Funding for collaborative medical research announced at Marshall University

Translational research aims to transfer discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside quickly

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine officials today announced $150,000 in funding for six research grants associated with the school’s translational medicine research program.

The Marshall Health Translational Pilot Grant program, created in 2012, encourages collaborative research between basic scientists and clinical physicians in an effort to speed up the process of laboratory discovery to clinical application for patients.  The grants are funded by Marshall Health.

“We are very pleased that Marshall Health has created this grant program to stimulate research efforts,” said Richard M. Niles, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at the School of Medicine. “Moving Marshall to the next level of medical research takes vision, commitment and of course, funding.  This grant allows 12 researchers, as well as medical residents and students, the opportunity to explore very diverse areas.”

Marshall Health is the faculty practice plan for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and supports the clinical, educational, research and services missions of the school.  Beth Hammers, executive director of the organization, says the pilot grant program provides one year of support at $25,000 for each grantee, with additional funding based on progress of the research.

“Medical research is essential to the development of new medical treatments and cures for patients,” Hammers said.  “We are thrilled to help stimulate a robust, viable grant program which pairs basic scientists from Marshall University with School of Medicine physicians to work on projects which will lead to the betterment of our community.”

The investigators and their projects are listed below:

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Anthony Alberico, Department of Neuroscience – “Chemotherapy resistance and sensitivity testing in tumors of the central nervous system”

Dr. Elaine Hardman, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. James Jensen, Department of Surgery – “Feasibility and Safety of Nutritional Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Reduce Prostate Specific Antigen Rise in Men with Biochemical Failure after Prostatectomy or External-Beam Radiotherapy”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Paulette Wehner, Department of Cardiology – “Perivascular Fat Relation to Hypertension—Appalachian Heart Study”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Abid Yaqub, Department of Medicine, Endocrinology Section – “Impact of Technology-based Behavioral Intervention on Molecular and Clinical Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes”

Dr. Monica Valentovic, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Brenda Dawley, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology – “Prenatal Exposure to Heavy Metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) Alter Umbilical Cord Blood Levels of Thyroid Hormone and Vitamin D”

Dr. Hongwei Yu, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Yoram Elitser, Department of Pediatrics – “Investigate the distribution of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) in American children and the presence of SFB with childhood diseases”

Other current translational research under way at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine includes a partnership with the University of Kentucky (UK) as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards program, which also is aimed at speeding the time for laboratory discoveries to benefit patients.

In 2011, UK and its partners received $20 million for the program to support research at UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, making Marshall part of a select national biomedical research network.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964, or Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

Biomedical sciences doctoral students take top awards at regional conference


Contact: 
Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964, or  Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine & Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two biomedical sciences doctoral students from Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine captured first place in both categories of a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference.

They were among more than 40 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Marshall, West Virginia University, University of Kentucky and Ohio University competing at the conference, which was held Oct. 12 at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine biomedical sciences Ph.D. students Johannes Fahrmann, standing, and Rounak Nande, seated, captured first place in their respective categories at a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference. Fahrmann won the oral presentation category and Nande took first place in the poster category.

Marshall biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann received first place in the oral presentation category of the competition for a presentation about his research to explore the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in late stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rounak Nande, who is also a doctoral student in the university’s biomedical sciences program, was awarded first place in the poster category for a poster describing his project to help develop a delivery system for targeted gene therapy to improve the treatment of prostate cancer. 

Fahrmann said the conference was a valuable experience and he hopes to continue his involvement with the event in the future. 

“The conference was aimed at networking, collaborations and showcasing the research being conducted by students at the attending universities,” he added. “I was given the honor and privilege to represent Marshall University through an oral presentation describing my cancer research, and was very pleased to receive the overall award. Neither the award nor the conference itself could have come to fruition without the dedicated work of the organizing committee, which included our own graduate student Allison Wolf.”

He also expressed appreciation to his faculty mentor, Dr. Elaine Hardman, Marshall professor of biochemistry and microbiology. 

Hardman praised Fahrmann’s work, saying, “Johannes is an outstanding senior graduate student who will do well in research. The presentation he made was completely his own work—he developed the idea, wrote a grant, obtained the funding to do the work and has excellent results. His work has clear clinical relevance and, we hope, will apply to enhancing cancer therapy in the near future. He is a leader in the department and an outstanding role model for the younger graduate students. I am delighted with his success and to have him for a student.”

Nande said of the experience, “I, too, felt privileged to take part in the first-ever ARCC conference put together by the four universities. I would like to thank my mentor at Marshall, Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, and my collaborators from the Tri-State Regional Cancer Center in Ashland, Ky., Dr. Michael Gossman and Dr. Jeffrey Lopez, for having confidence in me to present our research.”

Claudio, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology and director of the McKown Translational Genomics Research Institute, said he was pleased with Nande’s success at the conference and emphasized the potential importance of the student’s research.

“A major challenge for effective gene therapy is the ability to specifically deliver nucleic acids and potentially toxic gene products directly into diseased tissue. This system Ron helped develop in our lab allows for the specific delivery of smart biological drugs to diseased tissues using the blood stream. The advantage of this technique is that the therapeutic viruses are released in a concentrated manner in the diseased tissue, eliciting an enhanced therapeutic effect while minimizing complications,” added Claudio.

Two additional Marshall graduate students, Kristeena Ray and Sarah Mathis, were selected as winners in their categories of the poster competition—Ray for a poster showcasing her research into the role of epigenetics in endometriosis-associated pain and Mathis for a poster describing her work to help develop a test that could make possible individualized chemotherapy treatments. Ray works in the lab of Dr. Nalini Santanam, Marshall professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology. Claudio serves as Mathis’s faculty mentor.

The conference was organized and hosted by the four institutions with the goal of expanding the field of cell biology research and fostering interactions among scientists at the universities in the Ohio Valley/mid-Appalachian region. In addition to the oral and poster presentations, the program featured keynote speaker Dr. Vinay Pathak, a senior investigator in HIV drug resistance at the National Cancer Institute, and networking opportunities for more than 80 students and faculty members who participated in the program. The conference was funded through a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology.

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Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio explores gene therapy ‘cocktail’ for feline fibrosarcoma

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A team of researchers led by a Marshall University faculty member has found that a gene therapy “cocktail” may hold the key to treating feline fibrosarcoma—an aggressive type of cancer that affects thousands of cats in the U.S. each year. Current therapies for the disease are often ineffective for long-term tumor eradication.

The research was conducted by Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and colleagues from the McKown Translational Research Institute at the school of medicine, the university’s Department of Biology, the Martin Veterinary Clinic in Ashland, Ky., and the University of L’Aquila in Italy.

According to Claudio, there are two types of feline fibrosarcomas. The most common type has been linked to the use of vaccines administered to prevent rabies and feline leukemia, and occurs at the site of the injection. The second type appears to occur spontaneously, without any known external cause.

The study at Marshall focused on the more rare, non-vaccination site fibrosarcomas, which have been found to be associated with genetic alterations. It seemed a natural fit for Claudio, whose research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the growth of cancers to help develop new strategies for treatment.

“Gene therapy, which we study in my lab, uses genetic and cell-based technologies to treat disease,” he said. “Essentially, we were able to develop a cocktail of adenoviruses carrying functional therapeutic proteins that can be used to eliminate this deadly disease.”

Claudio pointed out that more studies need to be done to determine if his lab’s findings could also be applicable to cases of vaccine-induced fibrosarcomas.

The research was published yesterday in the journal PLoS ONE. The full article, “Targeting a newly established spontaneous feline fibrosarcoma cell line by gene transfer,” is available online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037743.

Claudio is in Italy this week to present three invited lectures about his research. He will be speaking at the National Cancer Institute and the CEINGE Institute in Naples, and at the meeting “Fragment of history:  Seminar on the oral medicine of the past and of the future” in Sorrento.

For more information, contact Claudio at claudiop@marshall.edu or 304-696-3516.

Drs. Claudio and Dasgupta to lead sessions at bioscience conferences

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University cancer researchers Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio and Dr. Piyali Dasgupta have been invited to lead sessions at two upcoming international conferences.

Claudio, who is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, will lead a session, “Cancer Biology and Therapy,” as part of the World Molecular & Cell Biology Online Conference later this month.

The conference will feature more than 60 professors and researchers giving oral presentations during 14 sessions spread over three days.

Claudio, who directs a laboratory in the new Charles H. McKown, M.D., Translational Genomic Research Institute at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center, will also give a talk, “Developing an Effective Targeted Gene Therapy System for Prostate Cancer with the Potential to Translate from the Laboratory to the Clinic,” during the program.

Research in Claudio’s lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the development of cancers to help develop new strategies for treatment.
Dasgupta, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacol­ogy, Physiology and Toxicology, will co-chair a minisymposium titled “Modeling Cancer: Biological and Therapeutic Implications” at the Experimental Biology Conference to be held in San Diego in April.

The annual conference draws more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from universities, government agencies, private corporations and non-profit organizations.

Dasgupta’s research examines how the components of tobacco can promote the progression of lung cancer. In 2011, she was recognized with the university’s “John and Frances Rucker Graduate Advisor Award.”

For more information, contact Claudio at (304) 696-3516 or claudiop@marshal.edu, or Dasgupta at (304) 696-3612 or dasgupta@marshall.edu.

New Translational Genomic Research Institute named in honor of dean

Robert C. Nerhood, Interim DeanThe new Charles H. McKown, Jr., M.D., Translational Genomic Research Institute at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine was dedicated in a ceremony yesterday.

The facility was named in honor of McKown, who served as the school’s dean for more than 22 years before becoming Marshall’s vice president for health sciences advancement this summer.

The Marshall University Board of Governors cited McKown’s “extraordinary service to the University” in approving the facility’s naming.

Dr. Robert C. Nerhood, interim dean of the medical school, said McKown’s contributions to the medical school were many.

“His uncanny ability to almost instantaneously perceive convoluted relationships and unintended consequences of simple or complex actions has ideally suited him to be an eminently successful dean of a community-based medical school in West Virginia,” he said. “I am not at all sure that this talent can again be found.”

Nerhood said the genomic research facility is an outgrowth of McKown’s vision and advocacy.

“Dr. McKown foresaw the importance of the new field of translational research in the area of cancer care,” and then worked with philanthropist Joan Edwards and U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd to turn that vision into reality, he said.

Richard Niles, Ph.D.In addition to Nerhood, speakers at the dedication ceremony included Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp; Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for research and graduate education at the medical school, and professor and chair of the university’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology; Edward Seiler, director of the Huntington VA Medical Center; and McKown.

Videotaped greetings were given by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III and U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall II. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was represented by Jacqueline Proctor, his director of communications.

A reception and tours of the facility followed the dedication ceremony.

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. candidateThe Charles H. McKown, Jr., M.D., Translational Genomic Research Institute is located on the top floor of the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. Completed this summer, it includes more than 10,000 square feet of research space and has advanced scientific equipment including a “next-generation” genetic sequencer. Several university researchers already are working at the institute.

In addition to naming the facility after McKown, the medical school has established a scholarship in his honor.

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio presents oral cancer research in Italy

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University faculty member Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio recently returned from Italy, where he gave two presentations of his research at the International Congress of the Italian Society of Pathology and Oral Medicine.

The conference, which was held June 16-18 in Pugnochiuso, Italy, featured the most recent scientific findings in oral medicine, pathology, maxillofacial surgery, oral surgery and dental hygiene.

Claudio is an associate professor in the cancer biology research cluster at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and directs a laboratory in the new Translational Genomic Research Institute at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His presentations, which were titled “Cancer stem cells and oral cancer” and “Novel therapies in oral squamous cell carcinoma,” highlighted a discovery in his lab of how to isolate and propagate cancer stem cells.

According to Claudio, this advance allows for a two-pronged approach in the fight against oral cancer.

He said, “We can now test and select the most effective chemotherapy options available to eradicate not only the traditional target of tumor bulk but also the highly resistant cancer stem cells we now know to be the major source of recurrence and treatment failure due to their ability to regrow the tumor population. Our research offers the promise of personalized cancer treatment options for the individual cancer patient’s needs.”

Claudio added that attending the conference and giving the seminars in Italy also gave him the opportunity to highlight the research being done at Marshall.

“This is just one example of the strides we hope to gain through the Translational Genomic Research Institute – translating what we learn in the lab directly to improving bedside care,” he said. “We also have recently entered into a Phase I clinical trial for the customized treatment of small cell lung cancer, so that is very exciting as well.”