November 06, 2007

Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center receive $6.37 million from National Institutes of Health to find new ways to treat psoriasis

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Case Medical Center a $6.37 million award to establish a Center of Research Translation (CORT) for the skin disease psoriasis.

The award is one of the largest grants ever given to a medical institution in the United States for the study of psoriasis.

With a five-year grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the Psoriasis CORT will bring together a multidisciplinary team of translational physician scientists, nurses, community clinicians, laity and basic scientists from different departments and disciplines. This team will apply the intellectual and scientific resources of their institutions to new therapies to provide relief to patients with the skin disease that has long-term health and psychosocial consequences.

"Our goal is to find ways to rebalance the human body's immune system and skin cells to restrain the expression of this skin disease," said Kevin Cooper, department chair of dermatology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UHCMC), a partnership between Case and University Hospitals. He also is a professor of dermatology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "It is very important to obtain safe and durable remissions from disease because psoriasis has significant impact on patient health, spanning psychosocial effects and risk for long-term cardiovascular complications and cancers."

The CORT grant complements a $5 million gift to UHCMC from the Murdough Foundation that was received in December 2006 designed to advance the research and treatment of psoriasis. The gift remains the largest known in the United States for dermatology at an academic medical center. The Murdough Family Center for Psoriasis supports and stimulates clinical research and treatment for, and education about, psoriasis and creates a critical base for the CORT research projects and cores.

"Together with the recently awarded $64 million NIH Clinical Translational Services Award to Case Western Reserve University and the NIH NIAMS Skin Diseases Research Center at Case Medical Center, the Psoriasis CORT concentrates a remarkable array of interactive research resources that we expect to change patient care with safer and better therapies," said Pamela Davis, dean of the university's medical school.

"This CORT award reinforces University Hospitals Case Medical Center's dedication to, and progress with, both the treatment and research of psoriasis," said Fred C. Rothstein, chief executive officer of UHCMC. "Our unique interdisciplinary approach to psoriasis therapy and study places us at the forefront of eventually curing this debilitating disease."

The NIAMS grant will allow research teams to focus on three projects that simultaneously use different strategies to study the disease.

PROJECT ONE: Researchers will test and explore the potential use in psoriasis of PC4, a novel photodynamic therapy (PDT), developed as a treatment for skin cancer at Case Western Reserve University by Malcolm Kenney of the Department of Chemistry; Nancy Oleinick, and Drs. Cooper and Baron.

In a clinical trial, the noninvasive photosensitizer PC4 will be applied topically and exposed to red light to active the light-sensitive chemicals. After treatment, a real-time analysis of the psoriasis tissue will take place with the aid of a newly built device to conduct optical monitoring of tissue oxygen levels during treatments. The goal is to control inflammation that eventually brings on T-cell damage.

PROJECT TWO: Another focus of the Psoriasis CORT is to understand the role that S100A8/9, a pro-inflammatory protein, has in initiating the biochemical processes that result in the production of T-cells. Approximately 50 patients a year will participate in this area of the study.

The research team hypothesizes that S100A8/9 is associated with a molecular pattern that recruits, activates and differentiates macrophage cells in the skin of patients with psoriasis and that blocking these processes will halt the progression of the disease.

PROJECT THREE: Through a study of genetically engineered mice with disease characteristics of psoriasis, the researchers hope to analyze the biochemical processes that create the signals leading to the disease and formulate strategies to block the signals. They also hope to study the cardiovascular risks associated with this disease in this mouse model.

Case Western Reserve and UHCMC are recognized as leaders in the study of psoriasis in multiple ways: the Skin Disease Research Center, which is one of only six NIH/NIAMS centers throughout the entire country; the Murdough Family Center for Psoriasis; NIH NIAMS research project funding; Veterans Administration translational clinical trial funding and now the Psoriasis CORT.

About the researchers

The Psoriasis CORT will be under the direction of Kevin D. Cooper, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology, who will lead a research team.

In addition to Cooper, the research team includes Thomas McCormick, associate director; Neil Korman, associate director for clinical research; Nicole Ward and Elma Baron, project directors; Pratima Karnik and Mireya Diaz (epidemiology and biostatistics), core directors. The study brings together an interdisciplinary team that also includes Mark Chance, director of the Proteomics Center; Nancy Oleinick, professor of radiation biology; Anne Marie Broome, assistant professor, radiology and Case Center for Imaging Research; and Daniel Simon, chief, division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

About Psoriasis

Psoriasis affects approximately six million people in the United States (2 percent of the population) at an annual cost over $1 billion in healthcare treatments. The disease is believed to have a genetic component. Additionally, the patients' immune system is mistakenly triggered, resulting in an increased growth cycle of skin cells up to seven times the normal growth rate. The increased skin growth leads to the formation of lesions on the skin that can be inflamed. Psoriasis patients are also predisposed to a specific form of arthritis associated with the disease. Over time, psoriasis outbreaks may progress from small patches that can be treated topically, to later stages where the lesions can cover arms, legs, scalp and torso. The disease also appears to put the patient at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases, treatment complications and lymphomas.

About the NIAMS

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information Clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site.

For more information, contact Susan Griffith, 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Marsha Bragg, November 6, 2007 10:25 AM | News Topics: Awards, Collaborations/Partnerships, Community Outreach, Faculty, Grants, Healthcare, Research, School of Medicine, Science

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