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Physician/author to discuss health and race

Being black can be bad for your health — Dr. Damon Tweedy wrote about hearing that as a first-year medical student at Duke University in 1997.

His book, “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine,” became a New York Times Bestseller and was one of Time magazine’s top 10 nonfiction books in 2015.

Tweedy

“From the beginning of life to the very end — and everywhere in between — African Americans continue to experience disproportionately worse health outcomes,” Tweedy said. “You can name pretty much any disease, and you’re likely to find that it’s either more common in black people; black people who get the disease have a worse course; or both of these conditions. There are a lot of factors involved with this, and I explore many of them in my book.”

Tweedy will discuss race and health disparities Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1200.

For several years, the assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and staff physician at the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center has written and lectured on race and medicine. His articles have been published by The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, as well as by several medical journals.

In his book, he wrote, “Whether it is premature birth, infant mortality, homicide, childhood obesity or HIV infection, black children and young adults disproportionately bear the brunt of these medical and social ills. By middle age, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer have a suffocating grip on the health of black people and maintain this stranglehold on them well into their senior years.”

“I wanted to put a human touch to these issues of racial health disparities — examining how this impacts real people in everyday life,” Tweedy said. “Many people are more likely to engage in these issues when they are presented as stories rather than simply as statistics.

“I also wanted to explore some of the unique challenges faced by African-American doctors — a largely unexplored perspective in popular medical narratives,” he added.

His free, public talk is sponsored by We Are STEMM, a UT organization dedicated to empowering and inspiring students from underrepresented populations who are interested in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Led by faculty and staff, the group celebrates and supports diversity in several UT colleges: Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Engineering; Medicine and Life Sciences; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Health and Human Services.

“I found Dr. Tweedy’s book to be inspirational. While it reveals a story often heard in the community of underrepresented groups pursuing higher education, I think he has been able to deliver many aspects in a manner that may be enlightening and perhaps more palatable to those freed from this ‘experience,’” said Dr. Anthony Quinn, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and chair of We Are STEMM.

“In contemporary society, there is the perception that history can be wiped clean with a single piece of new legislation — no need to deal with lasting psychological scars inflicted by past overt and covert policies or the entrenched social norms that are retained and vigorously guarded for generations in spite of new laws,” Quinn continued. “Dr. Tweedy brings out the adverse and lasting impact that discriminatory practices can have on individuals and society long past the time of those who initially implemented them.”

Tweedy’s talk is one of the University’s events scheduled for Black History Month.

Orthopaedic symposium set for Feb. 18

Learning to diagnose and treat orthopaedic conditions of various complexities of the spine will be the topic of a symposium Saturday, Feb. 18, on UT’s Health Science Campus.

The event will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Dowling Hall Room 2315.

The symposium will focus on discussing physical examination; identifying and diagnosing spine conditions; reviewing radiographic findings; and discussing operative and non-operative treatments.

Presenters will include members of the UT Orthopaedic Department: Dr. Nabil Ebraheim, Dr. Hossein Elgafy, Dr. Mustafa Khan, Dr. Joshua Schwind and Dr. Marshall Gillette.

Local physicians and clinicians working in primary care, internal medicine, orthopaedics, pain management, neurology, neurosurgery, and physical and occupational therapy are encouraged to attend.

The cost of the course is $25, and pre-registration is preferred as seating is limited. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

UT is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

For more information or questions, contact orthopedicsurgery@utoledo.edu or call 419.383.4020.

Physician’s research earns Sigma Xi award

Dr. Blair Grubb, director of UT Medical Center’s Cardiac Electrophysiology Program, has been named the 2015-2016 winner of the Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research, an honor given by the University’s Sigma Xi chapter.

Dr. Steven Federman, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and president of UT Sigma Xi, presented a plaque and cash award of $1,500 to Grubb Jan. 25 during a ceremony on Health Science Campus.

Dr. Steven Federman, right, shook hands with Dr. Blair Grubb after presenting him with the 2015-2016 Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research.

Dr. Steven Federman, right, shook hands with Dr. Blair Grubb after presenting him with the 2015-2016 Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research.

Grubb, who also is Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and director of the Syncope and Autonomic Disorders Clinic, said he and a team of international researchers have studied the field of autonomics for more than 30 years. The Baltimore native is one of the world’s authorities in the treatment of illnesses that include syncope (abrupt, brief loss of consciousness) and other disorders of the autonomic nervous system.

“This award is presented to faculty who have made significant contributions in their fields of research,” Federman said. “Dr. Grubb’s accomplishments in the study of autonomic disorders while a professor at UT are truly impressive, and UT Sigma Xi is pleased to honor him.”

Internationally recognized as a pioneering researcher, Grubb identifies autonomics as a new field. His work has had a significant impact on the practice of medicine across the globe, and has improved the lives of hundreds of patients suffering from these disorders.

Grubb, who called his study of autonomic disorders his “life’s work,” discussed his research in a lecture titled “Autonomics: The Birth of a New Science” during the ceremony.

“When I began in this field,” Grubb said, “we knew virtually nothing about these disorders, and patients were often disabled and without hope. Over the last three decades, we have carefully characterized and classified these illnesses and established diagnostic criteria for them. Recently, we have embarked on an ambitious program to identify the molecular, genetic and immunologic causes of these disorders. In addition, we have used this information to discover a series of new and innovative therapies that can return close to 80 percent of these patients to near-normal lives.”

His patients, he added, routinely come to UTMC from around the world for treatment.

He added that he is humbled by the Sigma Xi award, noting that Sigma Xi’s national office has honored a number of Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein and Al Gore. It is the most recent recognition for Grubb’s dedication to medical research and patient care. In 2016, he was the recipient of UT’s Career Achievement Award. The year before, he was named Dysautonomia International’s Physician of the Year, as well as the British Heart Rhythm Society and Arrhythmia Alliance’s Medical Professional of the Decade — one of the only non-British citizens to be so honored.

He has authored more than 240 scientific papers, five books and 35 book chapters during his career in medicine.

Also known for a creative prowess, Grubb has published more than 50 essays and poems, including a book titled “The Calling.”

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, is a national organization that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of scientific research and knowledge. A voiceover on the Sigma Xi website stated, “The honor of members is that we are a society of integrity… that we have been chosen and selected to represent science, that we are members of a society with Nobel laureates, and we carry a tradition more than 100 years old.”

The organization has 60,000 members worldwide. Chapters usually are found in universities, industrial facilities and government laboratories, as well as other locations where scientific research is conducted.

Grubb succeeds Dr. Yanfa Yan, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the 2014-2015 Sigma Xi awardee.

UTMC sets path forward to serve health-care needs of community

After a thorough review during the past year, The University of Toledo leadership has determined that the UT Medical Center will continue to operate as a teaching hospital, serving the community in South Toledo.

utmc-still-copyIn addition to reviewing UTMC operations, service lines, efficiencies and its customer base, UT leaders studied the rapidly evolving health-care market to determine the most viable path forward for the medical center. They also took into account the change going on at the University, in the industry and in local communities.

“In a rapidly changing industry such as health care, it was imperative that we take the time to thoroughly review our operations, the community we serve, and the dynamics of the health-care market. We needed to be sure we could successfully adapt to the changing environment we live in and continue to serve our 80,000 neighbors effectively,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We have confidence in our team, and we appreciate the patience everyone exhibited while we worked toward determining this path forward.”

A letter sent to the UT community Jan. 24 from Gaber and Executive Vice President for Clinical Affairs Christopher Cooper noted the hospital’s financial strength and stated UTMC was operating at full or near-full capacity, and together with its clinics served nearly 300,000 people last year.

“The financial health of UTMC played a key role in our analysis, and we want it to be clear that the hospital remains viable only if it continues to enhance its productivity and efficiencies going forward,” the letter stated.

UTMC will continue to be a teaching hospital for UT’s colleges of Medicine and Life Sciences; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Nursing; and Health and Human Services.

In addition, the path forward will include gradually adding more primary care and behavioral health options at UTMC to meet the evolving health-care needs of the community and to strengthen the University’s training programs.

“We are committed to evolving in a way that keeps our hospital strong, and as we do so, to communicating with you ahead of any changes,” the letter stated.

UTMC leaders are meeting with employees throughout the week to provide more information and answer questions. The schedule for information meetings is:

Tuesday, Jan. 24
• UTMC employee meeting at noon in Health Education Building Room 100

• College of Medicine and Life Sciences faculty meeting at 5 p.m. in Health Education Room 100

• UTMC employee meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Health Education Building Room 105
• UTMC employee meeting at 7:45 p.m. in Health Education Building Room 105


Wednesday, Jan. 25

• UTMC employee meeting at 7:45 a.m. in the Pinnacle Lounge

• College of Medicine and Life Sciences students and residents meeting at noon in Health Education Building Room 100

Thursday, Jan. 26
• UT Physicians employees meeting at 11 a.m. at Glendale Medical Center

Additional information is available online on the myUT portal under the new UTMC tab.

To submit questions or comments, email UTMCquestions@utoledo.edu or call 419.383.6814.

UT research shows cigarette smoke exposure increases scar tissue in kidney, heart

Smoking cigarettes leads to fibrosis in the kidneys and heart and accelerates kidney disease, according to research at The University of Toledo.

“Smoking is bad for the kidneys and heart together,” said Dr. Christopher Drummond, postdoctoral fellow in the Cardiovascular Division of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Tobacco and nicotine increase the formation of injury or scarring called fibrosis. That reduces cardiac function, so your heart isn’t operating as efficiently. It also makes it so your kidneys can’t filter toxins from your blood as effectively.”

Drummond

Drummond

His research titled “Cigarette Smoking Causes Epigenetic Changes Associated With Cardiorenal Fibrosis,” which was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and done in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego, recently was published in the journal Physiological Genomics.

“The results of this study are a public health concern because a significant portion of the U.S. population suffers from kidney disease and heart-related side effects,” Drummond said. “When you smoke, you’re speeding up the development of kidney disease.”

An estimated 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Drummond exposed two groups of rats to cigarette smoke five days a week for four weeks. One group had chronic kidney disease. The other group had normal renal function. Drummond compared those two groups with two control groups of rats — one with chronic kidney disease and one with normal kidney function — that were kept in a room with no smoke.

“We designed and built a system to expose rats to a constant concentration of smoke from cigarettes,” Drummond said. “Those were lit and the animals inhaled around five cigarettes’ worth of combustible smoke a day.”

In the smoke groups, researchers found a decrease in the genetic material called microRNA associated with slowing or preventing fibrosis in the organ tissue.

Smoking alone drove the rats into renal dysfunction, according to Drummond. Also, blood pressure increased, the heart enlarged, and scar tissue developed in the heart muscle and kidneys.

“If you are concerned or have a pre-existing condition, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health,” Drummond said.

He is currently investigating the effects of e-cigarettes on the kidney and heart.

Pancreatic cancer survivor credits aggressive, unconventional treatment at UT in successful fight

Gerri Musser of Oregon, Ohio, didn’t think she would be around to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with her family.

“I am very lucky to be alive,” Musser, 62, said. “The odds were overwhelmingly against me.”

Dr. Changhu Chen and Gerri Musser posed for a photo in the Edge Radiosurgery Suite in UT Medical Center’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center. Under Chen’s care, Musser received a 10-day, high-dose, targeted radiation treatment for a tumor in her pancreas, liver, stomach and bile duct.

Dr. Changhu Chen and Gerri Musser posed for a photo in the Edge Radiosurgery Suite in UT Medical Center’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center. Under Chen’s care, Musser received a 10-day, high-dose, targeted radiation treatment for a tumor in her pancreas, liver, stomach and bile duct.

The day-care worker and great-grandmother of seven believed she was delivered a death sentence when doctors diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer in August 2015.

“You hear awful stories about how it’s too late when symptoms of pancreatic cancer surface — people died within weeks,” Musser said. “I was at stage IV when they found it. The shocking diagnosis sounded like instantaneous death. They gave me six months to live.”

Musser said her cancer journey started when she couldn’t keep any food down and lost 23 pounds in six weeks. She went to her family physician to find out why she was so sick.

“The ultrasound discovered a tumor the size of a cantaloupe in my pancreas,” Musser said. “I was immediately referred to the Dana Cancer Center at The University of Toledo to see a specialist.”

Surgical oncologists took her into surgery, but couldn’t remove the tumor because they discovered it also had spread to her liver, stomach and bile duct.

Dr. Changhu Chen, radiation oncologist at the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center and professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, said Musser had a less than 5 percent chance of survival.

“After the surgery, I told them three times, ‘I want to live, I want to live, I want to live,’” Musser said. “I will do whatever I have to do.”

The primary tumor in Musser’s pancreas continued to grow despite chemotherapy, so Chen and staff at the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center guided Musser through what Chen calls “unconventional treatment.”

“This is an exceptional case,” Chen said. “She responded so well, you could call it a miracle.”

Musser underwent a 10-day, high-dose, targeted radiation treatment.

“We offered Gerri a 10-day course of high-dose, intensity-modulated radiation therapy using a technology called stereotactic radiosurgery,” Chen said. “Instead of the traditional treatment of low doses on a region of the body for 25 to 30 days, we focused specifically on Gerri’s tumor for 10 minutes a day for 10 days with more than double the dosage using our Edge Radiosurgery Suite. We have had this machine for more than two years and have extensive experience with this fast and safe treatment.”

“It was aggressive treatment, and I’m happy to say it worked,” Musser said. “Dr. Chen dropped an atomic bomb on that big tumor in my pancreas, and the tumor has resolved. I had no side effects. I’m in a remission state and check in with my doctors every other month to make sure it doesn’t come back.”

Chen said Musser’s tumor is the largest for which he has had success using this treatment for pancreatic cancer. This technique is normally used for tumors less than 2 inches in size.

“Pancreatic cancer is a very deadly disease,” Chen said. “There has been no big breakthrough in treatment, no discovery of a method for early detection. I am glad we had good results from a devastating diagnosis in Gerri’s case.”

Chen said the Dana Cancer Center has had many successful treatments for patients with cancers other than pancreatic cancer using expertise and technology in radiation therapy at UT.

Musser, whose hair is growing back, savored every minute celebrating Christmas with her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I had great doctors, and I’m feeling good about making a fresh start for the New Year,” Musser said. “It’s a long road. I’m not done yet. It’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. However, I am prepared to fight again because I’d like to see my great-grandchildren grow up.”

Memorial service set for UT student; fund established in her memory

Visitation and a celebration of life for Molly L. LaBadie, a UT student who was pursuing a degree in anthropology and art history, will be held Saturday, Jan. 7.

LaBadie

LaBadie

LaBadie, 24, passed away from a sudden illness Dec. 22 in the Dominican Republic while on vacation with her mother, Dr. Kandace J. Williams, UT professor of biochemistry and cancer biology, and associate dean of the graduate program in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

The family will receive guests Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Newcomer Funeral Home, 4752 Heatherdowns Blvd., Toledo. The celebration of life will begin at 2 p.m. Family and friends then are invited to gather at 4 p.m. at the Toledo Sailing Club, 2701 Broadway St.

LaBadie worked as a lab aide from 2015 to 2016 in the College of Medicine.

The Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology is planning to establish a fund in memory of LaBadie with the UT Foundation.

“Our hope is that this fund will be sufficient to provide modest support for a selected graduate student to travel to a national scientific meeting each year,” Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs, wrote in an email sent to college members. “Given Molly’s past contributions to the department, her love of travel, and Kandace’s devotion to our graduate students, we believe that this would be a fitting way to honor Molly.”

Donations may be made to the UT Foundation with “Biochem in memory of Molly LaBadie” in the memo and left with Mary Ann Schuster, assistant to the chair of the Biochemistry and Cancer Biology Department, in Block Health Science Building Room 413. The UT Foundation also will provide envelopes at the memorial service Saturday at Newcomer Funeral Home.

To share memories of LaBadie, click here.

Distinguished educator to deliver commencement address Dec. 17

Toledo native Dr. Timothy Law Snyder, president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will present the keynote address at the UT fall commencement Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. in Savage Arena.

Snyder, who will receive an honorary degree during the ceremony, will address 2,066 candidates for degrees: 93 doctoral, 584 master’s, 1,346 bachelor’s and 43 associate’s degrees.

Snyder

Snyder

The ceremony will be streamed live at http://video.utoledo.edu.

Snyder is a distinguished American educator and academic administrator whose career includes success as a computational mathematician, musician, published scholar, lecturer and podcaster. He attended Toledo Public Schools and graduated from UT in 1981 with bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and mathematics. Additionally, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from UT in 1983.

Snyder also holds a second master’s degree, as well as a doctoral degree, in computational mathematics from Princeton University.

“We’re honored to have Dr. Timothy Snyder return to his alma mater as our fall commencement speaker,” said UT President Sharon L. Gaber. “His career is proof that goals can be multidirectional, and success follows people who work hard to make lasting contributions, no matter what career paths they choose over a lifetime.”

In 2014, The University of Toledo Alumni Association recognized Snyder with its College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Outstanding Alumnus Award.

“I return to my hometown with pride and excitement to deliver the keynote commencement address. My educational path and career were profoundly shaped by my years at UT,” Snyder said. “I continue to resonate with UT’s mission to improve the human condition and advance knowledge, among its other values. I hope to inspire graduates to pursue their life goals with creativity and integrity.”

Snyder has held academic positions at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and at Georgetown University, where he was chair of the Department of Computer Science and its first dean of science. Additionally, he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut and vice president for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland. In 2015, Snyder was appointed the 16th president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He has published and presented widely on his research, which includes computational mathematics, data structures, design and analysis of algorithms, geometric probability, digital signal processing, computer music, and the education of the millennial generation. More recently, he has been researching risk assessment in commercial airline safety, as well as HIV and its prevention.

A musician most of his life, Snyder was lead singer in the touring rock-and-punk band Whirlwind from 1976 to 1983. His music can be found on iTunes and SoundCloud. He is also active in social media through his Twitter handle @LMUSnyder.

The University’s fall commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business and Innovation, Judith Herb College of Education, Health and Human Services, Medicine and Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Additionally, UT’s College of Engineering will hold graduation ceremonies for its undergraduate and graduate candidates Friday, Dec. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

Reach Out and Read partners with Barnes & Noble to collect books, promote education

Reach Out and Reach, a grant-funded program of The University of Toledo Department of Pediatrics, is working with Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Fallen Timbers to help children in the classroom.

The community can help promote school readiness and family reading time by donating a book at the Barnes & Noble Fallen Timbers Holiday Book Drive at the store in Maumee Sunday, Dec. 11, with the voucher at right, or by shopping online at barnesnandnoble.com Dec. 11-16 with the book fair ID 11985702 at checkout. 

Barnes & Noble voucherAll book drive and book fair proceeds will benefit children and families in northwest Ohio.

“Our goal is to secure 10 percent of our books needed for the year; that is a total of 2,600 books,” Lori LeGendre, program director for Reach Out and Reach, said.

Reach Out and Read prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.

Doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally appropriate books to children.

Locally, the program will reach 13,000 families with young children at 25 pediatric and family practice offices in northwest Ohio. The program distributes 26,000 new books yearly.

Nationally, Reach Out and Read programs are located in 5,800 hospitals, health centers and pediatric clinics in all 50 states. The program also serves 4.5 million children and families each year. More than 6.5 million new, developmentally appropriate books are given to children annually, and more than 12,000 doctors and nurses participate in Reach Out and Read.

Donations may be made to Reach Out and Read of Northwest Ohio at https://www.utfoundation.org/foundation/home/Give_Online.aspx.

For more information about the local initiative, visit facebook.com/RORNWO or reachoutandread.org, or contact LeGendre at lori.legendre@utoledo.edu or 419.383.4007.

Researchers take cross-disciplinary look at addressing side effect of cancer treatment

Radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have negative impacts on normal functions in the body and become so severe that some patients choose to discontinue their treatment plans.

Dr. Heather Conti, UT assistant professor of biological sciences, recently was awarded $60,000 from Ohio Cancer Research to support a study titled “Proinflammatory Cytokines IL-23 and IL-17 in Radiotherapy Induced Oral Mucositis” to explore what mechanisms cause one of the most common debilitating complications of cancer treatment called oral mucositis.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Oral mucositis occurs when cancer treatments break down the lining of the inside of the mouth, leaving it open to sores and infection. Patients experience sores on the gums or tongue, difficulty swallowing, bleeding and pain.

“Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation of the head and neck can develop severe damage to the lining of the oral cavity,” Conti said. “The inflammation and sores can make it difficult and painful for the patient to speak, eat or drink, and can lead to an increased risk of serious infection.”

She has joined forces with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, radiation oncology professor and chief of the Medical Physics Division, to take a cross-disciplinary approach in examining oral mucositis in mouse models.

“I am thrilled to be working alongside Dr. Parsai. He has amazing, cutting-edge radiology equipment that he uses to treat patients, and it is one of the leading reasons why I chose to come to UT to conduct my research,” Conti said. “He will provide radiation treatments to the mouse models that are very similar to what cancer patients receive. We can then examine how interleukins, IL-23 and IL-17 are involved in cell-to-cell communication and are involved in the development of oral mucositis.”

These proteins are proinflammatory cytokines produced by both humans and mice.

Candida albicans is a yeast fungus that naturally occurs within the mouth, gut and vaginal tract, but given the chance to flourish in a patient where damage to the mucosal tissue has occurred due to radiation treatments, it can take hold and cause inflammation. It is the most common secondary infection in cancer patients.

Parsai said that despite advances in radiation treatment that have made it highly precise, such as the Varian Edge System used at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center, healthy tissue still can be affected.

“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Conti to better understand how oral mucositis develops,” he said. “This research could lead to the development of better drugs to treat it and its associated infections, so that patients are able to successfully complete their course of cancer treatments.”