Faculty in the News

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.

Cardiologist to monitor swimmer’s heart during historic effort to swim across the Pacific Ocean

August 14, 2015 – UT Southwestern cardiologist Dr. Benjamin Levine will use NASA-honed technology to monitor swimmer Ben Lecomte as he plunges into the ocean off of a Tokyo beach this summer heading for San Francisco in his record-setting goal to become the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

Pulmonologist Girod selected to receive 2015 Watson Award for Excellence in Clinical Medicine

August 3, 2015 – Dr. Carlos E. Girod, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named the recipient of the 2015 Patricia and William L. Watson, Jr., M.D. Award for Excellence in Clinical Medicine. “I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Dr. Girod, who also serves as Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the Parkland Health & Hospital System. “This is a most prestigious recognition, and I owe an extraordinary amount to UT Southwestern, as well as to mentors who have guided my career. I am proud to join the past recipients, whom I admire as heroes and people I look up to for their excellent patient care and collegiality.”

Pulmonary Hypertension Program accreditation highlights advances in treatments and research of disease

July 29, 2015 – “An accredited Pulmonary Hypertension Care Center is not just an institution that treats patients who have pulmonary hypertension. You have to be at the forefront of treatment, as well as being involved in clinical trials and moving the field forward,” said Dr. Fernando Torres, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, who developed UT Southwestern’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program 15 years ago.

Yan chosen for Burroughs Wellcome Foundation award

July 2015 - The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) has selected Nan Yan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and of Microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, as one of its 2015 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases.

Lipid enzyme heightens insulin sensitivity and shows promise as potential therapy to treat Type 2 diabetes, study shows

July 16, 2015 – Reducing high concentrations of a fatty molecule that is commonly found in people with diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease rapidly improves insulin sensitivity, UT Southwestern Medical Center diabetes researchers have found. 

Cyclospora: Why You Should Be Sure To Wash Your Produce

July 6, 2015 – KERA – Christian Mayorga, M.D., â€‹Chief of Digestive and Liver Diseases for Parkland Health & Hospital System and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, talked about the resulting illness, cyclosporiasis, as well as treatment and prevention

Cell that replenishes heart muscle found by researchers

June 22, 2015 – Regenerative medicine researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a cell that replenishes adult heart muscle by using a new cell lineage-tracing technique they devised.

Immunity enzyme defends against tuberculosis infection

June 2, 2015 – “Based on this outcome, we believe that modulating cGAS activity could be a novel approach to therapy. There remains a dire need for new therapies against tuberculosis, and thus identifying pathways to stop the pathogen is of vital importance,” said Dr. Michael Shiloh, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern, and co-senior author of the study published in Cell Host & Microbe.

1990s Anderson recruit Girod selected to hold Anderson Professorship

June 2015 – Dr. Carlos Girod, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the Parkland Health & Hospital System, has been named the inaugural holder of the Ron Anderson, M.D. Professorship in Clinical Care and Education at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

The endowment that created the Ron Anderson Professorship was established in 2012 by the Dallas-based Hoblitzelle Foundation as a tribute to Dr. Anderson’s commitment to public health and to care of the indigent.

500th lung transplant brings relief for cystic fibrosis patient, puts Medical Center among top 25 in U.S. to reach benchmark

May 29, 2015 –  Dr. Fernando Torres, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Director of Lung Transplantation, said every transplant is a remarkable accomplishment and stories such as Mr. Vera’s underscore the significance of reaching volume milestones. Fewer than 25 medical centers in the country have performed more than 500 lung transplants.

Mutations in two genes linked to familial pulmonary fibrosis and telomere shortening

May 4, 2015 – Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified mutations in two genes that cause a fatal lung scarring disease known as familial pulmonary fibrosis“Although RTEL1 had been previously linked to telomere biology, our finding that PARN was involved in telomere regulation and human disease was completely unexpected,” said senior author Dr. Christine Kim Garcia, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and with the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development.