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March 2, 2000

Pitt to get $52.2 million NIH grant

Pitt will receive a $52.2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant — one of the largest in the University's history — to lead a nationwide study of how best to treat coronary heart disease in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

About 90 percent of the 10.3 million Americans currently diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2, according to the NIH.

The seven-year, Pitt-based project is expected to begin this fall. It will involve about 2,600 patients at several dozen centers and will be headquartered in the Graduate School of Public Health.

The study's principal investigator will be Katherine Detre, a professor of epidemiology in GSPH. NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will fund the study.

The University Times could not reach Detre for comment. But David Gordon of the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, who is project officer for the study, said: "This is a very important study. Diabetes is a very common disease and it is associated with a very high risk of heart disease. And once people with diabetes develop heart disease, they have a higher risk of mortality than non-diabetics with heart disease."

Gordon said the Pitt-based study will focus on two issues:

* Whether it is better to surgically remove arterial blockages in diabetic patients or manage the condition using drugs and risk reduction.

Gordon said: "Diabetics with heart disease have a higher death rate, so the question is: Do you treat it through surgery and surgery-like procedures such as angioplasty? Or, because diabetics have a higher risk of mortality in surgery, should you use the less aggressive strategy of managing symptoms?"

* In treating Type 2 diabetes, should doctors prescribe drugs that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin? Or would it be better to use drugs that reduce insulin resistance in targeted organs?

"Type 2 is largely a disease of insulin resistance," Gordon noted. "The thinking is: Don't flood the body with insulin, just decrease the body's resistance to it."

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg announced the grant at the Feb. 24 Board of Trustees meeting.

— Bruce Steele

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