of experts from UK HealthCare, all five little ones arrived in good health.

Read more about our special delivery.


Markey joins Cancer Moonshot conversation

World-class experts, cancer survivors and advocates joined forces in June at the UK Markey Cancer Center to contribute to Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Summit. The Cancer Moonshot aims to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years.

Check out highlights from the inspired conversations.


13-year-old boy enjoys being ‘normal kid’ after epilepsy surgery

EpilepsyJoey Maggard was missing out on his childhood because of frequent epileptic seizures. No sports. No sleepovers with friends. He had to miss the second half of his sixth-grade year. But after a delicate surgical procedure at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute earlier this year, Joey has been seizure-free.

Read Joey’s story.


UK celebrates 25 years of heart transplants

In April, patients gathered with staff and doctors from the UK Gill Heart Institute and the UK Transplant Center to celebrate 25 years of heart transplants at UK HealthCare. A lot has changed since our first heart transplant in 1991 — we’re now doing more than 40 heart transplant operations each year and in 2015 we set a single-year record for the most heart transplants at one hospital in Kentucky.

Read more about our quarter-century celebration.



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