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UPMC-Developed Genetic Test Successfully Detects Some Asymptomatic Pancreatic Cancers

A genetic test developed at UPMC proved highly sensitive at determining which pancreatic cysts are most likely to be associated with one of the most aggressive types of pancreatic cancer, UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists reported in Gut, the journal of the British Society of Gastroenterology.

The successful results are a critical step toward a precision medicine approach to detecting and treating pancreatic cancer, which has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers.

Pancreatic cysts — small pockets of fluid in the pancreas — are increasingly detected on medical scans by happenstance. For the most part, the cysts are benign. But because some can progress to pancreatic cancer, doctors must determine whether it is surgically necessary to remove the cysts.

“On the one hand, you never want to subject a patient to unneeded surgery. But survival rates for pancreatic cancer are much better if it is caught before symptoms arise, so you also don’t want to ignore an early warning sign,” said lead author Aatur D. Singhi, MD, PhD, a surgical pathologist in the UPMC Division of Anatomic Pathology. “This rapid, sensitive test will be useful in guiding physicians on which patients would most benefit from surgery.”

Singhi and his team at UPMC developed PancreaSeq®, which requires a small amount of fluid removed from the cyst to test for 10 different tumor genes associated with pancreatic cancer. It was the first such prospective study, testing pancreatic cysts before surgery, rather than analyzing cysts after surgery as had been done by previous efforts.

The study, funded in part by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and The National Pancreas Foundation, also was the first to evaluate a test that employed a more sensitive genetic sequencing method called next-generation sequencing and the first to be performed in a certified and accredited clinical laboratory as opposed to a research setting.

“This was important to us,” said Singhi. “If PancreaSeq is going to be used to make clinical decisions, then it needed to be evaluated in a clinical setting in real time, with all the pressures that go with a clinical diagnosis.”

In this analysis phase, the test was not intended to be used as the sole factor in determining whether to remove the cyst or not, so doctors relied on current guidelines when deciding on a course of treatment. A total of 595 patients were tested, and the team followed up with analysis of surgically removed cysts, available for 102 of the patients, to evaluate the accuracy of the test.

The study showed that with 100 percent accuracy, PancreaSeq correctly classified every patient in the evaluation group who had intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) — a common precursor to pancreatic cancer — based on the presence of mutations in two genes, KRAS and GNAS. Furthermore, by analyzing mutations in three additional genes, the test also identified the cysts that would eventually progress to being cancerous lesions, also with 100 percent accuracy. test was less accurate for the less prevalent pancreatic cyst type called mucinous cystic neoplasm (MCN) — catching only 30 percent of the cases. Importantly, PancreaSeq did not identify any false positives in either cyst type, making it a highly specific test.

The researchers noted that the results could be biased by choice of which patients had their cysts surgically removed, but plan to monitor those who did not have their cysts removed to continue evaluation of the test’s reliability. An improved version of PancreaSeq that incorporates additional tumor genes associated with pancreatic cancer currently is undergoing rigorous clinical testing, according to Singhi. In the future, the team notes, clinical guidelines will need to be revisited to explore incorporating tests like PancreaSeq.

The PancreaSeq test currently is available to patients and ordered through UPMC.

Marina N. Nikiforova, MD, is the senior author on this study. Additional authors are Kevin McGrath, MD, Randall E. Brand, MD, Asif Khalid, MD, Herbert J. Zeh, MD, Jennifer S. Chennat, MD, Kenneth E. Fasanella, MD, Georgios I. Papachristou, MD, PhD, Adam Slivka, MD, PhD, David L. Bartlett, MD, Anil K. Dasyam, MD, Melissa Hogg, MD, Kenneth K. Lee, MD, James Wallis Marsh, MD, Sara E. Monaco, MD, N. Paul Ohori, MD, James F. Pingpank, MD, Allan Tsung, MD, Amer H. Zureikat, MD, and Abigail I. Wald, PhD, all of Pitt or UPMC, or both.

Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Conference 2016

The 2016 Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Conference (AIBD) is being held December 8-10, 2016 in Orlando.

This event will showcase emerging treatment options including therapies and surgical management as well as advancements in quality of care in the field of IBD, and presentations and keynote speeches from experts who are leaders in their field.

Several UPMC faculty and staff will speak on a number of topics including:

CLINICAL ORGANIZING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:                               

Sandra Kim, MD
Miguel Regueiro, MD

MEET THE EXPERTS LUNCHEONS

 December 9, 2016: Can we better position biologics to optimize the management of Crohn’s disease?
Miguel Regueiro, MD

 December 10, 2016: An under-recognized ‘extra-intestinal’ manifestation of IBD: how best to manage stress, anxiety, and depression in our IBD patients.
Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD

 CLINICAL TRACK AGENDA
December 8, 2016: Session II-A: Current Therapeutic Approaches for the Optimal Medical Management of IBD

3:40 pm What will be the hot IBD clinical topics in 2017?
Miguel Regueiro, MD

Session Track V-A: Challenges in IBD: Case discussions

Moderators: Miguel Regueiro, MD, Corey A. Siegel, MD, MS
10:30 to 12:30 pm

December 9, 2016: Session VI-A: Case-based Clinical Breakout Sessions
Presented at both 2:00 and 3:00 pm

New models of care for IBD: The patient centered medical home and increasing patient engagement: Case studies
Miguel Regueiro, MD, Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD, Corey A. Siegel, MD, MS

December 10, 2016: Session VIII-A: Advances in the Care of IBD Patients

8:40 am Is there an optimal approach to prevent recurrence in post-operative Crohn’s disease?
Miguel Regueiro, MD

9:00 am Approaches used to avoid and treat narcotic dependence
Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD

PEDIATRIC TRACK AGENDA
December 9, 2016: Session VI-D: Progress in Pediatric IBD

Moderators: Sandra C. Kim, MD, Francisco A Sylvester, MD
2:00 to 4:00 pm
and
2:20 pm Extraintestinal manifestations in pediatric IBD – a survey of conditions and treatments: Rheumatologic manifestations
Sandra C. Kim, MD

Session VII-D: Advances in Pediatric IBD

5:00 pm Case discussions with expert 5 person panel
Panelists: Sandra C. Kim, MD, Millie D. Long, MD, MPH, Francisco A. Sylvester, MD

December 10, 2016: Session VIII-D: Common Clinical Challenges in Pediatric IBD

9:00 am What are effective approaches to counsel our pediatric IBD patients, who are undergoing surgery for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?
Sandra C. Kim, MD

 Session IX-D: Targeting Therapies for the Pediatric Patient

11:10 am Topics in ulcerative colitis
Panelists: Athos Bousvaros, MD, MPH, Sandra C. Kim, MD, Francisco A. Sylvester, MD

Center for Advanced Robotics Training Complex Pancreatic Resections Course — December 15-16, 2016

December 15-16, 2016

Overview:

This course will serve as an introduction to the advanced robotic curriculum, and will also expose participants to the skill sets necessary to safely perform advanced robotic pancreatic resections. The UPMC Robotic Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery (HPB) program under the direction of Dr. David Bartlett and Dr. Herbert Zeh is a highly accomplished surgical program. This team has performed over 600 major pancreatic and liver resections, including nearly 300 pancreaticoduodenectomies and more than 100 robotic liver resections. They have published a number of highly-cited articles in this field. Over the last several years, this program has dedicated significant resources to developing a comprehensive proficiency-based curriculum for advanced robotic skills.

Day One: December 15

7 a.m. Case Observation (Robotic Whipple*)

3 p.m. Didactic Session

Robotic nurse coordinator

Robotic distal pancreatectomy

Robotic pancreaticoduodenectomy

Overview of robotic simulation and training curriculum

Overview of biotissue drills/testing

6 p.m. Working Dinner

Video presentations: scope of robotic HPB cases

Day Two: December 16

7 a.m. Continental Breakfast

8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Simulator/ Inanimate and Biotissue Skill Evaluations

12 – 1 p.m. Lunch

1 – 4 p.m. Cadaver Lab

*If surgical procedure is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, a previously recorded full-length procedure will be used for discussion

Cost: $4,000/surgeon

Maximum attendance: 6 surgeons

This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™

 

For more information, please contact:

Daniel Battista, MBA, Administrative Director

UPMC Center for Advanced Robotics Training (CART) UPMCRoboticTrainingCenter@upmc.edu

1-844-304-227

World Congress of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition 2016

PrintThe 5th World Congress of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (WCPGHAN) was held October 5-8, 2016 in Montreal. This event showcased state of the art science and technology in the field of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition, as well as presentations and keynote speeches from experts who are leaders in their field.

The conference encompassed nine themes including:

  • IBD
  • Celiac and other GI disorders
  • Neurogastroenterology and motility
  • Endoscopy
  • Hepatology
  • Pancreatology
  • Global health
  • Nutrition and intestinal rehabilitation
  • Transplantation

Several Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC faculty and staff spoke at the conference on a number topics including:

Immune Tolerance and Rejection
Pharmacology (pharmaco-genetics) and immunosuppression: Past, present and future
Patrick McKiernan, MD

Steatorrhea: What if it’s not Cystic Fibrosis
Mark Lowe, MD, PhD

Acute Liver Failure – Pathogenesis and Management
Rob Squires, MD and Anil Dhawan, MD

Pancreas
Mark Lowe, MD PhD

Pancreatitis

Inflammatory Responses/ Healing in Pancreatic Injury
Sohail Husain, MD

Poster Presentations

Sterile Cerebrosprinal Fluid Ascites: A Rare Complication After Ventriculoperitoneal Shunting
James Squires, MD, and  Kristen Critelli, MD (fellow)

Clinical Variability Following Partial External Biliary Diversion In Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis 1 Deficiency
James Squires, MD,  Robert Squires, MD, and Amy Morris, RN, CCPC

Genetic Variant Newly Linked to Crohn’s Disease Also Associated with Altered Gut Microbiome Composition

An international team led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California Los Angeles discovered that a genetic variation previously linked to obesity, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and schizophrenia also is associated with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract that is estimated to cost the US $6 billion annually.
In addition, the genetic variant is associated with changes in the composition of the gut microbiome—which is made up of potentially billions of microbes that help people digest food, synthesize nutrients and perform myriad other essential functions—in healthy people, overweight people and people with Crohn’s disease. The findings are reported online and scheduled for the October issue of the journal Gastroenterology, and the research was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and Helmsley Charitable Trust, among others.
“We knew from previous studies that there is reduced diversity of the gut microbiome in patients with Crohn’s disease,” said co-senior and corresponding author Richard Duerr, MD, a professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine, and co-director and scientific director of the UPMC Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center. “But that left us with a question: Does Crohn’s disease alter the composition of the gut microbiota, or do pre-existing changes in the gut microbiota confer risk for Crohn’s disease? Our study found that there is a reduction in the abundance of hundreds of minor species of gut bacteria in healthy, overweight and Crohn’s disease-affected people who carry this genetic variant, suggesting that the genetic variant may increase risk for disease by altering the gut habitat. This is an important step toward understanding how the disease works so we can develop therapies or a cure in the future.”
Under the leadership of Dr. Duerr and co-senior author Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD, FRCP (Lon), director of Translational Medicine in the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute, the team focused their analysis on 10,523 blood samples from people with inflammatory bowel disease (half had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease) and 5,726 samples from healthy people.  They discovered that a variation in the SLC39A8 gene is associated with Crohn’s disease.“This finding is another important example of how a particular genetic variant can have a role in the development and course of many diseases. Our study of this variant suggests that therapies effective in treating one disease also may benefit the treatment of some patients with other illnesses,” said Dr. McGovern, who also is director of Precision Medicine at Cedars-Sinai.

Taking it a step further, the team identified healthy people, overweight people and Crohn’s disease-affected people with the genetic variant and analyzed their gut microbiomes under the leadership of co-senior author Jonathan Braun, MD, PhD, chair and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. That is how they discovered that the genetic variant is not just linked to Crohn’s and other conditions, but also to a reduction in hundreds of species of gut bacteria.
“Many of these species are believed to play roles in protecting the intestine against Crohn’s disease, and also in preserving a lean body physiology,” said Dr. Braun. “So, this may be an example where the gene increases risk for disease via its effect on types of bacteria we need to preserve our health.”

The findings have sparked additional questions and potential research avenues, but therapies are still quite a ways off, said Dr. Duerr, also a professor in the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health Department of Human Genetics. However, the recent establishment of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medicine and the Microbiome will help accelerate this research and bring potential therapies—which may involve the center’s clinical fecal transplantation program—to patients.

“This study illustrates the remarkable interaction between our proper genome and our symbiome—the organisms and environment inside and outside of us that influence our well-being—in the setting of inflammatory bowel disease,” said Mark T. Gladwin, MD, chair of medicine and Dr. Jack D. Myers Professor of Internal Medicine at Pitt. “Insights from this study are likely to guide the development of microbiome modulating therapies that hold the promise to alleviate patient suffering.”

Additional institutions with researchers who participated in this study are Cleveland Clinic; Yale University; Karolinska Institutet and Örebro University, both in Sweden; Biocruces Health Research Institute in Spain; University Hospital Munich-Grosshadern, University of Ulm, Krankenhaus Waldfriede and Ludwig-Maximilians-University, all in Germany; QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and University of Queensland, all in Australia; Inselspital Bern and University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland; Emory University; University of Chicago; Harvard University; Université de Montréal, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, University of Toronto and Montreal Heart Institute, all in Canada; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; University of California Riverside; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Johns Hopkins University.

Additional support for this research was provided by numerous grants to the individual researchers, as listed in the Gastroenterology research publication.

David Whitcomb Honored as Outstanding Mentor

whitcomb-david-214x300David C. Whitcomb, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, received the 2016 Pancreatic Disorders Section Research Mentor Award at the Digestive Disease Week conference. This award has been presented since 2010 to outstanding mentors in specific areas of gastroenterology research.

Dr. Whitcomb has been leading pancreatic disorder research at Pitt since he joined the faculty in 1991, and he has received over two decades of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health. His research interests include hereditary pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Currently, Dr. Whitcomb’s laboratory is working to develop new ways to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages.

Digestive Disease Week brings together the world’s largest group of physicians and researchers who are focused on gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Digestive Disease Week 2016 was held in San Diego from May 21 – 24, 2016

Read the full news announcement. 

Lantern raises $17M to provide accessible online mental health wellness services; partners with healthcare leader UPMC

Lantern, the leader in evidence-based online mental health wellness services, today announced the close of a $17 million investment led by Pittsburgh-based healthcare giant UPMC. The investment reflects a commitment from Lantern and UPMC to transform the way emotional wellbeing services are delivered and accessed in the U.S. UPMC was joined by all previous Lantern investors, including Mayfield Fund, SoftTech Venture Capital and Stanford University.

As a leading mental health provider and research organization, UPMC will partner with Lantern to leverage its platform within a myriad of clinical settings and conditions.

“We are excited about reaching more people with behavioral health issues through this readily accessible, scalable, and cost-effective platform,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of UPMC, which spearheaded this investment. “This partnership is an excellent example of our mission at UPMC Enterprises: finding creative solutions and technologies to solve some of the most challenging problems in healthcare.”

UPMC, one of the largest integrated healthcare delivery systems in the U.S., is “the ideal partner,” said Alejandro Foung, Lantern co-founder and CEO. “UPMC has a unique view into the continuum of care, from insuring more than 2.8 million individuals, to administering care preventatively and when patients need it most through its more than 20 hospitals and 3,500 employed physicians,” said Foung. “A large part of UPMC’s appeal to Lantern is its focus on disease prevention, a sharp contrast to the fee-for-service model that currently dominates the behavioral health landscape. Because of our shared focus on prevention to solve health challenges before they even arise or manifest, Lantern and UPMC are the perfect match.”

Behavioral health problems are among the most pressing health issues facing the country, affecting more than 18 percent of adults. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the top five drivers of medical costs in primary care settings—and are even more common and costly among those with chronic medical conditions. Given the shortage of mental health workers, two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients to behavioral health services.

UPMC clinicians will work with Lantern on pilots aimed at expanding its programs to additional behavioral health issues and potentially to populations of patients with more complex conditions. “Integrating behavioral health into broader medical care and focusing on prevention for large groups of patients is the only way that we can deliver high-quality, cost-effective mental healthcare,” said Eva Szigethy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who will be working closely with the Lantern team.

The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 60,000 employees, more than 20 hospitals, more than 500 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, a health insurance division, and international and commercial operations. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC ranks No. 13 in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

Building on UPMC’s 20-year track record of successful commercialization activity, UPMC Enterprises is dedicated to creating exceptional healthcare innovations that will have a measurable impact on the cost and quality of care. By partnering with innovators like Lantern, UPMC Enterprises is focused on creating and commercializing solutions in four key areas: clinical tools that will transform the delivery of care, population health management that will be essential in health care’s move from volume to value, consumer-centric healthcare, and business services that improve efficiency.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Gastroenterologist Receives Prestigious Murray Davidson Award

PrintThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has awarded Robert H. Squires, M.D., director of pediatric hepatology, a program of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, its 2015 Murray Davidson Award. The award was presented on Oct. 9 at the annual meeting of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) in Washington, D.C.

The award recognizes an outstanding clinician, educator and scientist who has made significant contributions to the field of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition.

“I am humbled that my colleagues consider me to be deserving of an award that includes my heroes in the field of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition,” said Dr. Squires, also professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “While given to an individual, this very special award is a testament to my fortunate encounters with strong mentors, colleagues and patients; and to my wonderfully supportive and accomplished family.”

Dr. Squires is the principal investigator for the multi-center, multi-national National Institutes of Health-sponsored pediatric acute liver failure study group; the site principal investigator for the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network; and was the principal investigator for the Pediatric Intestinal Failure Consortium.

“Dr. Squires embodies the qualities celebrated by the Murray Davidson Award,” said Mark E. Lowe, M.D., Ph.D., director, pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, Children’s Hospital. “I can’t think of a more deserving awardee. We are fortunate to have him helping care for the children of western Pennsylvania.”

Dr. Squires served as chair of the AAP Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and was an executive council member of NASPGHAN. He has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles in major journals, 47 in the past 10 years.

“Dr. Squires is a physician with a stable internal compass that has always directed him to serve the health care needs of children in the broadest sense,” said David Keljo, M.D., Ph.D., director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, Children’s Hospital. “He has consistently worked to ensure the best possible clinical care for children, displaying great character while leading the way. It was a privilege to nominate him.”

The Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Children’s is ranked second in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s 2015-16 Best Children’s Hospital specialty ranking for pediatric gastroenterology and GI surgery. The division consists of experts in general clinical pediatric gastroenterology, pediatric hepatology, and a broad range of specialty areas, including abdominal pain, acute and chronic pancreatitis, constipation, diarrhea, eosinophilic disorders, feeding disorders, gastroesophageal reflux and esophagitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, intestinal failure (short-bowel), irritable bowel syndrome, motility disorders, Liver Clinic, liver diseases and transplantation, metabolic disorders affecting the liver or intestines, poor growth, small bowel transplantation and ulcer disease. The division also provides a full range of diagnostic procedures and treatments related to the gastrointestinal tract, liver and pancreas.

For more information on Dr. Squires and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, visit www.chp.edu.

Two-Week International Diet Swap Shows Potential Effects of Diet on Colon Cancer Risk

PITTSBURGH, April 28, 2015 – African-Americans and Africans who swapped their typical diets for just two weeks similarly exchanged their respective risks of colon cancer as reflected by alterations of their gut bacteria, according to an international study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published online today in Nature Communications.

Principal investigator Stephen O’Keefe, M.D., professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Pitt School of Medicine, observed while practicing in South Africa that his rural patients rarely had colon cancer or intestinal polyps, which can be a cancer precursor. In the Western world, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death and African-Americans carry the greatest disease burden in the United States.

“The African-American diet, which contains more animal protein and fat, and less soluble fiber than the African diet, is thought to increase colon cancer risk,” Dr. O’Keefe explained. “Other studies with Japanese migrants to Hawaii have shown that it takes only one generation of Westernization to change their low incidence of colon cancer to the high rates observed in native Hawaiians. In this project, we examined the impact of a brief diet change on the colon in a controlled setting where we didn’t have to worry about the influence of smoking and other environmental factors on cancer risk.”

After assessment of their in-home diets, 20 African-American and 20 rural South African volunteers ages 50 to 65 were housed at a University of Pittsburgh site and at an African lodging facility respectively. There they ate meals prepared by the researchers using ingredients and cooking techniques typical of the other group. The team examined fecal and colon content samples, obtained during colonoscopy, of each volunteer at baseline and after the two-week study period.

Although the diet change was brief, each group took on the other’s rates of turnover of cells of the intestinal lining, levels of fiber fermentation, and markers of bacterial metabolic activity and inflammation associated with cancer risk. In particular, African-Americans experienced an increase in butyrate production, which is thought to play a key role in anti-cancer pathways. The researchers also noted they removed intestinal polyps from nine of the African-American volunteers, but none were present in the Africans.

“We can’t definitively tell from these measurements that the change in their diet would have led to more cancer in the African group or less in the American group, but there is good evidence from other studies that the changes we observed are signs of cancer risk,” said co-author Jeremy Nicholson, Ph.D., of Imperial College London.

According to Dr. O’Keefe, increasing the amount of fiber in the diet – from approximately 10 grams to more than 50 for African-Americans in the diet swap – likely led to biomarker changes reflecting reduced cancer risk, but eating less animal fat and proteins also could be helpful.

“These findings are really very good news,” he said. “In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernized composition to a traditional African high-fiber, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk, indicating that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer.”

The team included other researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London, as well as Wageningen University in the Netherlands; University of Helsinki, Finland; University of Illinois; and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Funding for the study was provided National Institutes of Health grants CA135379, RR024153 and TR000005; the National Institute for Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, UK; the Academy of Medical Sciences; the Spinoza Award of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the European Research Council and the Academy of Finland.

Pitt Collaborates with Janssen to Study and Tailor New Treatments for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

PITTSBURGH, April 8, 2015 – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh will collaborate with Janssen Research & Development, LLC (Janssen) on a project to study the effectiveness of potential new therapies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A research team led by Ian McGowan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine, will use tissue samples from patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two types of IBD, as well as from healthy volunteers, to evaluate experimental medicines developed by Janssen.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to advance future therapeutic approaches that may one day benefit patients living with IBD,” Dr. McGowan said. “We hope that this process will guide us to more effective treatments for these complex immune-mediated diseases.”

More than 6,000 IBD patients are seen each year by physicians in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Pitt and UPMC, which is led by David Whitcomb, M.D., Ph.D., Giant Eagle Foundation Professor of Cancer Genetics and professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine.

“The integration of an outstanding clinical IBD program with cutting-edge basic science research teams to introduce the best new therapies to patients who desperately need them can only happen in a few places in the world,” Dr. Whitcomb said. “Everyone here is committed to the success of this program at every level, by every measure.”

The project was coordinated by the university’s Pharmaceutical Collaborations Committee, which is chaired by D. Lansing Taylor, Ph.D., director of Pitt’s Drug Discovery Institute.

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