UC San Diego Health Researchers Join Pancreatic Cancer “Dream Team”

November 10, 2015

International effort will seek to develop and test new therapies for deadly malignancy —

In an effort to advance research on one of the deadliest forms of cancer, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers Andrew Lowy, MD, and Tannishtha Reya, PhD, have been recruited for their expertise in preclinical modeling, clinical trials and stem cell biology to join a “dream team” of international pancreatic cancer researchers.

The three-year, $12-million effort, sponsored by Stand Up To Cancer, Cancer Research UK and The Lustgarten Foundation, will pursue a three-pronged strategy to better understand and reset so-called “super-enhancers” that may be abnormally active in pancreatic tumors. Super-enhancers are bits of DNA that can cause over-expression of genetic signals, fueling cancer cell growth. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Tannishtha Reya, PhD, is Professor of Pharmacology in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Professor of Medicine in the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Breast Cancer Drug Beats Superbug

Tamoxifen helps white blood cells clear multidrug-resistant bacteria in lab and mouse studies —

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have found that the breast cancer drug tamoxifen gives white blood cells a boost, better enabling them to respond to, ensnare and kill bacteria in laboratory experiments. Tamoxifen treatment in mice also enhances clearance of the antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogen MRSA and reduces mortality. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. John ChangFaculty coauthors of the study report include John T. Chang, MD, associate professor in the Division of Gastroenterology. His laboratory website is here.

Read the article abstract in Nature Communications. (Article full text, UC San Diego only)

New Drug Target Improves Memory in Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Cincinnati, and American Life Science Pharmaceuticals of San Diego have validated the protease cathepsin B (CatB) as a target for improving memory deficits and reducing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Read the abstract of the study report in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Vivian Hook
Study co-investigator Vivian Y. H. Hook, PhD, is professor in the departments of neurosciences and pharmacology and professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology-Hypertension.

Related story: Potential New Drug Candidate Found for Alzheimer’s Disease, May 31, 2011

In Memoriam: Wiley Vale, PhD

Dr. Vale

Wylie W. Vale, Jr, PhD
1941 – 2012

Wiley W. Vale, Jr, PhD, a renowned and beloved Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientist whose pioneering work identified key brain hormones and growth factors, died on January 6 at the age of 70.

Vale was Professor and Helen McLoraine Chair in Molecular Neurobiology and Head of the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

He was highly regarded as the global authority on peptide hormones and growth factors that provide communication between the brain and endocrine system. Vale and his collaborators identified the central switchboard, a group of neuropeptides and their receptors that mediate the body’s responses to stress and stress-related disorders.

Among these neuropeptides is corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), characterized by Vale and colleagues in 1981. The work has had far-reaching effects in medical research and clinical medicine.

At UCSD, Vale held an adjunct professorship in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. He contributed for many years as a researcher and educator in the School of Medicine and the Neurobiology Section of the Division of Biological Sciences.

“This is a great loss for those of us at UCSD who knew and worked with Wylie, and a great loss for endocrine science,” said Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

“Wylie and his group of peptide chemists and neuroendocrinologists trained several PhD students in the Biomedical Sciences and Neurosciences graduate programs who have taken leadership positions in research and academia,” said Palmer Taylor, PhD.

Taylor is Sandra and Monroe Trout Professor of Pharmacology, founding Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

Vale’s coworkers and friends in the School of Medicine included numerous faculty members in the departments of reproductive medicine, neurosciences, psychiatry and surgery.

In 2004, Vale and colleagues at UCSD established the firmest link between a family of hormones that helps the body adapt to stress and possible new treatments for congestive heart failure.

Vale discovered that the hormone urocortin-2 has a positive impact on heart function, and the hormone was shown to significantly enhance heart muscle contractions. | Read the abstract of the study report in PNAS

In that effort, Vale collaborated with Drs. Kirk Peterson, Kenneth Chien and coworkers at the Seaweed Canyon Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Kirk L. Peterson, MD, FACP, FACC, the Edith and William M. Perlman Professor of Clinical Cardiology, is Director of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Director of the Seaweed Canyon Physiology Laboratory and professor emeritus in cardiology.

Kenneth Chien, MD, PhD, is professor emeritus in cardiology and former director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Vale was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 1992-1993, he served as president of the Endocrine Society.

He co-founded two biotechnology companies, Neurocrine Biosciences and Acceleron Pharma, Inc.

The Vale family and the Endocrine Society have placed tribute pages on the Web where remembrances can be entered and viewed. Vale family tribute | Endocrine Society tribute

For more about Dr. Vale and his work, please see the Salk Institute press release.

In Memoriam: Samuel I. Rapaport, MD

DrRapaport_150x225

Samuel I. Rapaport, MD
1921 – 2011

Samuel I. Rapaport, MD, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Pathology at UC San Diego and a former chief of the Division of Hematology, died December 20, 2011, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 90.

A renowned hematologist, physician-scientist and teacher, Rapaport was internationally recognized for his research on the biochemistry of blood coagulation and the mechanism of clotting in disease.

Dr. Sandy Shattil“Sam was a major figure in American and international hematology,” said Sanford Shattil, MD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

“He made seminal basic and translational contributions to our understanding of blood coagulation.”

Rapaport joined the UCSD School of Medicine faculty in 1974 as the first chief of the medicine service at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

During 22 years at UCSD, he served as a chief of the Division of Hematology and directed both clinical and research laboratories in hematology.

“Sam Rapaport was the epitome of a triple-threat physician-scientist,” said David N. Bailey, MD, Distinguished Research Professor of Pathology and Pharmacy, Emeritus Professor and former chair of the Department of Pathology, and Deputy Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“His teaching at all levels was superb,” Bailey said. “His clinical care was legendary, often extending into late-night patient visits, and his research was world-class.”

In the Department of Pathology, Rapaport founded and directed the Special Coagulation Laboratory for the UCSD Medical Center. Its director today is Dzung T. Le, MD, PhD, associate professor of clinical pathology, whom Rapaport mentored.

Said Le, “He was like a second father to me. Indeed, his treated his patients, his students, his laboratory technicians, his administrative assistants as if they were members of his own family.

“That was why many of his patients, his former colleagues and students remained good friends long after he retired. It was my distinct honor to be a member of his laboratory and to continue his legacy at the Special Coagulation Laboratory at UCSD.”

“I interacted with Sam in the formative years when we were both in the Department of Medicine,” said Palmer Taylor, PhD, who joined the School of Medicine as an assistant professor of pharmacology in 1971. “He brought to the Department a great balance of research and clinical skills.”

“Sam was an early supporter of the development of Pharmacology as the first basic science department and later the emergence of the School of Pharmacy from the planning stages,” Taylor said.

Taylor, the founding dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is Sandra and Monroe Trout Professor of Pharmacology and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

On the national scene, Rapaport was a major influence in the development of the American Society of Hematology and served as its president in 1977. He was active in numerous academic societies and advisory groups.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky“Sam was the consummate scholar; he approached medicine, and life, with verve, compassion, inquisitiveness and intelligence,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, former Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSD.

Kaushansky is Senior Vice President, Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in New York. Also a hematologist, he served as president of the American Society of Hematology in 2008.

“He embodied all the best in the profession,” Kaushansky said. “I am saddened to know the world took a big hit with his passing.”

Shattil said, “He was a beloved member of our Hematology-Oncology Division. We will greatly miss his sage, gentle advice and his friendship.”

“He was a kind, warm human being,” said Bailey. “He will be sorely missed.”

Biography

Samuel I. Rapaport was born in Los Angeles, CA, in 1921. He received his undergraduate degree at UCLA and his MD in 1945 from the University of Southern California School of Medicine. After his residency training at the Long Beach Veterans Administration Hospital, he remained on staff as faculty supervisor of the hematology ward.

In the early 1950s, his interest in blood coagulation led to a Fulbright scholarship for a year of research in Dr. Paul Owren’s laboratory in Norway. Rapaport returned to the Long Beach VA in 1954 and founded a clinical and research coagulation laboratory. He was soon recruited to UCLA to do the same.

In 1958, he was asked to establish a hematology division at the University of Southern California. There, too, he set up clinical and research coagulation laboratories. He went on to conduct groundbreaking investigations of the mechanisms of blood coagulation in health and disease, spending the last two decades of his career at UCSD. He retired from the University in 1996 at the age of 75.

Rapaport was a past president of the American Society of Hematology, the Western Association of Physicians and the Western Society for Clinical Research. He was a member of the American College of Physicians and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Profiles of Dr. Rapaport

How the Immune System Fights Back Against Anthrax Infections

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have uncovered how the body’s immune system launches its survival response to the notorious and deadly bacterium anthrax. The findings, reported online today and published in the June 22 issue of the journal Immunity, describe key emergency signals the body sends out when challenged by a life-threatening infection…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Lars Eckmann

Dr. Lars Eckmann is one of the study coauthors. Lars Eckmann, MD, is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.  |  Read the report online in Immunity (free full text of article in press).

Dr. Sylvia Evans Receives 2009 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

Cardiac researcher Dr. Sylvia Evans has received an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for her innovative efforts to develop new treatments for heart failure.Sylvia Evans, PhD, is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and Professor of Pharmacy at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Dr. Evans, a developmental biologist, investigates heart development and congenital heart disease. In recent work, she has sought to identify how cardiac progenitor cells develop into the specialized cells, or cell lineages, that make up a functioning heart.

Her NIH Pioneer Award project is entitled, “Approaches to Cardiac Regeneration.” In it, Dr. Evans is exploring the possibility of using cardiac progenitor cells to treat adult heart disease.

The Pioneer Award grant will provide five years of funding, with $772,500 in fiscal year 2009-2010.  |  Read the news release from the National Institutes of Health

“This award is well deserved. Dr. Evans has contributed greatly to our understanding of how the heart forms. Her research has led to novel concepts about how to generate new heart tissue for the treatment of heart failure,” said Dr. Kirk Knowlton, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Cardiology.

Dr. Knowlton and Dr. Evans have collaborated in cardiac research since Dr. Evans joined the faculty in 1991. They and Dr. Andrew McCulloch from Bioengineering are co-directors of the Cardiac Biomedical Science and Engineering Center of the UCSD Institute of Engineering in Medicine.

Pioneer Awards are granted to research projects in which the NIH Director’s Office sees extraordinary originality and promise. Only a small number are given each year.

Dr. Evans is one of 18 U.S. researchers honored with a Pioneer Award in 2009. The awards were announced in a ceremony at the Pioneer Award Symposium September 24-25 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Nora Laiken Receives Teaching Awards from Medical Students and Pharmacy Students

Nora Laiken, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Educational Support Services in the School of Medicine and Lecturer in the Department of Medicine and Department of Pharmacology, has been honored with two teaching awards.Dr. Laiken is the recipient of the Kaiser Excellence in Teaching Award from the first-year students in the School of Medicine and the Excellence in Teaching Award from the second-year students in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego. Dr. Nora Laiken
Nora Laiken, Ph.D.
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