Researchers to begin nine sickle-cell patient studies

UT Southwestern researchers at the Southwestern Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center will launch over the next six months nine clinical studies aimed at advancing the understanding and treatment of sickle cell disease.

"There have been many advances in the treatment of sickle cell disease over the last two decades, but now patients served by the Southwestern Comprehensive Center will have the opportunity to participate in clinical studies that may define the future of this disease," said Dr. Zora Rogers, associate professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and an expert on sickle cell disease. "By working in conjunction with the nine other centers across the nation, we will be able to advance the comprehensive treatment and quality of life for sickle cell patients much more rapidly."

These studies are the first steps in a national clinical research network for sickle cell disease since the Dallas center was established in April 2003 with funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. It is one of 10 U.S. sickle cell centers funded by the NHLBI.

People with sickle cell disease have a genetic error in their hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. Instead of being soft and round, the red blood cells of a sickle cell patient are inflexible and sickle-shaped, causing block ages in the blood vessels and preventing body tissues from receiving oxygen.

The studies will include both pediatric and adult sickle cell patients, most of whom receive treatment at Children's Medical Center Dallas, Parkland Health & Hospital System and UT Southwestern.

Although many of the studies will focus on enhancing the care of pediatric sickle cell patients, four studies will investigate treatments and quality of life in adults.

"Currently we follow nearly 200 adult patients with sickle cell disease though Parkland and the medical school practice," said Dr. Cynthia Rutherford, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, who heads the adult-care program at the sickle cell center. "The resources of the Southwestern Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center enable us to follow our patients more intensively."

The Southwestern Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center is a consortium of research institutions, which include UT Southwestern, UT Dallas, Children's, Parkland, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Scott & White Health Science Center in Temple, and UT Medical Branch in Galveston.

Dr. George Buchanan, professor of pediatrics, directs the center.

For a complete list of the clinical studies, questions about sickle cell disease and Information on how to participate, please contact the Southwestern Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at 214-456-8716 or via e-mail at sicklecell@utsouthwestern.edu.

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