Arizona on the Cutting Edge of Innovative Research Programs

Marilyn HawkesMarch 4, 2022
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Arizona physicians, institutions and philanthropists are on the cutting edge of innovative treatments, procedures and programs.

Mayo Clinic Provides Virtual Care for Patients

Mayo Clinic patients in Arizona who might require hospitalization can now receive virtual care through the Advanced Care at Home program with access to rapid-response support services controlled by a clinical command center. Eligible patients can receive individualized hospital-level care, including skilled nursing visits, medication management, physician check-ins, rehabilitation and laboratory tests. Arizona telehealth received a boost in May 2021 when Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2454 to expand virtual coverage.

Stem Cell Clinical Trial for Parkinson’s Patients

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded Arizona State University Biodesign Institute grants totaling $5.2 million to explore three groundbreaking treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Principal investigator Jeffrey Kordower, founding director of the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, will oversee the project. One grant will be used for a clinical trial that involves infusing specially designed stem cells into the striatum, a part of the brain where dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, degenerates in those who have Parkinson’s disease. When stem cells are implanted in the brain, they can help restore function in damaged tissue.

New Brain Cancer Knowledge

Ivy Brain Tumor Center at Barrow Neurological Institute is conducting the largest Phase O clinical trial program in the world. Phase O is a new means of fast-tracking and streamlining the drug testing and approval process for brain tumor patients, providing individualized treatment in a much quicker and less expensive manner than traditional drug research and development. One of the Center’s Phase O clinical trials evaluates niraparib, “a novel targeted therapy,” in patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma, the aggressive cancer that claimed Senator John McCain’s life.

Chandler infectious disease specialist Dr. Anita Kohli of Arizona Liver Health
Chandler infectious disease specialist Dr. Anita Kohli of Arizona Liver Health

COVID-19 Prevention Study

Chandler infectious disease specialist Dr. Anita Kohli of Arizona Liver Health is one of the lead investigators of MOVe-AHEAD, a clinical trial using the anti-viral drug Molnupiravir. The trial will test the safety and effectiveness of the drug in preventing illness after exposure to COVID-19, with a goal of preventing the spread of the virus. The study is open to people who live with someone who has contracted COVID-19.

Genes Linked to Suicide Identified

Scientists at the City of Hope affiliate Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) led an international scientific team that has identified genes associated with suicide. After examining brain tissue samples from 380 individuals, they discovered five genes that affect different regions in the brain. Identifying the genes may help prevent suicide.

Focus on Knee Osteoarthritis

University of Arizona Health Sciences has been awarded a $2.1 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to fund a three-year study examining the link between normal knee aging and osteoarthritis. During the study, University of Arizona Arthritis Center director C. Kent Kwoh, M.D., and his research team will examine 76,000 X-rays and clinical data from more than 10,000 participants to evaluate whether changes in knee structure (from aging and loss of joint space width) can predict pain and functional limitations and the need for knee replacement in the future.

Study Participants Receive Remote Help to Stop Smoking

University of Arizona Health Sciences researcher Judith Gordon, Ph.D., and associate dean for research and professor in the UArizona College of Nursing, has received a five-year, $3.3 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to fund a tobacco cessation study using telephone coaching sessions, guided imagery and an interactive website. Delivering integrative interventions remotely has the potential to reach more people, according to Gordon. The study, which builds on Gordon’s previous tobacco cessation research, will enroll 1,200 participants.

Paradise Valley residents Bill and Carolyn Franke. Courtesy Front Doors Media
Paradise Valley residents Bill and Carolyn Franke. Courtesy Front Doors Media

Endowment to Fund Neurosurgery Fellowships and Research

Paradise Valley residents Bill and Carolyn Franke have created a $21 million endowment to fund educational programs and research at Barrow Neurological Institute’s newly formed Franke Global Neuroscience Education Center. The Frankes have designated $18.9 million for international programs, including spine and neurosurgery research fellowships; and $2.5 million for undergraduate research programs focusing on student scholarships, career development and leadership training.

Researchers to Study Firefighters’ Carcinogen Exposure

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is funding a $1.5 million grant at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health to study cancer risks in wildland firefighters. The research will assess firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens while fighting fires and will measure biomarkers of chronic carcinogenic effect with an end result of determining ways to reduce risk. The study is slated to enroll 300 wildland firefighters.

Mayo Clinic Offers Assessments for Civilian Space Travel

In the past, Mayo Aerospace Medicine researchers pioneered many innovations, including oxygen masks for pilots before pressurized cabins existed. More recently, Mayo investigators are researching oxygen delivery systems for use in modern aircraft, human adaptation to high altitudes and ways to mitigate the effects of altitude sickness. The clinic’s most up-to-date service: assessments for civilian spaceflight. Beam me up, Scotty.


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