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November 7, 1996


Pitt engineering faculty win grants, honors

Professor Badie Morsi and Ph.D. candidate Juan Inga of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering have been honored by the American Chemical Society's Division of Fuel Chemistry with the Richard A. Glenn Award in recognition of their paper and presentation, "A Novel Approach for the Assessment of the Rate Limiting Step in the Fischer-Tropsch Process." Electrical engineering professors Hong Koo Kim and Dietrich Langer were awarded a two-year, $204,421 Office of Naval Research grant to develop optical amplifiers and light-emitters for integrated opto-electronics. The study is expected to generate numerous applications in such areas as optical communication and optical information processing.

The Materials Research Center recently awarded six one-year seed grants of $30,000 each to engineering faculty members Eric Beckman, Jean Blachere, Ilan Grave and Robert Stoehr and chemistry professors David Beratan and Rob Coalson.


New treatment shrinks tumors in transplant patients who develop cancer

Transplant patients who develop cancers that don't respond to standard treatment may benefit from an infusion of cells from their own immune system that have been activated to kill tumors, UPMC researchers reported at the XVI International Congress of the Transplantation Society in Barcelona, Spain.

The complication of developing tumors following organ transplantation is called post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD). Certain cells of the patient's own immune system, some of which may be associated with the Epstein-Barr virus, proliferate and tumors result. About 2 percent of transplant patients eventually develop PTLD.

Standard treatment involves temporarily reducing or eliminating the doses of drugs taken to suppress the immune system and prevent organ rejection. However, in only 30 to 50 percent of patients do tumors respond to this therapy. PTLD can be fatal in as many as 80 percent of its victims, according to some reports.

Of the seven patients in the UPMC study — individuals whose tumors did not respond to reduced immunosuppression or for whom reduced immunosuppression was not a clinical option — four had complete remission of their tumors after single infusions of their own, manipulated immune cells.

The remaining three patients did not have complete regression of their tumors. The patients also had aggressive cancers that also tested negative for the Epstein-Barr virus.

UPMC researchers say that further study in at least 20 more patients will help them determine if the presence of Epstein-Barr or the type and stage of cancer more strongly contributes to a patients' success or failure with the promising treatment.


Prof gets grant

The National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research has awarded Mary Christina Hines, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, a $319,000, four-year grant to study "Cardiac Receptor Activity in the Pregnant Rat." The study is designed to contribute to the identification of specific mechanisms that initiate and maintain an expanded blood volume during pregnancy.

Correction In a research study coordinated at Pitt, non-diabetic patients who underwent heart bypass surgery had a survival rate of 91.4 percent. For those who underwent angioplasty, the rate was 91.1 percent. Incorrect percentages were published in the Oct. 10 University Times.

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