UPMC Physician Resources

Pitt Team Aims to Change Tissue Microenvironment to Fend Off Cancerous Tumors

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 14, 2013 – The magic to killing cancer cells might not be in the bullet, but in the gunpowder that accompanies it, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter. Instead of developing new drugs that directly target tumors, they have been working on adjuvant agents that alter the immunological microenvironment around the tumor to boost the effectiveness of existing drugs and the effectiveness of each patient’s immune responses against cancer.

While multiple studies worldwide have demonstrated that the infiltration of tumor tissues with immune killer cells called cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) improves the prognosis of cancer patients, it remains unclear how to manipulate tumor microenvironment to promote CTL infiltration.

In a recent presentation at the Cancer Vaccines and Gene Therapy Meeting in Malvern, Pa., Pawel Kalinski, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, presented laboratory data in support of the clinical use of “combinatorial adjuvants” that induce desirable patterns of tumor-associated inflammation and result in CTL infiltration into tumors. He also discussed preliminary data from a phase I/II trial led by Amer Zureikat, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at Pitt, in which colorectal cancer patients were given escalating doses of interferon alpha (IFN-α) in combination with a COX2 blocker and Ampligen®, an experimental toll-like receptor-3 (TLR3) ligand, factors that synergistically enhance IFN-α’s immunological effects in tumor microenvironments.

“The first part of the trial is not complete, but so far it appears that the treatment was well-tolerated,” Dr. Kalinski said. “Our early observations are completely consistent with our preclinical predictions and hint that the combination therapy may be altering the tumor environment to make it more susceptible to immune attack. We are hopeful that the next, randomized part of the study will directly demonstrate the difference between the tumors of patients receiving standard treatment of chemotherapy and surgery and the patients receiving additional immunotherapy, which would lead us to expect a therapeutic benefit to this strategy.”

Tumors are typically able to undermine the body’s immune defenses, sending out cellular signals that call in regulatory T-cells to suppress the activity of natural killer cells, he explained. While there are many adjuvants available to enhance immune system response, most are nonselective and, therefore, ineffective. Preclinical experiments conducted by Dr. Kalinski’s team indicate that the combination of IFN-α, a COX2 inhibitor and TLR3 ligands selectively brings the right kinds of immune cells to the tumor to produce what he calls “good inflammation.” Such a treatment preferentially induces good inflammation within tumors, allowing the immune system to selectively attack cancer cells without inadvertently harming healthy tissues nearby.

In the second part of the study, which could begin at the beginning of next year, colorectal cancer patients will be randomly assigned to receive either conventional treatment with chemotherapy followed by surgical removal of the tumor, or to additionally receive two cycles of the IFN-α-based chemokine-modulatory regimen between chemo and surgery.

“After surgery, we will be able to compare the tumors from the two groups to see if there is a difference in their immunological microenvironment that could be beneficial,” Dr. Kalinski said. “This adjuvant strategy might also work for many other kinds of cancers because it’s not targeting specific tumor markers, but boosting the immune system’s own ability to find cancer cells and destroy them.”

He added that future efforts would aim to add a vaccine component based on dendritic cells, which recognize foreign proteins to stimulate an immune response against them. That strategy, too, would rely on boosting the body’s own defenses rather than providing a specific tumor marker as a target.

The project is funded by National Institutes of Health grants 1PO1CA132714. Doses of Ampligen were donated to the study byHemispherx Biopharma Inc.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Receives $50,000 Childhood Cancer Research Grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 14, 2013 Linda M. McAllister-Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, has been awarded a one-year, $50,000 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.

Dr. McAllister’s is one of 39 infrastructure grants awarded by the Foundation’s fall grant cycle, totaling more than $2.2 million in pediatric oncology research. These grants provide resources to institutions to conduct more research and enroll more children in ongoing clinical trials.

“This grant will allow our program to perform Phase I clinical trials aimed at identifying new and improved treatment options for childhood cancer,” said Dr. McAllister. “Our team has an excellent record of study compliance and patient safety, and the St. Baldrick’s grant allows us to support a clinical research nurse on the team.”

Dr. McAllister, also professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, came to Pittsburgh in January 2013, bringing a rich background in research, clinical care and teaching to the hospital, its patients and the university.

“While fewer than 5 percent of adults with cancer participate in clinical trials, more than 60 percent of childhood cancer patients receive their treatment as part of clinical trials, which are designed to offer the best cutting-edge treatments, or treatments that may be even better than today’s standard,” said Kathleen Ruddy, chief executive officer for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is proud to fund this latest round of infrastructure grants, many of which will make more clinical trials available for children closer to their homes. This offers today’s patients more hope and tomorrow’s patients more progress through research.”

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group and is one of 13 centers nationwide to be selected as a Phase I research center. Children’s Hospital also is a member of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, a select group of institutions with leading neuro-oncology clinical trial capability.

For more information about Dr. McAllister, please visit www.chp.edu.

NIH Grant Funds Multicenter Study of Mysterious Trauma-Induced Hemorrhaging

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 14, 2013 – Stephen Wisniewski, Ph.D., senior associate dean and co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, will coordinate a new, multicenter, multidisciplinary effort – supported by a five-year, $23.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant – to study a deadly bleeding syndrome called coagulopathy, which occurs without warning in some trauma patients.

Led by University of Vermont Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry Kenneth Mann, Ph.D., the Trans-Agency Consortium for Trauma-Induced Coagulopathy (TACTIC) study is a cooperative effort funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) that establishes a unique collaboration between the NIH and the Department of Defense (DOD).

“Multiple, parallel research projects will each explore a different side of coagulopathic syndromes in an effort to discover why they occur and, ultimately, to explore ways to treat and prevent them,” said Dr. Wisniewski, also professor of epidemiology. “Those projects will produce a massive amount of data, something we at Pitt Public Health are well-equipped to collect, analyze and organize into useful information.”

Trauma is the major cause of death in people less than 34 years old and the third-leading cause of mortality in the United States, with uncontrollable hemorrhage representing the major cause of preventable deaths, according to the NIH. Each year, nearly 50 million traumatic injuries in the U.S. result in 170,000 deaths.

Little is known about the biological phenomena that lead to coagulopathy. When a person sustains a traumatic injury, some, regardless of proper treatment, can suddenly suffer from uncontrolled bleeding and die. It is believed that the shock from the trauma induces a “storm” of coagulation and inflammatory problems that prevent their blood from clotting.

“There are no analytical tools that allow emergency department staff to conclude that coagulopathy is occurring in trauma victims. We’re starting from ‘ground zero,’” Dr. Mann explains. “The physicians and staff are left without resources to guide an effective therapeutic approach.”

Study co-leader Charles Esmon, Ph.D., the Lloyd Noble Chair in Cardiovascular Biology at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, will look at the role played by DNA and histones that escape from cells in initiating the inflammatory and coagulation abnormalities that occur in trauma.

“We’ve gathered the leading minds in the field to attack a problem that has a serious and immediate impact on patients,” said Dr. Esmon. “To understand and address the issue of severe trauma, we need a multidisciplinary approach. This project requires experts in clinical science, basic biology, laboratory science and animal research.”

This trans-agency endeavor links the NHLBI-supported TACTIC program with DOD clinical trauma research centers in a unique initiative that integrates laboratory, clinical and early translational, hypothesis-driven research by leading investigators across the country and enables the basic science investigative units to explore clinical specimens obtained from the DOD centers.

Additional institutions involved in the research funded by the TACTIC grant include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mayo Clinic, Scripps Research Institute, University of California-San Francisco, University of Illinois and University of Pennsylvania. DOD-supported institutions participating in the clinical component of the TACTIC grant include University of Colorado, University of Pittsburgh and Virginia Commonwealth University.

This research is funded by NIH grant UM1 HL120877-01.

NCI Renews SPORE Grant of More than $12 Million for Melanoma, Skin Cancer Research at UPCI

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 12, 2013 – The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program (MSCP) led by John Kirkwood, M.D., has received renewal of its skin cancer research through the National Cancer Institute’s competitive Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program. The grant is for more than $12 million.

The award is the fourth grant awarded to UPCI through the prestigious SPORE program, which requires cancer institutes to document strong collaboration between eminent scientists and clinicians as well as outstanding programs in translational research. The other three grants at UPCI are in head and neck, lung and ovarian cancers.

The SPORE grant for skin cancer will fund three new projects and the expansion of one prior project. These include:

  • Biomarkers of the proinflammatory response and elements of immune suppression: The goal of this project is to find biomarkers in melanoma patients at diagnosis or early in the disease that may predict the benefit of treatment with the drugs ipilimumab or interferon-α (IFNα) for each individual, as well as to assess the risk of melanoma recurrence and death. This effort continues earlier research that revealed biomarker patterns associated with pro-inflammatory immune responses and with immunosuppression in both tumor tissue and circulating blood.
  • Multiple antigen-engineered dendritic cell immunization and IFNα-2b boost for vaccine immunotherapy of metastatic melanoma: This project tests an improved dendritic cell vaccine targeting tumor antigens given in combination with IFNα-2b with the aim of boosting the immune response against the cancer.
  • Safety and efficacy of vemurafenib and high-dose IFNα-2b for advanced melanoma: This project will test whether vemurafenib, a drug that inhibits a signaling protein called BRAF, can enhance the therapeutic efficacy of IFNα-2b in patients with metastatic melanoma. In earlier work, the team found BRAF inhibitors make melanoma cells more sensitive to the effects of IFN-α, suppressing cell proliferation and encouraging apoptosis, or programmed cell death; increase T cell-mediated immune responses to melanoma cells; and prolong the survival of mice in a model of melanoma.
  • A microneedle vaccine program for immunotherapy of melanoma and cutaneous T cell lymphoma

Dr. Kirkwood’s melanoma research team first received SPORE funding five years ago and the grant’s five past projects have focused on immune approaches to treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers. The incidence of melanoma continues to rise dramatically. There has not been effective therapy to improve overall survival for the majority of patients with inoperable metastatic disease, although progress in the molecular therapy and immunotherapy of melanoma now has improved prospects for patients with melanoma considerably.

“We want to improve our understanding of the molecular and immunologic mechanisms underlying melanoma progression and to validate prognostic and predictive biomarkers that will lead to the personalized treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers,” Dr. Kirkwood said. “Our research is unique because we have integrated an approach that includes experts in melanoma from medical oncology, dermatology, surgery, immunology, biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biomarker discovery.”

Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., director of UPCI and its clinical partner, UPMC CancerCenter, called the SPORE grant a “perfect storm” in that it combines UPCI’s long-term scientific and clinical expertise in melanoma and immunology with the activities of the Department of Dermatology under the leadership of Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., and is tightly linked to national and international clinical trials activities in the cooperative groups.

“Multidisciplinary care is at the crux of modern cancer medicine and is critical for scientific discovery and translation,” Dr. Davidson said. “This SPORE grant is a great example of that.”

About 76,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year in the United States and about 9,400 people will die every year from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Kirkwood said the work being done through the SPORE grants is already making a difference. There have been several new therapies for melanoma approved since 2011, compared to just three agents approved in the 30 years prior.

UPMC Hospitals Earn Nation’s Top Quality Ratings for Heart Surgery

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 7, 2013 – UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside have received the highest score for coronary artery bypass surgery from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), placing them in the top 13 percent of hospitals in the nation. UPMC Shadyside also received the highest “three stars” for aortic valve replacement surgery, ranking it in the top 6 percent of hospitals. The ratings are based on data compiled and publicly reported for the fiscal year 2013.

The STS’s three-star score designates that results are statistically better than the national average, based on a review of nearly 750 hospitals in the United States. UPMC Shadyside is one of only 23 hospitals in the nation to receive three stars in both aortic valve replacement and coronary artery bypass procedures for the last two reporting periods.

“The cardiac program is bringing the latest research and technologic innovations to our patients, including robotic surgery and trans-catheter heart valve therapy. These results reflect our commitment to excellence in patient care, of which we are very proud,” said Victor Morell, M.D., director of cardiac surgery at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

The STS National Database was established as an initiative for quality and safety improvement among cardiothoracic surgeons. The database covers three areas of cardiothoracic surgery—adult cardiac, general thoracic and congenital heart surgery.

Pitt Public Health Analysis Challenges Assumptions About Bisexual Men and HIV Transmission

BOSTON, Nov. 6, 2013 – The number of HIV positive men who have sex with both men and women is likely no higher than the number of HIV positive heterosexual men, according to a U.S.-based analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers. The finding challenges a popular assumption that bisexual men are responsible for significant HIV transmission to their female partners.

The research, which will be presented today at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston, builds a case for federal investment in research on HIV prevalence among bisexually behaving men.

“Some observers have exaggerated the idea of viral ‘bridging’ – where a bisexual man contracts HIV from another man and then transmits it to a female partner. But, at least in the U.S., the data supporting the extent of this is quite limited,” said Mackey R. Friedman, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, who led the research.

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not report on HIV data specific to bisexually behaving people, though it does report data on homosexually and heterosexually behaving people, as well as injection drug users.

Dr. Friedman and his colleagues reviewed over 3,000 scientific articles to obtain data on HIV prevalence and risks among men who have sex with men only and men who have sex with men and women.

The bisexually behaving men were only 40 percent as likely to be infected with HIV as the homosexually behaving men. The researchers propose that this is because the bisexually behaving men reported lower rates of unprotected receptive anal intercourse, the biggest risk factor for HIV transmission among men in the U.S.

The analysis also estimates that there are approximately 1.2 million bisexual men in the U.S., of whom 121,800 are HIV-positive. That estimate aligns with CDC estimates for HIV infection in male heterosexuals and intravenous drug users.

Dr. Friedman, who has conducted HIV prevention and research for more than 15 years, believes that while bisexually behaving men may have a lower risk profile than homosexually behaving men, their HIV burden still warrants the development of targeted interventions.

“The HIV infection risk that bisexual men pose to their female partners has likely been overstated,” said Dr. Friedman. “However, that doesn’t mean that HIV-prevention campaigns targeting bisexual men and their male and female partners aren’t needed. HIV does exist in the bisexual community, and national, bisexual-specific data collection, research, and HIV prevention and care delivery are necessary to ameliorate this population’s HIV burden.”

Additional collaborators on this research are Chongyi Wei, Dr.P.H., Mary Lou Klem, Ph.D., Anthony Silvestre, Ph.D., Nina Markovic, Ph.D., and Ron Stall, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh.

David Perlmutter, MD, Gives Hans Popper State-of-the-Art Lecture

On November 3, David H. Perlmutter, MD, delivered the Hans Popper State-of-the-Art Lecture as part of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) conference in Washington, DC. The Popper lecture is a keynote address at the annual meeting of AASLD and this year’s meeting occurred on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.  Dr. Perlmutter was selected because he is an internationally recognized leader in the liver disease caused by this deficiency and has recently developed several new drug treatment strategies.

The lecture was entitled, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: Novel Treatment Strategies Fifty Years After Discovery, and described the history of the disease, what we have learned about its unique clinical sequellae, and novel treatment strategies that have originated from understanding the unique pathobiology.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, is the Vira I Heinz Endowed Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Cell Biology at the University and Physician-in-Chief and Scientific Director of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Dr. Perlmutter has carried out basic research on alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency for over 25 years. His work has led to many new concepts about the pathobiology of liver disease in this deficiency and has suggested several new concepts for chemoprophylaxis of chronic liver injury, hepatocellular carcinoma and emphysema in this genetic disease.

In 2010 he discovered a new pharmacological strategy that prevents liver damage in a mouse model of alpha- 1-antitrypsin deficiency and that strategy is now being tested in Phase II/III clinical trials. In his lecture he talked about how the first drug in the category of autophagy enhancers, carbamazepine, is being tested in individuals from 14 to 75 years of age with severe liver disease caused by alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

He also talked about several other new drugs that have been discovered by his lab and a team of collaborators at University of Pittsburgh that are FDA-approved and can soon be tested in patients with this disease.  He emphasized that alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is the most common genetic cause of liver disease in children and that it is a much more common cause of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in adults than previously recognized.  Indeed it appears that the peak age for this liver disease is between 50 and 65 years of age.  The autophagy enhancer drugs currently being tested or in the pipeline give great hope that we will be able to effectively prevent the progression of this devastating liver disease in the near future.

For more about Dr. Perlmutter’s work, please visit his profile here.

For a complete listing of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh physicians and experts involved with the 2013 AASLD meeting, click here.

Compounded Medication to Prevent Preterm Birth Not a Safety Risk, Pitt Study Confirms

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 – A new study published online today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy reports that 17-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), a medication that reduces the rate of preterm birth in high-risk women, did not raise any safety concerns when the medication was prepared and dispensed by independent compounding pharmacies throughout the United States.

17-OHPC has been proven to reduce the risk of preterm births in women with a clinical history of early delivery by one-third. Until recently, this medication was available only from independent compounding pharmacies with a cost of $10 to $15 per injection. A pharmaceutical company in February 2011 received FDA approval to license the medication under the name Makena and established the price at $1500 per injection. The public outcry that followed led the FDA to issue a statement that it would not enforce action against compounding pharmacies that continued to produce and provide the medication.

Since then, researchers from the company that markets Makena, published a report suggesting compounded 17-OHPC poses a risk to patients because of the potential for drug impurity and inconsistent potency. The FDA conducted its own study and could not identify any safety problems with the drug, but decided it would apply its normal enforcement policy on compounding the product.

Researchers from Pitt’s School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy conducted an independent study to determine the quality of 17-OHPC obtained from compounding pharmacies across the country. Specialists in treating high-risk pregnancy supplied a representative sample of the compounded 17-OHPC used in their practices. Eighteen samples of compounded 17-OHPC were obtained from 15 pharmacies and analyzed at Pitt.

“Contrary to the report provided by the company that markets Makena, we found that 17-OHPC from compounding pharmacies raised no safety concerns about drug potency, sterility or purity,” said Steve N. Caritis, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Pitt, and the study’s corresponding author. Dr. Caritis cautioned, however, that the sample size was small and the findings cannot be applied to all compounded products or pharmacies.

“If a compounding pharmacy is used for preparation of 17-OHPC, a discussion with the pharmacy preparing the product is prudent, to assure production of a high-quality product,” Dr. Caritis said.

The research was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, grant number HD047905.

In addition to Dr. Caritis, Pitt’s research team included Justine Chang, M.D., Yang Zhao, Ph.D., Wen Chen Zhao, M.S., and Raman Venkataramanan, Ph.D.

UPMC Expands the Use of Next-Generation Sequencing for Cancer Patients to Guide New Therapies

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 – In a move away from a one-size-fits-most approach to treating cancer, UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are significantly expanding capabilities to use next-generation sequencing to provide personalized care for cancer patients. The program, initiated a year ago, has completed the analysis of 250 patients with advanced cancer who failed standard therapies, leading to new therapeutic targets and a more dynamic model of care for cancer patients.

In a newly expanded laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, molecular pathologists are using a machine the size of a computer printer to sequence large regions of genome for patients suffering from late-stage lung, colon, breast and other common cancers. The team, under the direction of Yuri Nikiforov, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair of Pitt’s Department of Pathology and director of the Division of Molecular and Genomic Pathology, as of Nov. 1, will offer testing for UPMC patients with every cancer type and stage when there is clinical necessity.

“The genetic alterations that lead to the dysfunction of cancer‐related genes are important diagnostic, prognostic and predictive biologic markers. The newest technologies known as next-generation sequencing allow us to sequence numerous cancer genes at the same time, giving us valuable information about cancer mutations that can be targeted by new drugs, allowing for the use of personalized cancer therapies,” Dr. Nikiforov said.

The program uses the Personalized Cancer Mutation Panel (PCMP) developed at Pitt that can identify 2,800 mutations in 50 key cancer genes.

“The spike in interest in molecular testing is fueled by the growth of targeted drugs that can be used based on the results of tumor profiling, and the most comprehensive way to do it is using next-generation sequencing,” said George K. Michalopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Maud L. Menten Professor of Pathology and chairman of the Department of Pathology.

To discuss this new information obtained from sequencing and the best way to use it for cancer patient care, a multidisciplinary genomic tumor board was established at UPMC CancerCenter that includes oncologists, pathologists and other physicians and scientists involved in cancer research.

Mark Socinski, M.D., director of the Lung Cancer Section of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, co-director of the UPMC Center for Excellence in Lung Cancer and co-director of UPCI’s Lung and Thoracic Malignancies Program, participates in the tumor board and has seen first-hand how such sequencing can help patients. In one case, Dr. Socinski said, genetic sequencing helped identify new treatments for a 64-year-old suffering from lung cancer; scans done since the new treatments show the cancer isn’t growing.

Doctors and researchers caution that such advanced sequencing isn’t a cure-all for cancer, but it can offer the hope of new treatments for many patients.

“Genomics is not just the future of cancer care, but it’s happening right now,” said Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., director of the UPMC CancerCenter and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). “We’re taking what we learn directly from the bench to the bedside to help patients.”

UPMC Hospitals Earn Top Quality Recognition from The Joint Commission

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 – Six UPMC hospitals were named Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America. UPMC Bedford Memorial, UPMC Horizon, UPMC McKeesport, UPMC Mercy, UPMC Northwest and UPMC Passavant were recognized by The Joint Commission for exemplary performance in using evidence-based clinical processes that are shown to improve care for certain conditions.

There are 1,099 hospitals, or nearly half of The Joint Commission accredited hospitals in the nation, earning this distinction for attaining and sustaining excellence in accountability measures performance. The hospitals are recognized for their achievement on the following measure sets:

  • UPMC Bedford Memorial – Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Horizon – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC McKeesport – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Mercy – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Northwest – Heart Attack, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Passavant – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care

The ratings are based on an aggregation of accountability measures reported to The Joint Commission during the 2012 calendar year. Each measure represents an evidence-based practice, such as giving aspirin at arrival for heart attack patients and giving antibiotics one hour before surgery.

“Our continuing, systemwide efforts to provide our patients with the right care at the right time is reflected in this honor,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality officer at UPMC. “But more important than any award is the fact that evidence-based medicine is producing better care for patients at all of our hospitals.”

“UPMC and all the Top Performer hospitals have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to quality improvement and they should be proud of their achievement,” says Mark R. Chassin, M.D., F.A.C.P., M.P.P., M.P.H., president and chief executive officer, The Joint Commission. “We have much to celebrate this year. Nearly half of our accredited hospitals have attained or nearly attained the Top Performer distinction. This truly shows that we are approaching a tipping point in hospital quality performance that will directly contribute to better health outcomes for patients.”

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