A Triple Play for Gastroenterology at UC San Diego

Division of Gastroenterology physician-scientists John T. Chang, MD, Pradipta Ghosh, MD, and Bernd Schnabl, MD, all were inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation on April 15, 2016.

To become a member of the ASCI, one of North America’s oldest and most respected medical honor societies, outstanding young investigators must be nominated and their nominations reviewed, ranked and scored in a process that selects less than 80 scientists from all areas of medicine each year.

“To have three young investigators from a single institution receive this honor in a single year is remarkable,” said William Sandborn, MD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology.

Said Sheila E. Crowe, MD, Director of Research in Gastroenterology, “This is indeed an exceptional achievement for John, Pradipta and Bernd as individuals, and they bring great honor to the Division collectively.”

The three honorees are Associate Professors of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Chang-John_120x150

John T. Chang, MD

John T. Chang, MD, investigates fundamental mechanisms underlying lymphocyte fate specification in systemic and mucosal immune responses. This research theme has important relevance to human health and disease, particularly vaccine design for infectious diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract and in developing new therapeutic approaches for inflammatory bowel disease.

Dr. Chang is principal investigator of several active research grants, including two NIH R01 grants, an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, and a Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Senior Research Award. These grants fund Dr. Chang’s research to elucidate mechanisms by which regulators of polarity and asymmetric division influence T lymphocyte fate specification and function during microbial infection; the process by which T lymphocytes develop into pathogenic cells that cause intestinal inflammation; and identifying new approaches that enhance the function of regulatory T cells for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

He is also a past recipient of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Physician-Scientist Early Career Award and a V Foundation V Scholar Award. The latter has supported his work on the role of the cellular degradation machinery in cancer stem cell homeostasis.

Dr. Chang earned his MD from Temple University. He took two years off during medical school as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health Research Scholar to pursue research training. Dr. Chang completed his internship/residency and gastroenterology fellowship training, along with four years of postdoctoral research in immunology, at the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the UC San Diego Division of Gastroenterology faculty in 2009.

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh

Pradipta Ghosh, MD

Pradipta Ghosh, MD, investigates the cell biology of signal transduction to find new ways to understand and block the development and spread of cancer and other diseases. Dr. Ghosh’s work has established a new paradigm in signal transduction by characterizing a new family of proteins which allow diverse receptors to transactivate heterotrimeric G-proteins. She unraveled the molecular mechanisms that govern such activation and established its unique spatiotemporal features. Finally, she demonstrated the relevance of this paradigm to modern medicine by defining the therapeutic potential of key signaling interfaces in diverse pathophysiologic states including diabetes, organ fibrosis, and cancer.

Her research funding includes three NIH R01 research grants, among them two five-year National Cancer Institute research grants that support her projects, “Modulation of G Proteins by Growth Factors” and “Spatial Regulation of G Protein Signaling.”

Among her scholarly awards are an American Gastroenterology Association Research Scholar Award in 2008, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists in 2009, and a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) Clinical Scientist Development Award in 2010.

Dr. Ghosh joined the Division of Gastroenterology faculty as assistant professor of medicine in 2008. She is a graduate of the UC San Diego Internal Medicine Residency Training Program, the Gastroenterology Fellowship Training Program and the Department of Medicine Physician-Scientist Training Program. She earned her MBBS in medicine at Christian Medical College and Hospital, India.

Bernd Schnabl, MD, PhD

Bernd Schnabl, MD

Bernd Schnabl, MD, focuses his research on liver disease. In studies funded by an NIH R01 grant, a NIH U01 cooperative agreement, a VA Merit Award, and industry grants, he is examining the relationship between liver disease and the intestinal microbiota.

He seeks to understand mechanisms by which the intestinal microbiome, metagenome and metabolome promote the development of chronic liver diseases. The goals of his investigations include the identification of new therapeutic targets for patients with liver disease.

Dr. Schnabl’s past honors and awards include an NIH K08 Career Development Award from the NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and an American Gastroenterological Association/Astra Zeneca Faculty Transition Award. The K08 award supported his project, “Blocking Toll-Like Receptor 4 Signaling as Therapy in Hepatic Fibrosis.” He is currently Associate Editor of Digestive Disease and Sciences, the oldest continuously published gastroenterology journal in North America.

After he received his medical degree from the University of Freiburg in Germany, Dr. Schnabl spent three years in postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his medical residency at the University Hospital in Regensburg/Germany and his gastroenterology fellowship training at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

He joined the UC San Diego Division of Gastroenterology in 2008.

The ASCI new member induction ceremony took place on Friday, April 15, at the 2016 Joint Meeting of the Association of American Physicians, the ASCI, and the American Physician-Scientists Association in Chicago.

Diabetes Drug Found No Better Than Placebo at Treating NAFLD

But randomized, double-blind clinical trial suggests better way to conduct future trials —

A diabetes medication described in some studies as an effective treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) works no better than a placebo, report researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, after conducting the first randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial of sitagliptin, an oral antihyperglycemic marketed by Merck & Co. under the name Januvia.

Writing in the Journal of Hepatology, a multidisciplinary team headed by study senior author Rohit Loomba, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and director of the NAFLD Translational Research Unit at UC San Diego School of Medicine … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Researchers Illuminate Key Role of NOX Proteins in Liver Disease

Study adds credence to new treatment approach now in clinical trials —

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have demonstrated a direct connection between two signaling proteins and liver fibrosis, a scarring process underlying chronic liver disease, the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.

The finding adds further credence to a current pharmaceutical effort to create new treatments for diabetic nephropathy, liver fibrosis and other progressive fibrotic and inflammatory diseases, based on blocking these two molecules, both members of the NADPH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) oxidase (NOX) family of proteins. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego News Center


David A. Brenner, MDSenior author of the study report is David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor for health sciences, dean of UC San Diego School of Medicine and professor in the Division of Gastroenterology. The report was published online in PLOS ONE on July 29.

Read the article (open access)

Protein’s Impact on Colorectal Cancer is Dappled

In early stages, it acts as tumor suppressor; later it can help spread disease —

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a cell signaling pathway that appears to exert some control over initiation and progression of colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. A key protein in the pathway also appears to be predictive of cancer survival rates. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Pradipta GhoshThe study’s senior author is Pradipta Ghosh, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Sheila Crowe Selected as Vice President of the American Gastroenterological Association

An Announcement from Dr. William J. Sandborn
Professor and Chief, Division of Gastroenterology –

Dr. William Sandborn

Dr. William Sandborn

It is with great pleasure that I share with you that Dr. Sheila Crowe has been selected as Vice President of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA).

In this role, she will begin a four-year term of service to the AGA, transitioning yearly from Vice President to President Elect to President and finally to Past President and Chair of the AGA Foundation.

Dr. Sheila E. Crowe

Dr. Sheila E. Crowe, Professor of Medicine and Director of Research in the Division of Gastroenterology.

This is perhaps the highest honor that a physician in our specialty can receive. It is a tremendous honor for Dr. Crowe, and for our entire Division.

I am so proud to have Dr. Crowe in our Division. Please join me in congratulating her on this accomplishment.

Best regards,

William J. Sandborn, MD
Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Surgery
Chief, Division of Gastroenterology
Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center
University of California, San Diego
and UC San Diego Health System

Thomas Savides, MD, Named Chief Experience Officer for UC San Diego Health System

Thomas Savides, MD, has been named as the first Chief Experience Officer at UC San Diego Health System. In the newly created role, Savides will be responsible for the strategy, leadership and implementation of the plan to improve the total health care experience of patients, families, providers and staff. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

In Memoriam: Martin F. Kagnoff, MD

Announcement from Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine

Dr. Martin Kagnoff

Martin F. Kagnoff, MD

It is with sadness that I announce that we have lost one of our department’s most vigorous and inspiring leaders. Martin Kagnoff, MD, passed away at his home in La Jolla on Sunday, November 16.

Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD

Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD

Dr. Kagnoff was Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, Emeritus, and Director of the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology at UC San Diego. He was a pioneer in academic gastroenterology and research.

He joined the faculty of the Division of Gastroenterology when he completed his residency and fellowship training in 1972. He devoted all 42 years of his long and fruitful career to UC San Diego.

Dr. Kagnoff directed the multidisciplinary Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology, which was established in 1985. His research initially focused on basic immunology in the gastrointestinal tract. He went on to the pathophysiology of celiac disease, the intestinal manifestations of AIDS, the biology of intestinal epithelial cells and the pathogenesis of enteric infections.

He was recognized worldwide as a leader in mucosal immunology and the mechanisms leading to celiac disease. He was dedicated to education at all levels and he trained nearly 100 students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty members.

Dr. Kagnoff’s research was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 40 years. He published more than 200 papers in leading gastroenterology, immunology and basic science journals and edited multiple books and reviews.

He served as associate editor and editor-in-chief of two leading journals in the field: The Journal of Clinical Investigation and the American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

Dr. Kagnoff earned his MD degree at Harvard Medical School. He received his postgraduate training in gastroenterology and immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

His family conducted a memorial service on November 18.

Gifts in memory of Dr. Martin Kagnoff may be made payable to The Regents of the University of California referencing the Kagnoff Endowed Fund #16203 and mailed to UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive #0940, La Jolla, CA 92093-0940.

UC San Diego Researcher to Lead First-of-Its-Kind NASA Identical Twins Study

Brinda Rana, a professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, has been awarded NASA funding to study fluid flows in the brains of identical twin astronauts—one of whom will spend a year in space, while the other is left on Earth. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

In First Moments of Infection, a Division and a Decision

UC San Diego scientists explain how and when T cells become effector or memory lymphocytes

Using technologies and computational modeling that trace the destiny of single cells, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine describe for the first time the earliest stages of fate determination among white blood cells called T lymphocytes, providing new insights that may help drug developers create more effective, longer-lasting vaccines against microbial pathogens or cancer.

The findings are published in the March 2, 2014 online issue of Nature Immunology. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


Dr. John ChangStudy co-principal investigator John T. Chang, MD, PhD, is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Visit Dr. Chang’s Laboratory Website

Blacks Have Less Access to Cancer Specialists, Treatment

UC San Diego Study Suggests Racial Inequality Leads to Higher Mortality

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say metastatic colorectal cancer patients of African-American descent are less likely to be seen by cancer specialists or receive cancer treatments. This difference in treatment explains a large part of the 15 percent higher mortality experienced by African-American patients than non-Hispanic white patients. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


Department of Medicine co-investigators on the project are Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, associate professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology; Gregory Heestand, MD, Health Sciences assistant clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Paul Fanta, MD, MS, Health Sciences associate clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS  Gregory Heestand, MD  Paul Fanta, MD, MS
Above, from left: Drs. Samir Gupta, Gregory Heestand, and Paul Fanta

Citation for the study report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute:

Daniel R. Simpson, María Elena Martínez, Samir Gupta, Jona Hattangadi-Gluth, Loren K. Mell, Gregory Heestand, Paul Fanta, Sonia Ramamoorthy, Quynh-Thu Le, and James D. Murphy. Racial Disparity in Consultation, Treatment, and the Impact on Survival in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst first published online November 14, 2013 doi:10.1093/jnci/djt318  |  Full text (UCSD only)