Weekend Links

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We’ve hand-picked a mix of Massachusetts General Hospital and other research-related news and stories for your weekend reading enjoyment:

Creative Minds: A New Way to Look at Cancer

Better Patient-Provider Communication Needed for Obesity Care

Eugenics 2.0: We’re at the Dawn of Choosing Embryos by Health, Height, and More

6 Speaking Tips for Scientists and Engineers (editor’s note: Melissa Marshall, featured in this article, recently spoke to Mass General clinicians about how to effectively present scientific work. We were so impressed by her talk that we wanted to introduce her to our readers) 

Looking for a great book for the young scientist in your life? The long list of 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F (Science Books and Films) Prize winners for Excellence in Science Books has been released. Prizes are awarded each year in the following categories:

  • Children’s Science Picture Books
  • Middle Grade Science Books
  • Young Adult Science Books
  • Hands on Science Books

See the full list here

 

Top photo: courtesy of Tim Lahan, MIT Technology Review

Research Awards and Honors: September 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:

Aguirre

Aaron Aguirre, MD, PhD, of the Cardiology Division and the Center for Systems Biology, has received a 2017 Physician/Scientist Development Award for “Morphology and Dynamic Functions of Pericytes in the Heart.” Aguirre’s project will use state-of-the-art microscopy techniques to better understand the role of pericytes—unique cells that line the outer walls of the smallest blood vessels in the heart. Funding for the Physician/Scientist Development Awards is provided by the Executive Committee on Research along with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

“I am grateful for the research support provided by the MGH Physician Scientist Development Award. It will allow me to expand my current research into a new direction and to generate critical preliminary data necessary for future grant applications.”

 

Chung

David Chung, MD, PhD, attending neurointensivist in the Neurology Department, has been awarded the Timothy P. Susco Chair of Research and the Andrew David Heitman Foundation Chair of Research from The Brain Aneurysm Foundation for his work, “Impact of Spreading Depolarizations and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage on Brain Connectivity.” He is one of 14 awardees, given to those whose work is impacting a disease that affects one in 50 people in the United States, often leading to death or lifelong disability.

My immediate reaction to receiving this award was gratitude towards my mentors in the Department of Neurology at MGH: Cenk Ayata, Jonathan Rosand, Guy Rordorf, and Leigh Hochberg. Without their support, this work would not be possible. A major question in Neurocritical Care is how to prevent poor outcome after a ruptured brain aneurysm. Even when we successfully repair the aneurysm, many patients will develop a syndrome of progressive brain damage for unknown reasons. This award will enable us to examine unexplored causes of brain damage and poor outcome with the goal of improving quality of life in survivors of the disease.”

 

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Julie Levison, MD, MPhil, MPH, of the Division of General Internal Medicine, has received a CFAR ADELANTE Award from the National Institutes of Health, the Office of AIDS Research and the NIH-funded Centers for AIDS Research to support new  investigators working on HIV research in Latinos. Hispanic/Latino populations in the U.S. currently bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The ADELANTE team is composed of Dr. Levison (principle investigator), Dr. Margarita Alegría, chief MGH Disparities Research Unit, and Carmen Rios, Respite Case Manager at the Barbara McGinnis House.

“The ADELANTE award is a special type of research award because it recognizes the value of community-academic collaborations in overcoming disparities in HIV outcomes in Latino populations. In this study, we will use qualitative research to solicit the needs and priorities of HIV-infected Latino migrants with substance use disorders or who report male-to-male sex and we will use that feedback to tailor and evaluate a community-based intervention we have developed for HIV-infected Latinos with inconsistent HIV primary care attendance.”

 

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Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, adult and pediatric obesity medicine physician of the MGH Weight Center, Department of Medicine-Gastroenterology and Department of Pediatrics-Endocrinology, has received a 2017 Physician-Scientist Development Award from the MGH Center for Diversity and Inclusion for “Exploring Referral Patterns and Shared Decision Making Regarding Weight Loss Surgery in Adolescents and Young Adults with Moderate to Severe Obesity.” Funding for the Physician/Scientist Development Awards is provided by the Executive Committee on Research in conjunction with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Stanford also has been selected to the inaugural class of Emory University Alumni Association’s “40 Under Forty,” a selected group of outstanding young alumni with impressive track records who are “go-to” leaders.

“I am delighted to be the recipient of the MGH Physician Scientist Development award in partnership with the MGH Center for Diversity and Inclusion and ECOR. I believe that we are just at the beginning of discerning issues associated with addressing obesity in the pediatric and adult populations. This award allows me to ascertain information about shared decision making in adolescents and young adults with moderate to severe obesity in which weight loss surgery might be utilized to help them achieve a healthy weight. To our knowledge, no one has investigated the use of shared decision making regarding weight loss surgery in young people. This awards allows us to do just that.”

 

Temel GreerJennifer Temel, MD, director of the Cancer Outcomes Research Program and Hostetter MGH Research Scholar, along with Joseph Greer, PhD, program director of the Center for Psychiatric Oncology & Behavioral Sciences, have received a research funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) for their research “Comparative Effectiveness of Early Integrated Telehealth Versus In-Person Palliative Care for Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer.” The new awards were given to those whose work specifically focuses on community-based palliative care delivery. The goal of this project is to determine if telehealth is an effective, patient-centered, and accessible delivery modality for early palliative care.

“We are overjoyed to receive this research award from PCORI. By testing novel models of care using telemedicine, we hope to demonstrate that greater numbers of patients with advanced cancer and their families can access and benefit from essential palliative care services closer to the time of diagnosis.”

 

Whetstine.jpgJohnathan Whetstine, PhD, of the MGH Cancer Center and Tepper Family MGH Research Scholar, has received a Lung Cancer Discovery Award from the American Lung Association. This award supports investigators at any level of research experience focusing on novel treatments or a cure for lung cancer. His goal is to use studies about histone modifiers to provide insights into tumor heterogeneity and emerging drug resistance so that better molecular diagnostics, epigenetic therapeutic molecules, or use of novel therapeutic combinations can be achieved in cancer treatment.

“We are very excited to receive this award from the ALA.  This support allows my group to continue to expand our lung cancer research program in the area of tumor heterogeneity and drug resistance. Most importantly, these resources allow us the opportunity to explore novel regulatory pathways driving heterogeneity and copy gains of regions affiliated with resistant lung cancer, which provides insights into novel diagnostics and therapeutic opportunities in this hard-to-treat cancer.”

 

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Alik Widge, MD, PhD, director of the Translational NeuroEngineering Laboratory, Division of Neurotherapeutics, has received the 2017 One Mind/Janssen Rising Star Translational Research Award from the One Mind Institute and Janssen Research & Development, LLC. This award identifies and funds pivotal, innovative research on the causes of and cures for brain disorders. Toward boosting the recovery of patients with illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, Widge proposes to identify precisely the brain circuits that govern the inflexibility of thinking common among patients with such illnesses, and to test whether neurostimulation of these circuits could improve mental flexibility.

“I was very excited about the Rising Star award, for two reasons. First, it brings much-needed seed funding to our lab for an unconventional but possibly high-yield project. We have found that electrical brain stimulation in humans can improve mental flexibility — the ability to “take the road less traveled by” and explore new behavior strategies. That ability is impaired in many mental illnesses. Our problem is that we don’t yet know how the electrical stimulation improves flexibility. The Rising Star award will let us set up animal experiments to identify the circuit basis of the effect, findings we could then translate back into humans. 

Second, this is a really important award in psychiatric research. It’s brought our lab’s other work into the spotlight, which will help those projects progress. I’m grateful both to the OneMind Institute for the award and to the MGH team that helped me get the preliminary data that made it possible.”

Obesity Prevention Researchers Make Strides with First 1,000 Days Program

How early should we start taking steps to prevent childhood obesity? It could be before the baby is even born.

That’s the thinking of the research team behind the First 1,000 Days Program, an initiative launched by Massachusetts General Hospital for Children that provides assistance to women during the timeframe believed to be most critical to their child’s health – pregnancy and the first two years after birth.

The program is led by Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of General Pediatrics at MGHfC, and Derrie Shatsel, MD, MPH, executive director of The Kraft Center for Community Health at Partners HealthCare.

Here are some quick facts about the growing childhood obesity problem in the United States:

  • One in 10 infants are considered overweight
  • By kindergarten, an estimated 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and early heart disease
  • Overweight or obese children are also at an increased risk of being bullied, which can cause additional psychological problems

The 1,000 Days Program is based at the MGH Health Centers in Chelsea and Revere, and is designed to provide expectant mothers with the tools and resources needed to get their children off to a healthy start in life.

The research team is working to address childhood obesity by:

  • Encouraging pregnant women to maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy
  • Working with parents to help them distinguish between different cries from their children, so they don’t mistakenly feed a sleepy child
  • Advocating the complete elimination of juice and sugary drinks, which contribute to weight gain and cavities
  • Encouraging breastfeeding if possible, and if bottle feeding, for parents to watch for cues that the baby is full in order to prevent overfeeding
  • Holding off on introducing solid foods until at least four months, six months if possible
  • Revising expectations so toddlers are not required to clear their plate at every meal

The team also encourages parents to set a good example for their children by eating healthy as well.

The goal of the program is to reach 1,000 women during 2017. As of April the team had already met with over 600 women.

A portion of the study is supported by Dr. Taveras’ MGH Research Scholar award. These philanthropy funded awards provide investigators at Mass General with unrestricted funds that they can use to pursue promising new avenues of research. Taveras is an Ofer and Shelly Nemirovsky MGH Research Scholar.

Read more about the 1,000 Days Program here.

Raising Awareness of Belly Fat and Its Impact on Men’s Health

Body-Type-BannerDid you know that in addition to June being Men’s Health Month in the United States, this week (June 12th-18th) is Men’s Health Week in the UK? The focus this year is on belly fat which tends to be more prevalent in men than women.

Regardless of a person’s overall weight, belly fat—also called abdominal adiposity— can increase the risk for developing a number of health issues including colorectal cancer, stroke and sleep apnea.

A recent study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital also found that individuals who have a genetic disposition for belly fat were at a higher risk of developing both diabetes and heart disease when compared to individuals who store fat primarily in their hips and thighs.

While genetics are a big factor in where fat gets stored, proper diet and exercise can help lessen the risk.

 

Stay tuned for more posts about men’s health all this week leading up to Father’s Day.

Dr. Stanford Addresses Barriers and Disparities in Obesity Treatment

April is National Minority Health Month—a time to raise awareness on issues impacting health disparities and health equity in America. Learn how Mass General’s Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford is addressing barriers and disparities by taking a holistic approach to both treat and advocate for patients who have obesity.

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Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA

Continue reading “Dr. Stanford Addresses Barriers and Disparities in Obesity Treatment”

Research Awards and Honors: March 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:

 CorcoranRyan Corcoran, MD, PhD, of the Division of Hematology and Oncology, has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the greatest honors for a young physician scientist. The ASCI is an honor society of physician-scientists, those who translate findings in the laboratory to the advancement of clinical practice. Founded in 1908, the society is home to nearly 3,000 members who are in the upper ranks of academic medicine and industry.

My research focuses on developing therapies against the specific molecular changes driving gastrointestinal cancers and in identifying and overcoming the mechanisms by which tumors become resistant to therapy, in order to improve treatment outcomes.

Being inducted into ASCI is a great honor, and our team will continue to work toward its goal of leveraging science-driven clinical investigation to improve treatment options for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.

 

SinghalVibha Singhal, MD, of the Pediatric Endocrine Unit, has received the Janet McArthur Award for Excellence in Clinical Research by Women in Endocrinology. This is one of just two Young Investigator Awards awarded annually by the organization recognizing the most outstanding abstracts accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society.

My research involves evaluating the impact of body composition on bone health in adolescents and young adults ranging from low weight patients with anorexia to severely obese patients. I have worked with populations suffering from anorexia nervosa, female athletes who have decreased energy availability, irregular menses and osteoporosis and I’m now primarily focused on severe obesity. I aim to dissect the physiological impact of increased fat around abdominal organs (visceral), under the skin (subcutaneous) or in the bone (marrow) on bone strength and ultimately fracture risk.

I am honored to receive the Janet McArthur Award for Excellence in Clinical Research by Women in Endocrinology. It is a privilege to stand with other accomplished young endocrinologists dedicated to making a difference in human health. It is also a testament to the great mentorship and resources available at MGH.


Congratulations Drs. Corcoran and Singhal!

Study Suggests Positive Gains From Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

Patients with all classes of obesity, including, mild, moderate, and severe, with all stages of fibrosis, experienced gains in life years following laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, compared with standard management and intensive lifestyle changes, based on the model, Dr. Kathleen Corey reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Surgery also increased quality-adjusted life years (QALY) in those with moderate and severe obesity with all fibrosis stages, those with mild obesity and F2-F3 fibrosis, and in overweight patients with F3 fibrosis, said Dr Corey of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

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