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UVA Honored as Center of Excellence for Bone Marrow Cancer

University of Virginia Cancer Center has earned recognition as a national center of excellence for its care of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a cancer of the bone marrow that often leads to leukemia.

UVA is the only center in Virginia to receive this designation from the MDS Foundation for the treatment of this condition, which UVA hematologist Michael Keng, MD, said is often referred to as a “bone marrow failure” disorder.

Bone marrow produces stem cells that make white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. In patients with MDS, the marrow does not produce enough healthy cells. When there are not enough healthy cells, there is an increased risk of infection, bleeding, easy bruising and anemia. Approximately 30 percent of patients diagnosed with MDS will progress to a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia.

According to the MDS Foundation website, centers of excellence have:

  • An established MDS program
  • Recognized expertise in understanding the form and structure of MDS
  • Expertise in how genes and chromosomes impact MDS
  • Ongoing research, including clinical trials
  • Researchers that have published peer-reviewed articles on MDS

UVA provides tailored care for each MDS patient through a multidisciplinary team. UVA’s care team includes medical oncologists/hematologists, pharmacists, care coordinators, nurses, infectious diseases specialists, clinical trial coordinators, and support services such as social workers, case workers, and therapists.

“UVA is devoted to providing support, research, treatment and education around MDS to all patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers,” Keng said.

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UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

About UVA Cancer Center
UVA Cancer Center is accredited by the Commission on Cancer and is one of 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in the U.S. for its work in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment. UVA Cancer Center provides comprehensive, world-class cancer treatment in an environment of caring for patients across Virginia, led by doctors who have been honored by publications such as Best Doctors in America® and America’s Top Doctors®.

Related items

  • Michigan Heart Surgery Outcomes Improved After Medicaid Expansion, Study Finds

    Expanding Medicaid coverage is associated with better outcomes for heart surgery patients, according to a study led by University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers.

    Researchers examined outcomes from heart surgery quality databases in Michigan, which expanded Medicaid, and Virginia, which did not. Outcomes in both states were reviewed over the same three-year period – the 18 months before Michigan expanded Medicaid and the first 18 months after Michigan expanded Medicaid.

    In Virginia, there were no significant changes in outcomes between the two 18-month periods. But among Michigan Medicaid patients, the risk-adjusted likelihood of a serious postoperative complication dropped by 30 percent after Medicaid expansion. Reducing complications may also help reduce the overall costs of care, the researchers said.

    How Medicaid Expansion May Impact Patient Care

    Post-expansion Michigan Medicaid patients also had a lower predicted risk of major complications or mortality, which the researchers said might reflect increased access to primary care.

    “Once covered, these patients can now access necessary preventative services and primary care, hopefully leading to improved control of chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Eric J. Charles, MD, a study co-author and surgical resident at UVA Health System. “This improvement in baseline health status prior to needing an operation may translate into lower preoperative predictive risk scores and subsequently lower postoperative rates of major complications.”

    Another possibility, he said, is that patients newly eligible for Medicaid are younger and lower-risk, which could explain the lower risk scores and better outcomes for Michigan patients in the 18 months following Medicaid expansion. An important next step in evaluating the impact of Medicaid expansion, Charles said, would be separate analyses of outcomes for Medicaid patients based on whether they qualified for Medicaid under the traditional criteria or through the expanded criteria.

    Findings Published

    The research team involved in the study included partners from the University of Michigan, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, the Virginia Cardiac Services Quality Institute and the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative.

    Charles and colleagues have described their findings online in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. The research team consisted of Charles; Lily E. Johnston MD, MPH; Morley A. Herbert PhD; J. Hunter Mehaffey, MD; Kenan W. Yount, MD, MBA; Donald S. Likosky, PhD; Patricia F. Theurer, BSN; Clifford E. Fonner, BA; Jeffrey B. Rich, MD; Alan M. Speir, MD; Gorav Ailawadi, MD; Richard L. Prager, MD; and Irving L. Kron, MD.

    The work was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, grants UM1 HL088925 and T32 HL007849; and by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, grant R01 HS022535. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network provide support for the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative.

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    UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

  • UVA Heart Failure Program Earns National Quality Awards

    For working to improve patients’ recovery times and reduce readmissions, the heart failure program at the University of Virginia Heart and Vascular Center has received two national quality awards from the American Heart Association.

    The Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Center earned the AHA’s 2017 Get With The Guidelines-Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award along with being named to the Target: Heart Failure Honor Roll.

    “Each day, our multidisciplinary heart failure team is working to provide excellent care that is tailored to the needs of each patient,” said James Bergin, MD, medical director of UVA’s heart failure/cardiac transplantation program. “It’s wonderful to see our team’s dedication recognized by the American Heart Association.”

    UVA earned the awards by meeting or exceeding research-based standards designed to help heart failure patients receive the highest-quality care and recover sooner. Standards include prescribing appropriate medications, implanting devices to help improve heart function, giving flu and pneumonia vaccinations, scheduling prompt follow-up care and providing education to help patients manage their heart failure.

    “These awards showcase the ability of our heart failure team to provide comprehensive, quality care for our patients,” said Pamela M. Sutton-Wallace, chief executive officer of UVA Medical Center.

    UVA’s team of cardiologists, heart surgeons, nurses and therapists that specialize in cardiac care provide comprehensive care and monitoring for heart failure patients tailored to their individual needs. Services include helping patients make diet and lifestyle changes, managing medications, implanting devices that can help manage heart failure and, in certain cases, coordinating heart transplants.

    After they are discharged from the hospital, heart failure patients at UVA can also benefit from a pair of follow up programs. The Hospital to Home program brings patients back to a nurse practitioner for a clinic visit four to seven days after discharge to answer questions and adjust medications as needed. For patients who live within 60 miles of UVA, the Heart Health at Home program provides regular follow-up visits from a certified nursing assistant that are supervised by a nurse practitioner.

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    UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

  • Artificial Pancreas Benefits Young Children, Trial Shows

    A pilot study among young children with Type 1 diabetes found that a University of Virginia-developed artificial pancreas helped study participants better control their condition.

    The goal of the artificial pancreas is to automatically monitor and regulate blood-sugar levels, eliminating the need for people with Type 1 diabetes to stick their fingers to check their blood sugar frequently and manually inject insulin. Developed at the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology, the platform features a reconfigured smartphone running advanced algorithms that is wirelessly linked to a blood-sugar monitor and an insulin pump worn by the patient, as well as to a remote-monitoring site.

    “In addition to automatically regulating the amount of insulin to be delivered, another important benefit of the artificial pancreas is to prevent hypoglycemic events that can have catastrophic consequences and is one of the most threatening situations for children with type 1 diabetes and their parents,” said Daniel R. Chernavvsky, MD, a UVA Center for Diabetes Technology researcher. Chernavvsky is also Chief Medical Officer of TypeZero Technologies, Inc., a digital health and personalized medicine company located in Charlottesville that has licensed the artificial pancreas system.

    The study compared how well 12 children ages 5-8 were able to control their diabetes using their usual insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor versus with an artificial pancreas adapted for use with young children with parental lockout controls. Children in the trial were followed for 68 hours at a resort using the artificial pancreas, and another 68 hours using their regular home-treatment regimen. While using the artificial pancreas, children in the study had lower average blood-sugar levels and spent more time within the target blood-sugar range without an increase in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

    “The data show that the artificial pancreas, which delivers insulin in an automated way to individuals with Type 1 diabetes, appears to be safe and effective for use in young children age 5-8 years,” said UVA School of Medicine researcher Mark DeBoer, MD. The potential next step, he said, is a study that follows children for a longer time to assess the effectiveness of the artificial pancreas during a child’s regular routine at school and home.

    As UVA researchers continue their work on an artificial pancreas for young children, enrollment is also under way for pivotal clinical trials providing the final tests for the artificial pancreas for people with Type 1 diabetes ages 14 and older.

    Findings Published

    DeBoer, Chernavvsky and colleagues have published their findings online in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. The UVA research team consisted of DeBoer; Marc D. Breton; Christian Wakeman; Elaine Schertz; Emma G. Emory; Jessica L. Robic; Laura L. Kollar; Boris P. Kovatchev; and Chernavvsky.

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    UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

  • UVA Finds Way to Dramatically Accelerate Research Into Cancer, Genetic Diseases

    A new technique developed at the University of Virginia School of Medicine will let a single cancer research lab do the work of dozens, dramatically accelerating the search for new treatments and cures. And the technique will benefit not just cancer research but research into every disease driven by gene mutations, from cystic fibrosis to Alzheimer’s disease – ultimately enabling customized treatments for patients in a way never before possible.

    The new technique lets scientists analyze the effects of gene mutations at an unprecedented scale and speed, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. For patients, this means that rather than thinking about the right drug for a certain disease, doctors will think about the right drug to treat the patient’s specific gene mutation.

    “Every patient shouldn’t receive the same treatment. No way. Not even if they have the same syndrome, the same disease,” said UVA researcher J. Julius Zhu, PhD, who led the team that created the new technique. “It’s very individual in the patient, and they have to be treated in different ways.”

    Understanding Gene Mutations

    Understanding the effect of gene mutations has, traditionally, been much like trying to figure out what an unseen elephant looks like just by touching it. Touch enough places and you might get a rough idea, but the process will be long and slow and frustrating. “The way we have had to do this is so slow,” said Zhu, of UVA’s Department of Pharmacology and the UVA Cancer Center. “You can do one gene and one mutation at a time. Now, hopefully, we can do like 40 or 100 of them simultaneously.”

    Zhu’s approach uses an HIV-like virus to replace genes with mutant genes, so that scientists can understand the effects caused by the mutation. He developed the approach, requiring years of effort, out of a desire to both speed up research and also make it possible for more labs to participate. “Even with the CRISPR [gene editing] technology we have now, it still costs a huge amount of money and time and most labs cannot do it, so we wanted to develop something simple every lab can do,” he said. “No other approach is so efficient and fast right now. You’d need to spend 10 years to do what we are doing in three months, so it’s an entirely different scale.”

    To demonstrate the effectiveness of his new technique, Zhu already has analyzed approximately 50 mutations of the BRaf gene, mutations that have been linked to tumors and to a neurodevelopmental disorder known as cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome. The work sheds important light on the role of the mutations in disease.

    Rescuing Failed Treatments

    Zhu’s new technique may even let researchers revisit failed experimental treatments, determine why they failed and identify patients in which they will be effective. It may be that a treatment didn’t work because the patient didn’t have the right mutation, or because the treatment didn’t affect the gene in the right way. It’s not as simple as turning a gene on or off, Zhu noted; instead, a treatment must prompt the right amount of gene activity, and that may require prodding a gene to do more or pulling on the reins so that it does less.

    “The problem in the cancer field is that they have many high-profile papers of clinical trials [that] all failed in some way,” he said. “We wondered why in these patients sometimes it doesn’t work, that with the same drug some patients are getting better and some are getting worse. The reason is that you don’t know which drugs are going to help with their particular mutation. So that would be true precision medicine: You have the same condition, the same syndrome, but a different mutation, so you have to use different drugs.”

    Findings Published

    Zhu and his team have described the technique in an article published in the scientific journal Genes & Development, making it available to scientists around the world. The paper was written by Chae-Seok Lim, Xi Kang, Vincent Mirabella, Huaye Zhang, Qian Bu, Yoichi Araki, Elizabeth T. Hoang, Shiqiang Wang, Ying Shen, Sukwoo Choi, Bong-Kiun Kaang, Qiang Chang, Zhiping P. Pang, Richard L. Huganir and Zhu.

    The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Honor Scientist Program of Korea, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health, grants MH108321, NS065183, NS089578, HD064743, AA023797, MH64856, NS036715, NS053570, NS091452 and NS092548.

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    UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

  • UVA’s Excellence in Cancer Nets $15 Million Grant

     University of Virginia Cancer Center has again been honored as one of just 69 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers for its work researching new and better cancer treatments.

    “The NCI-designated cancer centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources, and the depth and breadth of their research in basic, clinical, and/or population science,” according to the NCI’s website. “The cancer centers develop and translate scientific knowledge from promising laboratory discoveries into new treatments for cancer patients.”

    Renewal as an NCI-designated cancer center includes a five-year, $15 million grant to support research, recruitment of faculty, education and clinical trials. The previous five-year grant from NCI helped UVA recruit 10 new researchers as well as provide seed funding to launch new research projects that were then able to earn additional grant money from external sources.

    UVA Cancer Center was re-designated by NCI after submitting a 1,200-page application highlighting its work over the past five years and its plans for the next five. NCI also conducted a daylong site visit where 20 reviewers from NCI and other cancer centers reviewed UVA’s work and plans.

    In the coming years, the UVA Cancer Center team – which encompasses more than 180 researchers from 22 academic departments – will seek to expand its research enterprise. UVA’s goal is to become an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which recognize cancer centers with a wider array of multidisciplinary research.

    “The successful renewal is the result of the efforts of multiple teams working together. This is a tremendous testament to our ability to work collaboratively across multiple clinical, administrative and educational departments,” said Thomas P. Loughran Jr., MD, director of UVA Cancer Center. “It is an honor to lead such a vibrant and dynamic center, and we will continue to build the framework needed to achieve our vision of becoming a Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

    ####

    UVA Health System is an academic health system that includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. UVA is recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

    About UVA Cancer Center
    UVA Cancer Center is accredited by the Commission on Cancer and is one of 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in the U.S. for its work in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment. UVA Cancer Center provides comprehensive, world-class cancer treatment in an environment of caring for patients across Virginia, led by doctors who have been honored by publications such as Best Doctors in America® and America’s Top Doctors®.

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