A collaboration between Mercy Medical Center (MMC) surgeons, Des Moines University (DMU) and the University of Iowa will obtain surgical specimens from cancer patients and use advanced detection technology invented at the University of Iowa to establish what complex signatures of unique chemical substances are produced by cancer cells from various kinds tumors. By studying these complex tumor signatures--along with the history, progression of the disease and effectiveness of treatments provided to patients from whom the tumors were surgically removed--investigators expect to be able to use the information to develop new laboratory tests to predict how specific cancers will respond to therapy and to provide individual prognostic and therapeutic approaches to the cancer. Because our current view of cancer is that this disease can be as individual as a person’s fingerprint, this suggests the need for more person-specific approaches to cancer. A new laboratory is being built at DMU to accommodate the needs of this project, MMC surgeons are preparing to make tissues available to the project and the University of Iowa research team is continuing to develop the state-of-the-art materials for this analysis to occur.
An infectious disease research laboratory at DMU partnered with surgery resident Dr. Brian Folkers to study benign bacteria that may help to control a persistent problem among hospitalized patients who are treated with antibiotics. An intestinal microorganism that is resistant to commonly used antibiotics is difficult to study in regular cultures, but can be measured with a molecular technique known as polymerase chain reaction. This method was used to show that a benign microorganism that is used to manufacture yogurt could suppress the growth of the harmful intestinal bacterium that can produce diarrhea after antibiotic therapy. This study was presented at a national surgical conference and was awarded first place among surgery resident papers as well as best of show.
Mercy physicians are participating in the National Childrens' Study along with many other health care and public health groups in Polk county are going to participate in a University of Iowa-led project that will enroll 1000 children from Polk county and study how environmental, genetic, social and other factors affect their wellbeing in a study that will span more than 2 decades of life of these children. This highly collaborative effort includes all of the hospitals in Polk county as well as the Visiting Nurse Association and Des Moines University. This major study is being replicated at many sites around the country so that in total, 100,000 children will be studied from conception to adulthood.
A study on advanced imaging techniques for studying stroke was evaluated by Ruan Neurology Clinic physician Dr. Michael Jacoby in collaboration with Dr. Pat Finnerty of Des Moines University. A medical student, Leslie George, participated on this study which was recently presented at an international meeting in Athens, Greece.
A new study is being developed in which pediatric intensive care physician Dr. Bala Napa. He is planning a study which will evaluate a new method of determining the amount of oxygen in the blood of frail infants, who currently have to be sampled by inserting a needle into one of the blood vessels, which is quite traumatic. If this method proves to be valid for monitoring the blood oxygen status of infants, a significant decrease in the amount of trauma associated with the care of these tiny patients will be realized. One of the important aspects of this research is that it involves Drake University, one of the newest partners of the ICTCR.
A group of family practice residents led by Dr. Amanda Blea and Dr. Moen, are evaluating the number of children seen in the family practice clinic who meet standard criteria for blood cholesterol screening. One of the significant challenges in the care of children today is the rapidly rising epidemic of obesity and related problems such as diabetes and heart disease. These investigators are working toward a better understanding of the adequacy of standard screening guidelines for cholesterol screening in children.
Another family practice resident, Dr. Vats, is leading a team of his peers in a study of how a new approach to daily care for hospitalized elderly patients is working in comparison to the usual methods of care. This new method depends on applying a specific protocol to the daily management of elders who are hospitalized and is hoped to offer superior attention to all of the factors in hospital care that are otherwise provided on the basis of attending to the apparent needs of the individual.
The ICTCR has been given the task of developing a team of investigators who will study the effectiveness of one of the Mercy Medical Center’s outstanding clinical units, the eICU Connect. This program provides telemetry that can monitor and provide interventions to acute patients at off-site, rural locations where the number of intensive care physicians may not be as abundant as in larger urban centers. This unit employs cutting edge technology and may provide a significant advantage to patients who are not in large medical centers, but the actual value in practice needs to be demonstrated by objective research. The study is being developed with sufficient scientific rigor to qualify it for publication in peer-reviewed literature.
Dr. Joe Hwang has partnered with investigators at DMU to work with an international partnership of physicians who are trying to understand the genetics of pregnant women and identify the risk of premature birth. Babies born too early and too small have a risk of physical and intellectual deficits later in life and may even die of complications related to their immaturity. By better understanding which women are at higher risk, the obstetrician’s attention may be more intensely focused on those women who may most benefit from special care during their pregnancy.
The Mercy Clinical Laboratory has been a valued partner in some basic investigations that are being conducted at DMU. By providing clinical isolates of microorganisms cultured from patients in the hospital, some of the investigations underway at DMU are being advanced. Important among these studies is the effort underway at DMU to use DNA isolation and characterization techniques to identify bacteria from discarded clinical specimens by methods that do not involve growth on petri dishes in the manner most clinical laboratories operate. These new methods will become the way in which labs of the future will identify microoranisms.
Dr. Daniel Gervich from MMC and Dr. Gray from DMU, have been studying the ways in which new intravenous fluid delivery systems prevent or permit the invasion of infectious microorganisms. In addition, Dr. Gray’s lab has been supporting a collaboration with family practice resident Dr. Wendy Hansen, who has been investigating the way in which antibiotic resistant bacteria reach the clinic from outside and may potentially be spread among individuals. This research is nearly completed and the results will be available for publication in early 2009.
A ground-breaking study is being completed by a team of DMU students led by Dr. Robert Hoyt (Iowa Heart Hospital) and DMU Clinical Research Director Dr. Ted Rooney. This team is trying to understand how often certain kinds of heart irregularities are detected by heart pacemakers that have monitoring capabilities and what the adverse consequences of these events--that have so far been undetected--are. Currently there is no standard medical approach to people who have such irregularities,`` and physicians need to have a better understanding of the consequences of these events so they can decide if intervention might be good for such patients.
A medical information project has reached its implementation stage as Dr. Carol Kuhle, in collaboration with DMU, has developed a computer-based data collection instrument to support the comprehensive clinical evaluation of geriatric patients attending geriatric assessment or memory assessment clinics at Mercy Family Practice Center. This instrument allow the physician and other professionals on the care team--such as a social worker or pharmacist--to create a comprehensive picture of the patient to allow a more thorough and efficient summarization of the patient’s status and needs for maintaining wellbeing through the aging process.
A multidisciplinary group including radiologist Dr. William Young, neurologist Dr. Michael Jacoby and anatomist Dr. Cal Hisley are working together on developing three dimensional computer graphics images and mapping of brain activity using functional MRI instrumentation to evaluate changes during stroke recovery and in developing better means of radiation treatment planning.
The availability of CyberKnife technology at Mercy Medical Center has given rise to studies of potentially valuable new uses for the instrument in treating cancers that have not been addressed by usual methods. A study of the use, outcomes and side effects of the use of this technology on lung cancer is being developed under the direction of Dr. Dev Puri, who will direct a team of DMU students in the study of those cases treated with Mercy’s CyberKnife. The CyberKnife is a technology that allows high doses of radiation to be delivered in a very precise pattern to tumor tissue while minimizing the dose of radiation to tissues which are healthy and could be harmed by high doses of radiation.