Posts filed under ‘Research’
With a growing need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, Penn State is fostering an interest in these fields among high school students through the Epidemiology Challenge, a program within the Department of Public Health Sciences at the College of Medicine.
Through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, Penn State’s Early Preparation and Inspiration for Careers in the Biomedical Sciences (EPIC) program’s Epi Challenge offers area high school students a look into the world of epidemiology, used in biomedical and public health research. At the same time, Penn State Hershey researchers are tracking the students’ interest, progress and aptitude for science careers.
“There’s a decrease in people pursuing these careers and majors,” said Andrea L. Stennett, Penn State coach for the Epi Challenge teams at Middletown Area High School.
EPIC is the product of a collaboration of experts in epidemiology, secondary education, and career development, representing Penn State, Montclair State University, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Educators and administrators at five area high schools have been instrumental in shaping the EPIC program, including Middletown, Cedar Cliff, Lower Dauphin, John Harris and Sci Tech.
According to the National Science Foundation, the country may face a crisis due to an eventual deficit of epidemiologists – specialists who study the causes and effects of public health issues.
Through the course of the Epi Challenge, teams of students from the five area high schools identify an important health-related topic, develop a hypothesis, create a research proposal, gather and analyze data, and draw conclusions regarding their study results.
On Wednesday, Jan. 14, Penn State Hershey held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a 46,000-square-foot, $54-million data center on the Medical Center and College of Medicine campus. The construction of the University Technology Center is the next step to enabling Penn State Hershey to utilize “big data” to enhance patient care through disease modeling and predictors for disease by more efficiently processing and analyzing clinical information.
The new center will provide centralized space and enhanced security for patient, research and educational data for the Medical Center and College of Medicine, as well as powerful computers and main frames for analyzing the information.
“Building this new data center is every bit as crucial for improving the health outcomes of people in central Pennsylvania as building a new hospital or institute,” said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, chief executive officer, Medical Center, Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs and dean, College of Medicine. “Two of the biggest factors in modern health care are personalized medicine and population health, and the common denominator with both is the ability to gather and analyze large volumes of rich health data.”
“I just didn’t believe that this support existed,” she says. “It was a dream come true, but even more.”
THON, or the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is an annual fundraising event that supports the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The Four Diamonds Fund supports the families of children with cancer Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research at the College of Medicine. The 2014 THON, held this past weekend in State College, raised a record $13,343,517.33 for the Four Diamonds Fund.
With the help of THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, Dr. Brown is growing a cutting-edge experimental therapeutics program for pediatric patients with cancer and has brought the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. A consortium is a collaboration of physicians and scientists with different areas of expertise working together around a specific disease or type of disease. In a translational research approach, scientists and others work across their fields of study to move discoveries made in the laboratory to use in patients, and take what they learn with patient populations back to the lab for further study.
One of the goals of the consortium is to improve the outcomes for children with cancer by quickly determining a specialized treatment.
“A lot of treatment for patients with a disease that has come back or mutated is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic after it hits the iceberg,” says Dr. Brown. “You can’t avoid the iceberg, and so you need to have better lifeboats. Early phase clinical trials help us to build a better lifeboat.” (more…)
Hong-Gang Wang, Ph.D., director of the molecular oncology program at Penn State College of Medicine, has the same energy and devotion as THON participants about finding the cure for pediatric cancer.
“THON is not simply a fundraising event, it generates inspiration,” he says.
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or THON, is an annual fundraising event that supports the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The Four Diamonds Fund supports families of children with cancer at the Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research at the College of Medicine.
Wang has been studying pediatric cancer since he arrived at the College of Medicine in 2008. As a father, he understands what families with sick children endure. As a researcher, he always looks towards the future. His research focuses on autophagy, a process where the cancer cells eat themselves, resulting in a recycling process.
“Autophagy helps tumor cells survive the assaults of treatment,” Wang says. Cancer treatment causes stress to the cancer cells, which is supposed to kill them. Through autophagy, cancer cells are relieved from this stress and recycle toxic materials for survival.
Moving discoveries to market: How investments in commercialization support can lead to better health
Just as musicians get pleasure from playing in a symphony, researchers at Penn State Hershey enjoy working in an environment of regular discoveries, developments and technological advances.
But just as music doesn’t reach its full potential without an audience to hear it, the discoveries of Penn State Hershey’s faculty, students and staff benefit few if the ideas developed on campus don’t reach the marketplace.
As federal funding for research has decreased in recent years, the College of Medicine has increased its commercialization efforts through the Office of Technology Development to ensure that its most promising work reaches those it is intended to benefit. Penn State Hershey Dean and CEO Dr. Harold L. Paz, stated that innovation in biotechnology provides the regional economy with ideas, investment and jobs that can drive economic growth and vitality.
In 2011, the College of Medicine named Keith Marmer director of an office that previously managed some contracts with licensing mostly handled by staff in State College.
“There really wasn’t the hands-on support we can now offer,” Marmer said.
Now, he leads a team that evaluates campus research and protects the intellectual property developed there. His office works to commercialize what is known as translational medicine – looking for ways to take drugs, discoveries and techniques from the lab or clinic to market. (more…)
Highlights from across all four parts of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s mission were at the center of this week’s annual public board of directors meeting. Dr. Harold L. Paz, CEO of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System, Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs, and dean, Penn State College of Medicine, addressed faculty, staff and community members. Paz discussed how new and expanded collaborations, growth in its clinical and research missions, and the presence of the first group of medical students in State College were all part of a successful 2011-12 fiscal year.
The presentation also included the following videos, each highlighting a key story from the past year:
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Imagine if various types of cancer were caused by a common, though currently unknown, virus. The implications for treatment options and methods of prevention could be enormous. The discovery of infectious agents, such as the human papillomavirus as the root cause of cervical cancer, opens the door to the idea that other viruses might be at work in the genesis of cancer development.
This theory is about to be tested further by Thomas P. Loughran, M.D., and his colleagues at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. But Loughran is no stranger to being at the forefront of cancer research.
The LGL discovery
As outlined in this previous Penn State Medicine article, Loughran, who is a professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and director of the Cancer Institute, is responsible for the discovery of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia while he was an oncology fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. He has spent most of his career researching the development of the disease and establishing a treatment protocol, which has allowed many patients to live healthier and more productive lives. In 2003, he started an LGL leukemia registry to keep track of patient outcomes.
One of the most challenging aspects of LGL leukemia is getting an accurate diagnosis. Patients often present with chronic symptoms, such as joint pain, fevers, and immune system problems that can be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or aplastic anemia.
“The diagnosis is clouded by the fact that the symptoms are not obvious,” Loughran says. “Patients can have morbidity with tiredness, shortness of breath, pain, and swelling of the joints. Ten to 30 percent have classic RA. This is a chronic disease, though, with a major complication being infections.”
A diagnosis of LGL leukemia is not difficult to come by if medical professionals know what to look for, which is an increased number of LGL cells that can be seen on a blood smear. But because this can easily be overlooked in basic blood tests, it often takes a recurrence of symptoms before an accurate diagnosis of LGL leukemia is reached. (more…)