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February 16, 1995


Pitt researcher supplies liposomes for cystic fibrosis trial

The results of the world's first gene therapy trial for cystic fibrosis using fat droplets (liposomes) to introduce a normal copy of the gene into patients was published in January in the journal Nature Medicine.

A Pitt pharmacologist, Leaf Huang, provided the liposomes used in the study, which was carried out by scientists at the Royal Brompton Hospital/National Heart and Lung Institute, St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh.

A spray of DNA coated with a layer of liposomes was used to transfer copies of a normal healthy gene to patients to compensate for the faulty cystic fibrosis genes. It was the largest gene therapy trial for cystic fibrosis so far, with 15 adult CF patients taking part.


Pharmacology gets $572,000 NIH grant

The National Institutes of Health has granted $572,000 to Pitt's pharmacology department to educate and train predoctoral students in pharmacology. Eighteen students are expected to benefit from this five-year grant.


Free treatment available for children with ADHD

Free treatment is available for 100 children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through an ongoing Pitt research study. Children ages 7-9 who are diagnosed with ADHD may be eligible.

The Pitt treatment study is part of a multi-site study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The study is evaluating current treatments for the disorder to determine which type of care is most effective.

ADHD is a group of related childhood problems that affects about one in 20 school-aged children. Children with ADHD may have problems with their behavior and school performance and may be inattentive, impulsive, overactive and uncooperative.

For information on free ADHD treatment or to register a child to be tested for ADHD, call Cheri Shapiro at 624-0446 or Lynn Martin at 624-4270.


Pitt gets HIV early intervention grant

A three-year grant has been awarded to Pitt's School of Medicine for development of the Pitt HIV Early Intervention Project. The grant, supported by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, is the only new early HIV-intervention project that has been funded this year in the mid-Atlantic states. The first year of funding totals more than $429,000.

The project will create new services as well as expand existing HIV clinical services offered through the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment.

The award is from the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990, which Congress passed to provide health care and support services to people living with HIV and AIDS. The legislation is named for the late Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac who died from AIDS. n The Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (PCI) has received a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to expand its program of clinical trials using biological response modifiers (BRMs), agents that boost the body's immunity against cancer.

BRMs include interleukins and interferons, hormone-like substances that regulate cells participating in an immune response, and natural killer cells, which target and destroy tumors.

PCI investigators are exploring new strategies to improve treatments using BRMs. These include delivering potent BRMs to specific sites using gene therapy; tagging the surface of tumor cells with special markers so they are recognized by the immune system; using BRMs that prevent the spread of tumor cells into nearby blood vessels, and combining BRMs with other agents that kill tumor cells or halt their proliferation.

Currently, PCI has more than 20 clinical protocols using BRMs.

The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $533,000 grant to study early detection methods of colon cancer to Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (PCI) researcher Theresa Whiteside.The research will focus on the molecular biology of colon cancer, a disease that strikes 150,000 and kills about 60,000 each year in the United States. As part of the grant, investigators will study changes in a cancer-causing gene and in genes that normally supress the development of colon cancers. They will also study changes in genes responsible for repairing damage to other genes.

As one of 27 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, the PCI specializes in patient care and cancer research, detection, diagnosis, treatment, education and prevention.


The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has received two grants totaling nearly $900,000 to study drug therapies for chronic hepatitas C, a serious liver disease that often necessitates transplantation when other treatments fail. The grants will enable approximately 50 Pittsburgh area residents with chronic hepatitas C to receive medical treatment at no cost. Hepatitas C affects approximately 170,000 Americans each year, half of whom develop a chronic form of the disease. Nearly 80 percent of these patients fail to respond to current available treatments.

Both grants enable patients who qualify and participate in the studies to receive treatment and associated medical tests at no cost. For more information, call Bill Roland at (412) 648-3200.

Researchers at Pitt's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) are offering through a research study, free treatment for teenagers with clinical depression. As many as 1 million teens in this country suffer from clinical depression. Without the proper treatment, the depression can sometimes lead to suicide.

For this reason, WPIC researchers are studying a group of adolescents ages 12-18, who have been diagnosed with depression. People suffering from clinical depression exhibit a variety of symptoms including: changes in appetite, weight, or sleep pattern; irritability or anger; fatigue; poor concentration; loss of interest in favorite activities; feelings of guilt or worthlessness; and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

For more information or to inquire about eligibility for the free treatment study, call Catherine Kalas at (412) 624-1232 The American Cancer Society has awarded Ronald H. Goldfarb, a associate professor of pathology and neurosurgery at UPMC, $213,000 to study proteases (degradative enzymes) that may help activated natural killer (A-NK) cells fight metastatic, or widespread cancer in patients.


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have discovered that a group of immune cells which first encounter HIV produce a host of previously undetected substances, some of which intensify the body's early immune defense against HIV. Charles Rinaldo, a professor of pathology at UPMC, is the lead investigator on the study. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, was presented Monday, Jan. 30, at the American Society for Microbiology's Second National Conference on Human Retroviruses and Related Infections, in Washington, D.C. According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), the immune systems of people who are infected with HIV for nine years or more and who fail to develop full blown AIDS have unique properties that may confer disease resistence. These findings could be important to the development of therapies that prevent the onset of AIDS in HIV-infected people.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, was conducted at the UPMC in collaboration with Therion Biologics in Cambridge, Mass., which is developing vaccines for cancer and AIDS. The results were presented Monday, Jan. 30 at the American Society for Microbiology's Second National Conferrence on Human Retroviruses and Related Infections, in Washington, D.C.

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