Faculty in the News

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.

UT Southwestern selected to join Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s Care Center Network

Dec. 18, 2015 – UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Program is one of 40 programs nationally – and the only one in North Texas – to be selected to be part of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center Network.

Patients can safely self-administer long-term IV antibiotics, reducing hospital stays

December 15, 2015 – Uninsured patients can be trained to safely and efficiently self-administer long-term intravenous antibiotics, UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians have found, a result that may have profound implications for patient treatment at public hospitals across the country.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Donald Seldin

December 8, 2015 – Drs. Joseph L. Goldstein, Michael S. Brown, and Bruce Beutler have a few things in common. They’re all UT Southwestern graduates. They’re all Nobel laureates. And they all studied under Dr. Donald Seldin, the so-called “intellectual father” of UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Seldin is honored by D Magazine's Excellence in Healthcare awards.

Faculty Members Win CPRIT Awards

November 23, 2015 – The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers more than $19.6 million in research grants to improve preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services relating to cervical, breast, lung, colon, kidney, and pediatric cancers, as well as to improve scientific understanding of cancer biology.

Recently Awarded Epidemiologist

November 19, 2015 – On November 7, 2015, Dr. Robert W. Haley, M.D. received the Laureate Award from the Texas Northern Region of the American College of Physicians at the ACP luncheon held at the Dallas Renaissance Hotel. The Texas Chapter Laureate Award honors Fellows and Masters of ACP who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in medical care, education, research, and service to their communities, Chapter, and the College

Dr. Haley received the Award of Excellence in Community Service in Health Sciences/Medicine on November 19, 2015, from the Dallas Historical Society during a luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel Ballroom. The Awards for Excellence in Community Service are presented on behalf of the Dallas Historical Society to the designated recipients who are deserving of recognition for their generosity of spirit, civic leadership and ability to encourage community-wide participation in a particular phase of the growth of the city.

White coat hypertension and masked hypertension associated with higher rates of heart and vascular disease

November 9, 2015 – “Previous studies on white coat hypertension blood pressure that is high in a medical setting but normal at home have shown conflicting results, and many in the medical community have viewed it as a benign condition. But our research suggests that white coat hypertension is associated with an increase in heart and vascular disease,” said Wanpen Vongpatanasi, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of this study.

Geneticist receives Breakthrough Prize

November 9, 2015 – UT Southwestern Medical Center geneticist Helen H. Hobbs, M.D., is a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Science.

IM Chairman Johnson selected for UK Hall of Fame

November 2, 2015 – David H. Johnson, M.D,. Chairman of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, was inducted into the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame on Oct. 9. Dr. Johnson's research is focused on developing effective therapies for lung cancer.

Exercising two to four times minimum levels progressively reduces risk of heart failure

October 8, 2015 – Exercising at double or quadruple current recommended minimum levels significantly reduces the risk of heart failure, a study by UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists found.

Lung cancer researcher named Giant of Cancer Care

October 6, 2015 – Cancer biologist John Minna, M.D., with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named a “Giant of Cancer Care” in recognition of his work developing lung cancer cell lines that are now used to develop and test new therapies by thousands of researchers worldwide.

Geneticist to receive Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

September 28, 2015 – UT Southwestern Medical Center geneticist Helen Hobbs, M.D., is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Pearl Meister Greengard Prize. The prize recognizes Dr. Hobbs’ research, which advances understanding of heart disease and other complex disorders.

Immunotherapy superior to chemotherapy for lung cancer in international trial involving cancer researchers

September 28, 2015 – An international team of cancer researchers that included UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians announced “game-changing results” using the immunotherapy drug nivolumab to treat certain lung cancers that failed to respond to first-line therapies.

Researchers studying whether gout drug prevents progression of kidney damage in diabetes patients

September 14, 2015 – UT Southwestern Medical Center has joined an international clinical trial studying whether a drug traditionally used to treat gout can help prevent kidney damage in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Researchers in the Preventing Early Renal Loss in Diabetes (PERL) clinical trial are evaluating the drug allopurinol in patients who have nephropathy, an early-stage kidney disease that is a frequent complication of Type 1 diabetes.

Studies show exercise is safe, improves quality of life for pulmonary hypertension patients

September 2, 2015 –  “Clinicians have traditionally been skeptical about prescribing exercise for patients with chronic pulmonary hypertension due to concerns that training might put further strain on the heart,” said senior author Dr. Jarett Berry, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences, and Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care at UT Southwestern.