Feb 112013



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Like many patients at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center, Mary Jones drives from her home to Greenville for regular follow-up visits with an oncologist. But what makes Jones different is that she’s participating in a clinical trial. Her experience, and those of thousands of other patients across the country, could lead to better cancer care for future patients.

Two years ago, Jones visited her primary care physician after feeling nauseous for a couple of days. He referred her to specialists in Greenville. When she arrived at the medical center, she immediately underwent a series of tests that confirmed the worst: A CT scan showed Jones, who was 71 at the time, had a mass on her pancreas – a deadly diagnosis.

ECU surgeon Dr. Timothy Fitzgerald recommended surgery as soon as possible, once Jones’ blocked bile duct opened enough to drain the buildup of digestive fluid. Jones didn’t hesitate.

“He told me before surgery it was very, very serious and the high percentage of patients who don’t make it through the surgery,” said Jones, a retired school cafeteria manager from Roper. But Fitzgerald added that Jones was in otherwise good health, which increased her chances of survival. “That gave me hope there,” she said.

He also told her of a clinical trial under way at ECU to study the effectiveness of a combination of cancer drugs for people who had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer. Jones agreed to participate.

The Brody School of Medicine at ECU is part of a national multi-center clinical trial investigating chemotherapy strategies for patients with certain types of pancreatic cancer. At ECU, the principal investigator is Dr. Clinton Leinweber, a clinical professor of radiation oncology.

Patients with pancreatic cancer that has been surgically removed usually receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In this study, researchers want to see if giving one chemotherapy drug without radiation is equivalent to the same chemotherapy drug with radiation. They also want to study the potential benefits of adding a second drug to the chemotherapy regimen after surgery. Five months later, if there is no evidence of disease recurrence, in the last phase of the study, patients are randomly assigned to receive an additional cycle of chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy.

Jones was assigned to the group that received chemotherapy drugs and radiation.

Physicians at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU develop, conduct and lead clinical trials as a way to provide their patients with the best range of advanced treatment options. ECU spends nearly $2 million annually to conduct the trials, and most of those expenses are recovered from governmental and non-governmental sponsors. More than 200 clinical trials are under way at ECU in many areas, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity and hypertension.

While clinical trials are an essential and irreplaceable last step in establishing new treatment approaches for any disease, they would not be possible without the willingness of patients to participate. They help physicians learn which treatments work better, cause fewer side effects, cost less or have other benefits.

“There’s not a lot of robust data to say which is better,” said Dr. Prashanti Atluri, a clinical assistant professor of oncology at ECU who treats Jones. “So this is trying to answer the age-old question (of), ‘Are two drugs better than one, are chemo and radiation better or is just chemo better?’”

She said the incentive for patients to participate in clinical trials such as this one is altruistic: helping those who have the disease in the future.

Jones agreed. “If they learn something from me that can help someone else, I’m glad I’ve done it,” she said. “I feel very, very blessed.”

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention. Patients have a poor prognosis; for all stages, the one- and five-year relative survival rates are 25 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

More information about cancer clinical trials at ECU is online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/ecuphysicians/cancer/ClinicalTrials.cfm.


Geography professor earns Fulbright


Tom Crawford, associate professor in the Department of Geography, has been awarded a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research.


Crawford will spend the spring semester in the Department of Geography & Environment at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland conducting research on the impacts of urban spatial form on greenhouse gas emissions. His project began Feb. 1.


Crawford is one of the 1,200 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2012-2013.


The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program is one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the U.S.


Art exhibit on display at Laupus Library


Laupus Library opened its latest art exhibit Jan. 29, titled “Artscience in Spacetime: STEAM.” The exhibit will be on display through March 12.


In it, Dr. Anthony C. Breuer, affiliate professor of neurology in the Brody School of Medicine and a neurologist at East Carolina Neurology, will showcase his collection of acrylic and oil paintings, depicting recognizable see-through images in multiple layers and at times warped to more closely resemble their “actual” appearance. His work is conceptual, semi-abstract, and embedded with the nature of reality, energy, and matter, space and time.


The spring semester exhibit is the third in the Art as Avocation series, which Laupus Library began last year as a way to highlight the artistic talents and self-expression of faculty, staff and students from the Division of Health Sciences who often pursue demanding health care and higher education careers.


The exhibit is housed in the in the fourth floor gallery of Laupus Library. Visitors are welcome during normal operating hours, posted at http://www.ecu.edu/laupuslibrary or call 252-744-2219.


Visit http://www.ecu.edu/laupuslibrary/events/artasavocation/ to learn more about the artist or series.




Upcoming events


  • Today: 2013 Chinese New Year Celebration, featuring a free stage show at 3 p.m. in Wright Auditorium at ECU. The event is sponsored by the Greenville Chinese School, the ECU Chinese Students and Scholar Association and the Pitt Community College Culture Society.
  • Saturday: Great Decisions Program: Lecture on Egypt by Dr. Mona Russell, Department of History at ECU, and Dr. Lisa Pollard, Department of History at UNC-Wilmington; 10 a.m., Rivers Building West Auditorium. Lecture is free to students, faculty and staff, $6 per session for the public. For more information, contact Dr. Sylvie Debevec Henning at 252-328-5520 or hennings@ecu.edu. To register for the series, visit the Great Decisions website at www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/greatdecisions/home.cfm.

via The Daily Reflector.


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