Cuts to NIH Program Could Disrupt Infectious Disease Research at Mass General and Around the World

Mass General researchers working to stop the spread of infectious disease are worried that proposed cuts to the NIH budget would eliminate a key resource for global health efforts.

PIC Group 2008.jpg
Drs. Stephen Calderwood, Ed Ryan, Regina LaRocque, Ana Weil, and researchers at the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Back in the 1950s, there was a global effort to control mosquito populations with the hope of eradicating mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Unfortunately, the program was stopped before its goals could be met. Fast forward to the present where the issue of mosquito-borne diseases in some countries is much bigger than it was 50 years ago.

Investigators working to stop the spread of infectious disease around the world, including those at Massachusetts General Hospital, are worried that this same cycle could repeat itself if President Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget are approved, which would eliminate the Fogarty International Center, a key resource for global health efforts.

“To avoid repeating the same mistake with infectious diseases, we must look ahead and provide the resources necessary now to find an answer to Ebola, HIV, cholera and many other diseases internationally,” explains Stephen Calderwood, MD, former Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Mass General.

“People are often unaware of what has been prevented, since by definition what has been prevented has not occurred,” adds Edward Ryan, MD, Director of Global Infectious Disease at Mass General. “The U.S. has and will continue to dodge bullets because of the Fogarty. We would be short-sighted to let this defensive wall fall.”

Closing the Fogarty could put an end to decades of progress into international infectious disease research, say advocates at Mass General. Moreover, doctors and scientists from at-risk countries could face even more barriers to conducting their own research and finding solutions that could directly benefit their communities and curb the spread of infectious diseases around the world. Continue reading “Cuts to NIH Program Could Disrupt Infectious Disease Research at Mass General and Around the World”

Revolutionizing Care at Mass General

Four pillars of MGH

Massachusetts General Hospital was established to provide care to Boston’s sick, regardless of socioeconomic status—an innovative idea in 1811. In the words of our founder, Dr. John Warren, “When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor.” We then became the first teaching hospital for Harvard University’s new medical school and have been redefining excellence in health care ever since.

Today we remain committed to that mission through our four pillars: we provide exceptional patient care, perform more medical research than any other hospital, educate tomorrow’s brightest medical minds and maintain a deep-seated commitment to the community.

Watch for our #RevolutionizingCare series over the coming weeks as we highlight the ways our dedicated, talented staff are upholding our mission to care, investigate, educate and serve.

Research Awards and Honors: August 2017

Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:

Banister.jpg

Gaurdia Banister, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, executive director of the MGH Institute for Patient Care and director of the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research, has been named the inaugural incumbent of the Connell-Jones Endowed Chair in Nursing and Patient Care Research. The Department of Nursing and Patient Care celebrated the establishment of the chair June 26 at the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation. The establishment of the chair is the second endowed chair in the Department of Nursing and Patient Care and will help advance the nursing profession and patient-and-family-centered-care through a diverse range of research programs. (Pictured from left: Britain Nicholson, MD, senior vice president for Development; Margot C. Connell, the donor; Banister; and Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, chief nurse and senior vice president of Patient Care Services)

“It is impossible to put into words how honored and humbled I feel to have been chosen as the Connell- Jones Endowed Chair for Nursing and Patient Care Research. Advancing nursing knowledge and using that knowledge to deliver exemplary patient care is extremely important to me. One of my research interests is understanding and eliminating the barriers that compromise African American nurses and nursing students from achieving their full potential as clinicians and nurse leaders. Although minorities constitute 37 percent of the country’s population, minority nurses make up only 16.8 percent of the total nurse population. The disparity is even greater in leadership positions. Lack of access to health care providers who can deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate care can adversely contribute to existing health disparities. Improving the diversity of the nursing profession to meet the needs of patients and their families and eliminating these disparities are essential.”

GatchelJennifer Gatchel, MD, PhD, Mass General psychiatrist, has received the Outstanding Emerging Researcher Award from the BrightFocus Foundation. She presented her latest research during a June 8 reception and dinner event at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

“Improving the lives of older adult patients with depression, anxiety, and changes in memory and thinking is my central motivation as a Geriatric Psychiatrist and physician scientist. Towards this goal, my research at MGH focuses on better understanding the earliest mood and behavioral symptoms in older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  I am doing this by using a combination of clinical measures and novel brain imaging technology that enables visualization of disease-associated proteins in the brains of living older adults. The ultimate goal of my research is to translate this knowledge into ways to better prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and to promote healthy brain aging in vulnerable older adults.

I was thrilled and extremely honored to be recognized as the Outstanding Emerging Research Scientist by the Bright Focus Foundation in recognition of my work. This award has provided critical support to me as junior investigator.  It has helped make it possible for me to begin to develop an area of important research to benefit our aging population and their families—central to my mission as a Geriatric Psychiatrist.”

Hata.jpgAaron Hata, MD, PhD, of the Mass General Cancer Center, has received a 2017 Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The awardees distinguish themselves by the rigor of their research endeavors and their commitment to future excellence as independent clinical researchers in the biomedical field. The award makes possible for recipients to dedicate 75 percent of their professional time to clinical research at a time when they are facing competing priorities as both researcher and clinical care provider.

“My research focuses on understanding how drug resistance develops in lung cancer patients whose tumors have mutations in the EGFR gene. Over the past decade, a number of new “EGFR-targeted” drugs have been developed that are able to initially shrink these tumors, however, they invariably stop working and relapse occurs. We are trying to understand how some cells are able to persist during treatment and ultimately grow back.

I am thrilled to receive a Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This award will enable us to generate a high-resolution understanding of how individual tumor cells evolve in patients over the course of treatment. Ultimately our goal is to develop new therapies that can target these surviving cells early before drug resistance is able to develop.”

LiangSteven H. Liang, PhD, of the Department of Radiology, has received the 2017 Early Career Award in Chemistry of Drug Abuse and Addiction from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The award is to facilitate basic chemistry research applied to drug abuse and addiction.

“My scientific interests are radiochemistry, nuclear medicine and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging – a key and fast-growing ground for translational science and precision medicine in patient care. I have developed several novel radiolabeling technologies and PET imaging biomarkers to access important biological targets that were previously inaccessible.

As the recipient of 2017 Early Career Award in Chemistry of Drug Abuse and Addiction (ECHEM award) from NIH, my team will develop and translate new PET biomarkers for imaging an important biological enzyme, monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) in the endocannabinoid system. MAGL inhibition has recently emerged as a therapeutic strategy to treat drug addiction, substance-use disorders as well as neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. I am thankful to the NIH for this support which will help us develop an imaging tool which we hope can be progressed for translational human imaging studies and used to investigate underlying mechanisms of MAGL-linked diseases.”

Pittet.jpgMikael Pittet, PhD, Samana Cay MGH Research Scholar, of the Center for Systems Biology, has received the inaugural MGH Principal Investigator Mentoring Award. This award is given to a principal investigator who has contributed to the success of PhD graduate students at Mass General.

Mikael Pittet’s laboratory at Center for Systems Biology studies the role of the immune system in cancer. Established in 2007, the Pittet laboratory has made several discoveries, which indicate new ways to successfully treat cancer with immunotherapy. Mikael also directs the Cancer Immunology Program at CSB and currently mentors three PhD students.

“I am greatly honored to be the recipient of this inaugural mentoring award. I am lucky to work with the most terrific students, and grateful about the fact that they nominated me. Thank you, team!”

SippoDorothy Sippo, MD, MPH, a Radiologist in Breast Imaging, has been awarded an Association of University Radiologists GE Radiology Research Academic Fellowship Award. The fellowships help radiologists by strengthening the research interest of radiologist-investigators by broadening their opportunities for continuing scholarship and by fostering original clinical and health services research in technology assessment, health and economic outcome methods and decision analysis.

“My project entitled, ‘Development and Assessment of an Automated Outcomes Feedback Application to Optimize Radiologist Performance Using Digital Tomosynthesis with Mammography,’ aims to automatically provide mammographers with feedback about the outcomes of their patients (whether or not breast cancer is ultimately diagnosed). The goal of this feedback is to enable continuous learning integrated into the patient care setting to aid mammographers in providing the highest quality care.

It is thanks to the strength and diversity of our research team, bringing together mentors and collaborators from the MGH Radiology Department, Harvard Medical and Public Health Schools that we have been able to formulate this informatics feedback intervention. It is being built into the electronic system breast imagers use for reporting. The GERRAF will support my study of radiologists using the feedback application for one year, with in-depth quantitative and qualitative analyses. My goal is for it to be an important stepping stone to future independent research funding.”

Making Migraines Less of a Headache: Researchers Find New Way to Predict Migraine Attacks

20412581 - portrait of stressed young housewife in modern kitchen

If you’ve ever felt the pulsating pain, nausea and blinding light sensitivity that comes with a migraine, you’re not alone. In the US, more than 37 million people get these severe headache attacks that can last for several hours at a time.

If you’ve experienced migraines, you also know that their arrival can be sudden and unpredictable. Now a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has developed a new forecasting model that has the potential to pinpoint when a migraine will strike by tracking an individual’s stress levels over time.

While more work is needed before the model is ready for clinical use, a system that reliably predicts the onset of migraines could provide much needed relief for chronic migraine sufferers.

About Migraines

Migraines are more than just a bad headache – they are an incapacitating collection of neurological symptoms that affect 18% of American women and 6% of men, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Symptoms range from flashes of light, one-sided throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and much more. Migraine attacks can be incredibly painful and debilitating, sometimes confining the sufferer to a darkened room until the symptoms subside. More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine.

Doctors know that certain genes can make some individuals more susceptible to getting migraines, and potential migraine triggers can include stress, hormone fluctuations, lack of sleep and certain foods. However, predicting the exact cause and time of an individual migraine attack remains difficult. To make matters worse, preventative drugs that help to nip a migraine in the bud are only effective when taken at the onset of symptoms.

Developing and Testing a Forecast Model

Because perceived stress has received considerable attention for its association with the onset of headaches, a team of researchers led by Tim Houle, PhD, Associate Professor of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, developed a forecasting model for predicting future migraine attacks based on current levels of stress and head pain.

To test out the model, the team recruited 95 participants with a history of migraines. Participants were asked to keep a daily diary recording the frequency and intensity of their stress levels and presence/absence of any head pain. Each variable was measured using a specific scale.

Of the 4,195 days of analyzed diary data, participants experienced a migraine on 1,613 of these days (38.5%).  By analyzing participants’ self reported stress levels, the research team found statistically significant evidence that stress was greater in the days leading up to a reported migraine.

What This Means for Migraine Sufferers

The results provide the first statistically significant evidence that individual headache attacks can be forecasted within an individual sufferer. However, Houle cautions that the predictive model needs to be refined before it can be of widespread clinical use, and for now should be viewed as a first step in a new venture of forecasting migraine attacks.

In the future, a reliable forecasting model could be used to improve treatment options, reduce anxiety about the unpredictability of attacks and increase an individual’s confidence in their ability to self-manage migraine attacks.

Read the full study here

Shining a Light on MS-Related Fatigue

When the days are short and daylight is scant in the winter months, using special lamps that create artificial sunlight can help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder — commonly referred to as the winter blues. But could light therapy serve a grander purpose and help treat the debilitating symptoms associated with neurological diseases?

Farrah Photo MGH_clinical trials website
Farrah J. Mateen, MD, PhD

Farrah J. Mateen, MD, PhD, Associate Director of the MGH Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Harvard Medical School, is investigating the impact of light therapy on multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative condition of the central nervous system with no known cure.

In MS, damage to the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers causes communication problems between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. The disease is primarily diagnosed in women in their 20s to 40s, and is a leading cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. Celebrities including Jamie Lynn-Sigler, Ann Romney and Jack Osbourne have all publicly discussed their personal struggles with MS.

Signs and symptoms vary widely and usually come and go in a relapsing and remitting pattern. The most commonly reported symptom is fatigue — more than a quarter of people living with MS report fatigue as their most disabling symptom. MS-related fatigue is unique in that it can strike even after a restful night’s sleep, it can come on suddenly and severely, and it often occurs on a daily basis.

Given the substantial impact fatigue has on MS patients’ everyday life, Dr. Mateen has focused her efforts to determine whether light therapy could be a potential treatment option for the symptom. She hypothesizes that light therapy could improve fatigue by stimulating receptors in the frontal lobes of the brain, where fatigue is thought to be localized. It could also help set the circadian rhythm and aid with sleep.

“Light therapy has already had positive results in other diseases, such as Parkinson’s, where fatigue is a key symptom,” explains Mateen. She’s optimistic that, given the similarities between the two diseases, light therapy could also improve quality of life for patients with MS.

Light box photo.png
Light therapy box

Her current study, funded by grants from the National MS Society and the Department of Neurology’s Spark Grant (with co-principal investigator, Aleksander Videnovic, MD, MSc, a Mass General-based sleep and neurodegenerative diseases expert), provides participants with a lightbox that can be placed on a desk or a table. Participants sit in front of either a dim red light or white light for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening each day for four weeks and are asked to record their fatigue levels daily using a 10-point scale. Light therapy boxes can be used at home or work and participants can eat, watch TV, etc. during use.

Mateen and her team aim to enroll 50 participants, a number Mateen thinks they can easily meet.

“We have a backlog of people waiting to be in the study”, says Mateen. “An advantage of studying MS is the high number of dedicated patients who want to be part of research. Currently there’s really no good treatment for fatigue in MS. Of the few available medications, some are potentially habit-forming stimulants, which MS patients should be cautious of because it could interfere with other medications they’re already taking.”

Children with MS also have few medical options for treating their fatigue, and most trials for new treatments are deemed too risky to test on kids. Mateen’s future research interests are to also address MS-related fatigue in children, given how disabling the symptom can be for this population.

“Light therapy trials would provide an opportunity for kids to actually be part of a study that could help them, and help other kids. In my mind, it makes just as much sense to test light therapy on kids — if we see positive results, it could be a viable a treatment option for both kids and adults.”

Six Selfish Reasons to Communicate Science

41533886_ml

The Union of Concerned Scientists blog recently published a post discussing ways in which communicating science can benefit the scientist. Here are a few of our takeaways from this great article:

  1. Engaging in science communication helps to hone your communication skills, so you can nail that job interview or research proposal
  2. It’s a great way to develop expertise in your subject area—a broad familiarity with the field, what others are doing in it,
  3. It can help you draw connections between disparate subjects and help you discover new avenues for your research
  4. It can help you gain exposure – a recent study showed that using social media can increase your scientific impact, and that media coverage of papers can lead to more citations.
  5. It can help you network with other scientists and learn about new opportunities.
  6. The support and enthusiasm you receive by engaging with the scientific community can keep you motivated during challenges and setbacks.

You can read the full article here.

How else can scientists benefit from talking about their science in lay-friendly terms? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sniffing Out the Root Cause of Malnutrition in Patients with Kidney Disease

Nigwekar quoto (1).png

Have you noticed that your sense of taste can get thrown off when you’re sick with a stuffy nose? That’s because the majority of a food’s flavor comes from our ability to smell it.

Could a similar connection between smell and taste explain why kidney disease patients often lose their interest in food, reporting that it has little flavor or an unpleasant taste? In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers share new findings about the link between loss of appetite and loss of smell in these patients.

Here are five things to know:

  1. More than 25 million adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease, with more than half a million requiring dialysis. While kidney disease is challenging enough on its own, many patients also suffer from malnutrition at the same time. “Poor dietary intake leading to malnutrition is common in these patients, but there currently are no effective treatments addressing these complications,” says first author Sagar Nigwekar, MD, of the Mass General Division of Nephrology. Despite the known connection between sense of smell and taste, little research has been done to investigate the impact of loss of smell on nutrition in patients with kidney disease.
  1. To better understand this potential association, Nigwekar, senior author Teodor Păunescu, PhD, also of Mass General Nephrology, and their team enrolled 160 participants with either end-stage kidney disease on dialysis, chronic kidney disease not yet at the end stage, or healthy control subjects with neither condition. Participants were tested on their ability to identify specific odors as well as the threshold at which they could detect a smell.
  1. The study found that those with end-stage kidney disease had greater abnormalities in their sense of smell. Specifically:
  • Based on the odor identification tests, almost 70 percent of those with chronic kidney disease and about 90 percent of those with end-stage disease had a significant reduction in their sense of smell.
  • In the test determining odor detection thresholds, participants with end-stage kidney disease required a four times greater concentration of an aroma in order to detect it than those with chronic disease or control participants.
  • In all three groups, participants’ nutritional status – determined by a standard assessment of food intake and weight changes, among other factors –correlated with their ability to smell. Those with a better sense of smell had a better nutritional status.
  • Interestingly, across all three groups, participants’ ratings of their own sense of smell was about the same despite what the laboratory tests showed. Self-assessment scores averaged 80 percent on a scale of 0 to 100, suggesting that most patients were not aware of having problems with their sense of smell.
  1. In the hopes of identifying a potential treatment to improve sense of smell, the team also conducted a small pilot study testing daily intranasal doses of theophylline – a drug approved to treat asthma and emphysema and previously reported to reduce similar sense of smell issues in patients without kidney disease. They found this treatment strategy increased the ability to smell odors in five of the seven participants with dialysis-dependent, end-stage kidney disease.
  1. The team now plans to conduct larger studies to determine the sequence of events between changes in sense of smell, changes in food consumption, and the eventual onset of malnutrition in patients with end-stage kidney disease. They are also excited about further exploring the potential of using drugs such as theophylline to treat kidney disease patients and prevent malnutrition.

Read more in this Mass General press release

New Study Shows Lymph Nodes Aren’t Always to Blame for Cancer’s Progression

In a case of mistaken identity, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that lymph nodes are not always responsible for cancer’s deadly spread to other organs. These results buck many preconceived notions about lymph nodes’ role in cancer development and suggest a new pattern for the progression of certain types of cancer.

Doctors recognize that patients whose cancer spreads (metastasizes) from the original tumor to the surrounding lymph nodes have a worse prognosis than patients whose lymph nodes are cancer-free. This observation has traditionally been explained by a progression model of primary tumor to nearby lymph nodes to other organs. However, no conclusive evidence for this model has existed so far.

In a new study, researchers from the Edwin L. Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology in the Mass General Department of Radiation Oncology investigated the “family tree” of metastases in colorectal cancer. Contrary to the prevailing belief that the spread begins in the lymph nodes, they found that the cancer could spread to both the lymph nodes and the organs simultaneously. In their report in the July 7 issue of Science, the researchers describe finding that, for the majority of colorectal cancer patients in the study, organ metastases (also called distant metastases) originated directly from the primary tumor, independent of any lymph node metastases.

Lymph node graphic 1

Lymph node graphic 2

“We now suspect that lymph node metastases simply indicate the presence of an aggressive primary tumor, rather than being directly responsible for the formation of distant metastases,” says lead and corresponding author Kamila Naxerova, PhD, Research Fellow at the Steele Labs.

The researchers analyzed more than 200 tissue samples of primary tumors, lymph node metastases and distant metastases from 17 patients with colorectal cancer. Samples from 35 percent of these patients followed the traditional progression model. In these samples, both lymph node and distant metastases came from the same cell type in the primary tumor, indicating that the cancer had spread from the primary tumor to the lymph nodes and then to other organs.

However, in 65 percent of patients, researchers found that cell types in lymph node and distant metastases were different and matched different cell types within the primary tumor, indicating independent origins for these metastasis types.

Their results suggest that although cancer progression can follow the traditional model described above, there is also a second distinct pattern of metastatic spread.

“These findings fill an important gap in our knowledge of metastatic disease evolution and have the potential to guide improvements in the clinical management of lymph node metastases,” says Naxerova.

The research team is now following up with a larger cohort of patients to confirm whether survival differences exist between patients with a traditional progression pattern vs the second progression pattern.

Rakesh K. Jain, PhD, Director of the Steele Labs, was senior author of this paper.

A Snapshot of Science: Zebrafish, Steroid Replacements, and Much More

We wanted to share some recent Mass General research that has been published in high impact, top-tier journals. This is just a small snapshot of the incredible research that takes place at Mass General each day — there’s lots more to find at massgeneral.org/research/news!

Exploring the Formation of the Aorta in Zebrafish

Summary submitted by Caroline Burns, PhD, d’Arbeloff MGH Research Scholar, and Geoff Burns, PhD, both researchers in the Cardiovascular Research Center at Mass General, and co-senior authors of the study

Zebrafish
Image of the head region of a zebrafish embryo (head is to the left)

The aorta and its branches are large arteries in the human body that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the circulatory system. Structural malformations of the aorta are common birth defects that even in the mildest cases require life-saving surgery at birth.  During fetal life, the aorta is built from transient blood vessels termed the pharyngeal arch arteries (PAAs). However, the mechanisms regulating formation of the PAAs remain poorly understood. This paper reports that TGFb signaling, a molecular pathway that controls cellular proliferation and differentiation in other contexts, initiates and is essential for PAA development in zebrafish. Despite this important advance, further research is needed to identify additional molecular pathways that control PAA establishment and to learn if mutations that affect TGFb signaling in humans result in similar aortic deficiencies. This information can be leveraged to develop new therapies for preventing or treating congenital malformations that involve the aorta and its branches.

Managing Consciousness with Anesthesia Drugs

Summary submitted by Patrick Purdon, PhD, from the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, at Mass General, and senior author of the study

This study finds evidence that propofol, an anesthetic drug frequently used in clinical practice, disrupts activity in the parts of the brain responsible for awareness and coordination by inducing highly synchronized oscillations within and between these brain structures. The study also found that during recovery of consciousness, these synchronized oscillations dissipate in a distinct “boot-up” sequence, one that did not simply mirror loss of consciousness. This implies that recovering consciousness is not just a passive process, but an active one involving a different set of brain areas responsible for “waking up” the brain. Overall, this study advances understanding of what it means to be unconscious under anesthesia, and establishes principled neurophysiological markers to monitor and manage this state.

Impact of Genetic Disease on Metabolism and Exercise

Summary submitted by Rohit Sharma, PhD, from the Department of Molecular Biology at Mass General, and co-investigator of the study

Human metabolism is “wired” to allow us to go from rest to running by efficiently burning sugars, fats and proteins to harness their energy.  However, patients with certain genetic conditions like McArdle disease who cannot access glycogen stores or mitochondrial disease who have broken respiratory chains have symptoms that are exacerbated by exercise.  Scientists from the Mootha lab studied the exercise-induced changes that occur in hundreds of plasma metabolites in healthy individuals, patients who have McArdle disease and mitochondrial disease patients.  By comparing these disorders they shed light on the typical metabolic processes that allow us to exercise and also revealed potential disease biomarkers.

Treating Blood Vessel Inflammation Without Steroids

Summary submitted by John Stone, MD, MPH, Director of the Clinical Rheumatology in the Rheumatology Unit at Mass General, and lead author of the study

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is the most common form of blood-vessel inflammation. Complications include blindness and aneurysm. Up to now, the only known effective treatment was a steroid called prednisone which caused many complications. Now a phase 3 clinical trial has confirmed for the first time in the history of this disease that regular treatment with a drug called tocilizumab successfully reduces the need for high-dose steroid treatment. Patients who received tocilizumab plus a prednisone taper were nearly four times more likely to achieve disease remissions compared to those who received prednisone alone. Results of the trial were the basis for the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of tocilizumab to treat GCA in May 2017.

Mass General Earns High Marks From U.S. News & World Report

Earlier this week US News & World Report announced its Best Hospitals rankings for 2017-18. We are proud to announce that Massachusetts General Hospital has once again been named among America’s Top Hospitals, earning the number four spot on the honor roll of best hospitals.

Mass General was also among the top hospitals in the country to be ranked across all 16 specialties. The hospital scored in the top ten in ear nose and throat, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopedics, psychiatry, pulmonary, rehabilitation and rheumatology.

Of the nearly 5,000 hospitals evaluated, Mass General has consistently placed among the top hospitals on the honor roll since its inception in 1990.

Complete information about this year’s Best Hospitals survey can be found on the US News & World Report website.