Faculty in the News

Researchers identify ion channel necessary for hormone and anti-obesity drug to suppress eating

February 6, 2017 – UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have identified an ion channel required for brain cells to suppress eating behavior in response to the hormone leptin or to the anti-obesity drug lorcaserin.

A deeper understanding of this brain-metabolism relationship could someday lead to new, better targeted treatments for obesity or diabetes, said lead author Dr. Kevin Williams, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, published recently in Cell Reports.


Researchers urge use of evidence-based medicine to avoid overtreatment of type 2 diabetes

January 31, 2017 – UT Southwestern Medical Center research supports an evidence-based medicine (EBM) approach that embraces individualized care to prevent overtreatment, specifically for patients with type 2 diabetes.

This recommended strategy is outlined in a review article published recently in Circulation.

“Evidence-based medicine is a powerful tool to provide person-centered care to individuals with type 2 diabetes, as well as for patients with other diseases,” said Dr. Anil Makam, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the article. “When applied to type 2 diabetes, EBM calls for a paradigm shift in our treatment approach.”

“EBM is often misunderstood as a call for universal, cookie-cutter medicine, which has led to an epidemic of overtreatment in type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences, and senior author of the article. “Instead, EBM is a critical tool in the physician’s arsenal to provide individualized and person-centered care.”

Researchers discover BRCA1 gene is key for blood forming stem cells

January 24, 2017 – Researchers at from the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that the BRCA1 gene is required for the survival of blood forming stem cells, which could explain why patients with BRCA1 mutations do not have an elevated risk for leukemia. The stem cells die before they have an opportunity to transform into a blood cancer.

“One of the great mysteries in cancer research is why inherited mutations, such as those in BRCA1, cause cancer only in specific tissues such as the breast and ovaries, rather than in all tissues. Our data suggest a ‘die or transform’ hypothesis, which could explain this tissue specificity,” said Dr. Theodora Ross, Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Cancer Genetics Program at UT Southwestern.

Researchers find likely cause – and potential way to prevent – vision deterioration in space

January 16, 2017 – Vision deterioration in astronauts who spend a long time in space is likely due to the lack of a day-night cycle in intracranial pressure. But using a vacuum device to lower pressure for part of each day might prevent the problem, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers said. Their study appears in the Journal of Physiology.

“These challenging experiments were among the most ambitious human studies ever attempted as part of the Flight Operations parabolic flight program, and changed the way we think about the effect of gravity – and its absence – on pressure inside the brain,” said senior author Dr. Benjamin Levine, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM), jointly run by UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources.

Scientists identify protein central to immune response against tuberculosis bacteria

Jan. 11, 2017 – UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have identified a protein that is central to the immune system’s ability to recognize and destroy the bacterium responsible for the global tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.

The new finding, reported recently in Cell Host & Microbe, could someday lead to the development of immunity-based therapies to treat tuberculosis – which typically takes months to eradicate and has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics – by strengthening this immune pathway, said Dr. Michael Shiloh, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology.

“The protein Smurf1 functions in specialized white blood cells called macrophages in both mice and humans, thereby suggesting a conserved evolutionary pathway,” said Dr. Shiloh, co-senior author of the study along with Dr. Beth Levine, Director of the University’s Center for Autophagy Research.

Researchers identify process cells use to destroy damaged organelles with links to cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging 

Dec. 22, 2016 – Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have uncovered the mechanism cells use to find and destroy an organelle called mitochondria that, when damaged, may lead to genetic problems, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory disease, and aging.

Understanding how this process works could potentially lead to new treatments to prevent certain illnesses and even some aspects of aging, said Dr. Beth Levine, Director of the Center for Autophagy Research at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, published today in Cell. The Center for Autophagy Research – the only one of its kind in the nation – investigates the process called autophagy in which cells rid themselves of damaged or unnecessary components.

Adrenaline rush: Delaying epinephrine shots after cardiac arrest cuts survival rates

Dec. 01, 2016 – Hospitals in which the administration of epinephrine to patients whose hearts have stopped is delayed beyond five minutes have significantly lower survival rates of those patients, a new study led by a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center finds.

“That is a 20 percent better survival rate for patients at hospitals where epinephrine is given quickly, which is a big difference,” said Dr. Rohan Khera, a Cardiology Division fellow at UT Southwestern and the first author on the study published online in the journal Circulation.

Study seeks answer to whether mechanical pump can regenerate heart muscle

Nov. 30, 2016 – Could heart muscle that’s been damaged by a heart attack be prompted to repair itself?

Researchers with UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine are launching clinical trials to find out. The trials will look at whether a type of mechanical pump called a ventricular assist device can create an environment that results in regeneration of heart cells.

Outreach to cirrhosis patients doubles early screening rates for deadly liver cancer on the rise

November 18, 2016 – Proactive outreach to cirrhosis patients in a safety net health system successfully doubled their screening rates for liver cancer, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers found.

“Finding ways to reach patients at high risk of liver cancer is critical. Liver cancer has the fastest increasing mortality rate among solid tumors in the U.S.,” said first author Dr. Amit G. Singal, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences, and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This high mortality is primarily due to low rates of liver cancer screening and high rates of late-stage diagnosis.”

20-year cancer survivor is beating a second diagnosis: pancreatic cancer

November 15, 2016 – Ken Abernathy is very familiar with cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1996 and managed his slow-growing disease until 2013, when he started having pains in the side of his abdomen. A closer look revealed a devastating diagnosis – stage 4 pancreatic cancer – a diagnosis he is handling remarkably well three years later.

“We worked very closely with Dr. Collins to develop an individualized plan focused on his complex disease course with two ongoing cancers,” said Dr. Muhammad Beg, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, co-Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Team and leader for multiple pancreatic cancer trials.

Major artery more rigid in African-Americans, which may explain high rates of hypertension and heart disease

November 9, 2016 – African-Americans have more rigidity of the aorta, the major artery supplying oxygen-rich blood to the body, than Caucasians and Hispanics, according to a study by UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists.

“Our demonstration of ethnic differences in arterial stiffness is an important step in understanding the mechanisms that mediate ethnic differences in cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and co-senior author of the study, which appears online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Low-oxygen environment leads to heart regeneration in mice, UTSW research shows

Oct. 31, 2016 – Normal, healthy heart muscle is well-supplied with oxygen-rich blood. But UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists have been able to regenerate heart muscle by placing mice in an extremely low-oxygen environment.

“The adult human heart is not capable of any meaningful repair following a heart attack, which is why heart attacks have such a devastating impact,” said Dr. Hesham Sadek, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and with the Hamon Center. “Though counterintuitive, we’ve shown that severely lowering oxygen exposure can sidestep damage to cells caused by oxygen and turn cell division back on, leading to heart regrowth.” 

Back pain led to kidney cancer diagnosis for survivor turned advocate

Oct. 26, 2016 – Four years ago, Merlinda Chelette was a hardworking ER nurse who suffered from excruciating back pain. When it became too painful to bear, she initially sought chiropractic care, but the pain got worse. Her search for relief eventually led to a radiologist, who found the surprising cause of her back pain was kidney cancer.

“She has done quite well on sunitinib for 15 months. Her cancer remains contained, she has not required additional surgeries, and she is enjoying a reasonably good quality of life,” said her physician, Dr. James Brugarolas, Kidney Cancer Program leader at the Simmons Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern. Ms. Chelette was helped by an active volunteer program “and now she is helping others.”

Fat cells that amplify nerve signals in response to cold also affect blood sugar metabolism

Sept. 30, 2016 – When exposed to cold, clusters of cells within the body’s white fat become beige – a color change that reflects the creation of more energy-producing mitochondria, cellular components that enable cells to burn calories and give off heat. But since white fat cells have very few nerves, how do beige fat cells get the message that it’s cold outside?

“The data here show how white fat cells can make maximal use of their limited number of nerves to allow a single nerve fiber to spread the ‘message’ about cold temperatures amongst the connected cells,” explained Dr. Philipp Scherer, lead author of the study and Director of UT Southwestern’s Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research.

Study to examine value of ECG testing for high school athletes

Sept. 29, 2016 – Researchers working in four labs at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found a chink in a so-called “undruggable” lung cancer’s armor – and located an existing drug that might provide a treatment.

Cancers caused by the KRAS mutation have been a target for researchers since the mutation was discovered in humans in 1982. But, due in part to this oncogene’s almost impervious spherical shape, no one was able to find an opening for attack, said Dr. Pier Scaglioni, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and a contributing author to the study.

Examining mitochondrial DNA may help identify unknown ancestry that influences breast cancer risk

Sept. 20, 2016 – Genetic testing of mitochondrial DNA could reveal otherwise unknown ancestry that can influence a person’s risk for certain types of breast cancer, a new study finds.

“This study is the first to perform mtDNA testing for self-described African-Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics with triple negative breast cancer and to identify unexpected mtDNA patterns,” said senior author Dr. Barbara Haley, Professor of Internal Medicine, who holds the Charles Cameron Sprague, M.D. Chair in Clinical Oncology. “It is estimated that 10 to 30 percent of Americans may not be aware of their mixed ancestry. This type of assessment has the potential to be informative for other cancers where we see ethnic differences in frequency without understanding the cause.”

Scientists enhance ability of antibiotics to defeat resistant types of bacteria using molecules called PPMOs

Sept. 16, 2016 – Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed a strategy to overcome a key defense that drug-resistant bacteria use to fend off antibiotic attack.

This is the first time researchers have tailored one of these synthetic compounds, part of a class called PPMOs or peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, to target a specific efflux pump found in bacterial cell walls, said Dr. David Greenberg, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern and a senior author of the study.

Study to examine value of ECG testing for high school athletes

Sept. 6, 2016 – UT Southwestern Medical Center heart specialists will study whether electrocardiograms (ECGs) are useful in identifying Texas high school student athletes who are at risk of suffering sudden cardiac death.

“It is a tragedy when a young person dies of sudden cardiac death, and physicians want to do everything possible to prevent such occurrences. But it is a rare event and there are costs, both social and financial, to ECG screening,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, Director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, a joint operation of Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern.

Electric fans may exacerbate heat issues for seniors, study finds

Sept. 6, 2016 – Using electric fans to relieve high levels of heat and humidity may, surprisingly, have the opposite effect for seniors, a study by UT Southwestern Medical Center heart specialists suggests.

“Although differences were small, the cumulative effect could become clinically important during prolonged heat exposure, such as during extreme heat waves,” said Dr. Craig Crandall, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and with the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, a joint operation of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and UT Southwestern.

Regents recognize 6 faculty members with Outstanding Teaching Awards

Sept. 1, 2016 – The UT System Board of Regents has honored six faculty members at UT Southwestern Medical Center among the 60 UT System educators who received 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards (ROTA).

Research identifies protein that promotes the breakdown of fat, potentially leading to new diabetes treatments

Aug. 24, 2016 – Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that a protein often located on the surface of fat droplets within cells – and especially abundant in the muscles of endurance athletes – can kick-start the more efficient and healthful breakdown of fat.

The findings could have significant implications for development of new ways to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Perry Bickel, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study published online today in Nature Communications.

CPRIT awards $9.6 million for UTSW projects in cancer treatments, screening, and genetics research

August 24, 2016 – Six new cancer research projects involving treatment, prevention, outreach, and genetics recently received a total of $9.6 million in support from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

UT Southwestern researchers have been awarded a cumulative total of more than $331 million from CPRIT, including the latest awards, which have helped attract additional awards in basic science research, translational research and outreach and prevention programs.

Blocking release of the hormone ghrelin may mediate low blood sugar effect in children taking beta blockers

Aug. 22, 2016 – Researchers at UT&mbsp;Southwestern Medical Center have identified a previously unknown role of a cellular signaling molecule involved in release of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, a finding that could have implications for optimal treatment of children taking beta blockers.

“When beta 1 adrenergic receptors are removed from the ghrelin-producing cells of laboratory mice, the animals exhibit a marked reduction in circulating ghrelin levels,” said study senior author Dr. Jeffrey Zigman, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Psychiatry at UT Southwestern. “The effects of this reduction become apparent when the mice are placed on a calorie-restricted diet and include severe hypoglycemia and, as a result, reduced survival.”

1 in 5 are discharged from hospital with unstable vital signs, and experience higher readmission and death rates

August 9, 2016 – Twenty percent of people hospitalized are released before all vital signs are stable, a pattern that is associated with an increased risk of death and hospital readmission, a new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers shows.

“We found that nearly 1 in 5 hospitalized adults is discharged with one or more vital sign instabilities such as an elevated heart rate or low blood pressure,” said lead author, Dr. Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences. “This finding is an important patient safety issue because patients who had vital sign abnormalities on the day of discharge had higher rates of hospital readmission and death within 30 days even after adjusting for many other risk factors.”

UT Southwestern targets rising rates of kidney cancer with four-pronged attack funded by National Cancer Institute

August 1, 2016 – Bolstering its progress in addressing the rising threat of kidney cancer, the Kidney Cancer Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center has received $11 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Kidney cancer currently has no method of early detection and is particularly challenging to treat.

“We are translating seminal discoveries and technological innovation at UT Southwestern to expand treatment options for both adult and pediatric kidney cancer patients,” said Principal Investigator Dr. James Brugarolas, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Medical Research. “These funds will support a variety of new and ongoing activities including the development of a new drug, studies of kidney cancer subtypes in adults and children, and a novel approach to determine what small tumors may be deadly.”

Researchers identify new mechanism of tuberculosis infection

July 21 2016 – Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a new way that tuberculosis bacteria get into the body, revealing a potential therapeutic angle to explore.

The research team, led by Dr. Michael Shiloh, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern, found that microfold cell (M-cell) translocation is a new and previously unknown mechanism by which Mtb enters the body. M-cells are specialized epithelial cells that transport particles from the airway or mucosal surface to the compartment below the cell.

Dallas cardiologist to take Circulation helm

June 29, 2016 – On July 1, 2016, Dallas cardiologist Joseph A. Hill, M.D., Ph.D., will assume the position of editor-in-chief of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

An active volunteer for the American Heart Association for over 10 years, Hill currently serves as a member of the association’s National Research Committee and the Committee for Scientific Sessions Program. He is also on the editorial boards of the association’s journals Circulation, Circulation Research, and Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, and he has served on the editorial boards of other journals such as the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology; American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs; Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology; Current Cardiology Reviews; Journal of Biological Chemistry; Autophagy; and American Journal of Cardiology.

Liraglutide reduces blood sugars in patients taking large amounts of insulin

July 6, 2016 –  Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern Medical Center, designed the clinical trial, which looked at the effectiveness of liraglutide in patients who were taking high doses of insulin.

“We have a growing population of obese patients who require larger and larger doses of insulin. The insulin causes them to put on more weight, which in turn means their glucose levels remain out of control. We wanted to test whether treating such patients with liraglutide would have an effect,” said Dr. Lingvay.

Visits with primary care doctor result in more colon cancer screening and better follow-up of abnormal results, research shows

June 24, 2016 – People who visit their primary care physicians are more likely to get potentially life-saving colon cancer screenings and follow-up on abnormal stool blood test results – even in health systems that heavily promote mail-in home stool blood tests that don’t require a doctor visit, a study involving UT Southwestern population health researchers shows.

“These findings help underscore the continued importance and effectiveness of visits with primary care physicians in a brave new world of virtual care and population health outreach,” said Dr. Ethan Halm, Director of UT Southwestern’s Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This result is important because screening for colon cancer can result in an early diagnosis and improved survival.”

UTSW University Hospital CEO Dr. John Warner named President-Elect of the American Heart Association

June 23, 2016 – Dr. John J. Warner, Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of UT Southwestern Medical Center University Hospitals, will become President-Elect of the American Heart Association on July 1 for 2016-2017, then serve as President of the AHA for the 2017-2018 year.

“I’m honored to be selected,” said Dr. Warner, who holds the Jim and Norma Smith Distinguished Chair for Interventional Cardiology and the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Chair in Cardiovascular Research. “I’ve been involved with the AHA at every stage of my professional life, and know firsthand the contributions the organization makes to research, education, and the health and wellness of people all over the world. I am looking forward to serving the organization, and using my experiences as a clinician, clinical researcher, and health care executive in service of the missions of the American Heart Association.”

TMA recognizes faculty with Excellence in Academic Medicine awards

Jun 16, 2016 – Dr. Lynne Kirk, Professor of Internal Medicine and of Family and Community Medicine, has received the 2015-2016 Platinum Award, the top honor in the Texas Medical Association (TMA) Award for Excellence in Academic Medicine program. She and three other UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty members – Drs. Robert Haley, A. Marilyn Leitch, and Bradley Marple – were among 10 physicians who were recognized with Gold Awards by the TMA.

Texan is first adult in U.S. to receive updated stem cell transplant for leukemia treatment

June 13, 2016 – Texan Chuck Dandridge became the first adult in the U.S. to receive a newly modified stem cell transplant that uses genetically engineered blood cells from a family member, announced researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center where the procedure was performed.

“We wanted to know whether he had specific mutations in his cancer cells. We found a mutation called IDH 2, which causes the body to produce an abnormal protein that promotes excessive cell growth. If you can target that mutation and stop the abnormal protein from being produced, then cells start behaving normally,” said Dr. Madhuri Vusirikala, Professor of Internal Medicine and the primary investigator of many UT Southwestern clinical trials related to bone marrow transplantation.

Cancer researchers find up to one-quarter of lung cancer patients may be ineligible for immunotherapy

June 4, 2016 – A significant proportion of lung cancer patients also have autoimmune disease, which may make them unsuitable for increasingly popular immunotherapy treatments, a team of researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center has found.

The results are significant because the use of immunotherapy for cancer treatment is expanding, and clinical trials of immunotherapy have routinely excluded patients with autoimmune disease, a population estimated to be between 20 to 50 million people in the U.S., said first author Dr. Saad Khan, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology.

Horton receives Frontiers in Science Award

June 01, 2016 – Dr. Jay Horton, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition as well as Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics, has been awarded the Frontiers in Science Award from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The award was presented at the AACE 25th Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress, which was held in May.

UTSW physicians first in Texas to transplant lungs using new technology to make more organs viable

June 1, 2016 – Transplant surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center have performed the first lung transplant in Texas using donated lungs treated with new technology known as ex-vivo lung perfusion.

Ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) allows physicians to evaluate and recondition lungs, making lungs that would have been unsuitable for transplantation potentially viable. UT Southwestern is one of 16 medical centers across the country – and the only one in Texas – participating in a national clinical trial of the technology, which, if effective, could significantly expand the number of donor lungs available for transplantation.

Surprising mechanism of acid reflux damage identified by UT Southwestern/Dallas VA researchers

May 17, 2016 – The “acid” in “acid reflux” may not be the direct cause of damage to the esophagus as previously suspected, according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Dallas VA Medical Center.

“Although this radical change in the concept of how acid reflux damages the esophagus of GERD patients will not change our approach to its treatment with acid-suppressing medications in the near future, it could have substantial long-term implications,” said senior author Dr. Stuart Spechler, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and Chief of the Department of Gastroenterology at the Dallas VA Medical Center.

Team identifies new function of genes linked to Fanconi anemia and certain types of cancer

May 2, 2016 – Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified an important new function of genes in the Fanconi anemia pathway – a finding that could have implications for development of new therapies to treat this disorder and some cancers.

Fanconi anemia (FA) is an incurable blood disorder affecting about 1 in every 130,000 people caused by mutations in any of 19 FA genes. Mutations in FA genes can lead to birth defects, cognitive impairment, bone marrow failure-related blood disorders, cancers that include pediatric leukemia, premature aging, and other abnormalities.

FA pathway genetic mutations also can be found in cancers of patients without the disorder, said study first author Dr. Rhea Sumpter, an Instructor in Internal Medicine at the Center for Autophagy Research at UT Southwestern. These include mutations in the FANCS (also called BRCA1) and FANCD1 (also called BRCA2) genes, which greatly increase the risk of developing familial breast and ovarian cancers, regardless of whether the person has FA.

Sedentary lifestyle associated with coronary artery calcium, Dallas Heart Study researchers find

April 27, 2016 – Cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that sedentary behavior is associated with increased amounts of calcium deposits in heart arteries, which in turn is associated with a higher risk of heart attack.

“This is one of the first studies to show that sitting time is associated with early markers of atherosclerosis buildup in the heart,” said senior author Dr. Amit Khera, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Preventive Cardiology Program. “Each additional hour of daily sedentary time is associated with a 12 percent higher likelihood of coronary artery calcification.”

Researchers identify enzyme link between excessive heart muscle growth, cancer growth

April 15, 2016 – UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiology researchers have identified molecular ties between the growth of cancer cells and heart cells that suggest existing cancer drugs may be able to help those with enlarged heart cells – a condition that can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

“This work opens the possibility of repurposing a drug that has been in use in cancer treatment for over a decade to target hypertrophic heart disease, a form of heart disease for which we have no effective therapy,” said senior author Dr. Joseph Hill, Chief of Cardiology and Director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center at UT Southwestern. “We hope eventually to test this idea in clinical trials. Doing so is the Holy Grail for a physician-scientist – to translate fundamental molecular discoveries made in preclinical studies to humans.”

Survivorship improving for acute liver failure patients, 16-year analysis finds

April 5, 2016 – More patients hospitalized with acute liver failure – often the result of acetaminophen overdose – are surviving, including those who receive a liver transplant and those who don’t, an analysis led by a UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher showed.

“These trends show that if you manage this disease carefully, which sometimes means less rather than more intervention, you see better outcomes,” said hepatologist Dr. William Lee, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern. “ALF is a rare condition – only 2,000 cases occur a year – but the disease is noteworthy because it typically happens in young people and treatment requires a large amount of resources.”

Researchers find safety-net clinics are important options for minority, low-income populations, even those with health insurance coverage

March 31, 2016 – Safety-net clinics are likely to continue to play a critical role in meeting the needs of insured minority and low-income populations despite expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a study by UT Southwestern researchers suggests.

“Our study revealed that these individuals have a high burden of chronic illness such as diabetes and hypertension, and that they rely on safety-net clinics despite having what is typically considered ‘good’ insurance coverage,” said lead author Dr. Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern.

Data from full hospital stay not much better at predicting risk for readmission than data from first day

March 30, 2016 – Culling more detailed clinical data from electronic health records throughout a hospital stay did not substantially improve predictions about who was more likely to be readmitted, an analysis by UT Southwestern researchers showed, suggesting further studies will be needed to help build effective analytical tools that can help predict outcomes and readmissions.

“Our group’s previous research found that using clinical data from the first day of admission was more effective in predicting hospital readmissions than using administrative billing data,” said lead author Dr. Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern. “So we expected that adding even more detailed clinical data from the entire hospitalization would allow us to better identify which patients are at highest risk for readmission. However, we were surprised to find that this was not the case.”

Better hospital financial performance didn’t produce better patient outcomes

March 30, 2016 – How well a hospital performs financially is not associated with better clinical outcomes, based on results of a new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center that examined hospital mortality and readmission rates.

In addition, the study found that improvements in patient outcomes on several commonly assessed criteria did not lead to a loss in revenue, as some had feared.

“This finding suggests hospitals that are financially well off do not necessarily do better on these publicly reported outcomes than hospitals with worse financial performance,” said study lead author Dr. Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern.

Southwestern Health Resources names senior executive officers

March 24, 2016 — Southwestern Health Resources, an integrated health care network formed by Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center, has appointed four senior executives to oversee joint clinical operations, a joint physician network, and a new population health services company that will respond to the challenges of the dynamic health care environment in North Texas

CDC: E-cigarette use among teens on the rise

Sonia Azad, WFAA, March 21, 2016 – Cigarettes result in 480,000 American deaths each year, but research shows a growing number of young people are turning to e-cigarettes or vaping instead. “A lot of people think of them as being safe, but we haven't proven that," said Dr. David Balis, director of a smoking cessation clinic at UT Southwestern. “I’m concerned that this will be a gateway drug... That they will start off using e-cigarettes and vaping, get hooked on nicotine, and then that will lead to smoking later on.”

UTSW researchers find newly identified immunity pathway protects mammals from virus-caused cancer

March 10, 2016 – “More than 20 percent of human cancers – as well as a number of other diseases – are linked to chronic viral infections,” said first author Xiaonan Dong, Ph.D., an Instructor in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern’s Center for Autophagy Research. The Center is led by Beth Levine, M.D., also Professor of Internal Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at UT Southwestern.

Multinational clinical trial led by UTSW finds that combination injection improves glucose control for patients with Type 2 diabetes

March 1, 2016 – A multinational clinical trial led by UT Southwestern Medical Center and others found that injection of a new long-acting insulin combined with another drug improves glucose control in patients with Type 2 diabetes and, additionally, is associated with weight loss.

PCSK9-inhibitor drug class that grew out of UTSW research becomes a game-changer for patient with extremely high cholesterol

Feb. 25, 2016 – A 59-year-old heart patient with dangerously high levels of cholesterol that could not be adequately reduced by statin drugs now has near-normal cholesterol levels, thanks to a new class of drugs that grew out of work done by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers. Two of these drugs, in a category known as PCSK9 inhibitors, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration last summer for use by some individuals with extremely high cholesterol levels.

UTSW recognized for innovative system to help ensure best practices, quality care for patients

February 5, 2016 – UT Southwestern Medical Center has received the 2016 Healthcare Informatics Innovator of the Year Award for developing a comprehensive and agile system to identify, track, and report clinical quality and patient-reported outcomes across all ambulatory clinics in support of UT Southwestern’s patient-centered care.

Simmons Cancer Center Director, Associate Dean named Chief Scientific Officer for CPRIT

January 19, 2016 – James K.V. Willson, M.D., Associate Dean of Oncology Programs, and Professor and Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named Chief Scientific Officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), effective March 1.