Four Michael Reese Endowed Professorships support pioneering research into areas affecting sickle cell disease, prostate cancer, safer surgeries, and better medical training.
1 out of 500 African-American children are born with sickle cell disease (SCD). SCD is treatable, but still results in a lifetime of pain, infection and other disabling symptoms shortening life expectancy to 53 for men and 58 for women. It is curable in children through hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT); however, patients with advanced symptoms are not candidates for this cure. Stem cell transplantations with reduced intensity conditioning regimes have so far been done on a handful of adult patients nationwide. This form of allo-HSCT shows great promise for curing SCD in adults. In fact, Dr. Rondelli, the director of hematology at UIC College of Medicine Chicago, performed the procedure on Dr. Levinson’s adult SCD patient in 2011, and she is now cured. This endowment supports further research and clinical trials into this and other stem cell treatments, working to cure more adults of SCD and other hemoglobinapathic diseases.
Prostate cancer afflicts men of all races and backgrounds, but in the U.S., African American men have highest incidence and mortality rates for this disease. In Illinois, these rates are 48% higher in African American men than in European American men, and nearly 3 times as high as Asian or Hispanic American men. In recent years, the groundbreaking research of Dr. Gail Prins at the department of urology at UIC College of Medicine Chicago reveals a strong connection between early-life exposure to estrogens and increased risk of prostate cancer later in life. Exposures include maternal, pharmaceutical and environmental estrogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics. Dr. Prins developed an innovative model to demonstrate the connection in humans using embryonic and adult prostate stem cells, resulting in the discovery that human prostate stem cells are indeed highly responsive to estrogens. Consequently, current research in Dr. Prins’ laboratory focuses on identifying the effects of estrogen cells on human prostate stem cells and new targets for prostate cancer therapy. To reduce the morbidity and mortality rates for prostate cancer, especially among African Americans, this cutting-edge research needs to continue, and it will with the support of this endowment.
Long-term consequences of anesthesia and surgery were not considered until 1996 when Kurz et al showed that mild hypothermia during an anesthetic triples the risk of surgical wound infection, and Mangano et al linked perioperative B-blocker administration to reduced myocardial infarction and mortality. More recently, comparisons of regional anesthesia to general anesthesia for breast cancer surgeries demonstrate a 4-fold reduced rate in cancer recurrence. “Preventable anesthetic mortality” has declined in the last 30 years to less than 1 in 100,000, but only in the context of generally healthy patients under the age of 65 having routine operations from which they do not die during or immediately after the surgery due to anesthetic causes. Are there complications that anesthesia causes for elderly, immuno-compromised or cancer patients, increasing their risk of one-year mortality after surgery? Are there safer ways to anesthetize these patients during surgery to reduce those risks? Through the department of anesthesiology at UIC College of Medicine Chicago, this endowment will push research into these overlooked areas of anesthesiology safety with the goal of reducing unnecessary one-year deaths after surgery for the elderly and seriously ill.
In order for medical research to ultimately benefit patients with new treatments, it is necessary to train the practitioners who will deliver those treatments. To fulfill the vision of excellent medical care for all, it is also essential to ensure widespread availability of practitioners with advanced training. The Department of Medical Education (DME) at the University of Illinois College of Medicine has been designated by the World Health Organization as a center for collaboration, education and leadership development available to health professionals all over the world. This endowment will help develop the pipeline of knowledge between the DME and the global community to ensure widespread training and availability of highly trained medical practitioners world-wide.