CINCINNATI—Deaconess Associations Foundation (DAF) has given a half-million dollar gift in the name of the Heimlich Institute to fund new research at Hoxworth Blood Center at the University of Cincinnati. The donation will aid in the development of new cellular treatments for patients.
The gift was awarded in an event held Thursday at Hoxworth on the UC Academic Health Center’s campus.
Jose Cancelas, MD, PhD, and Thomas Leemhuis, PhD, researchers at the blood center, will use the $500,000 gift to fund two projects: one looking at ways to eliminate cell damage in chemotherapy patients and the other aimed at creating cell therapies for immune-compromised pediatric patients.
Leemhuis, associate professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine, says his team at Hoxworth will work with physicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to develop an experimental treatment that could potentially fight three of the most common viral infections in immune-compromised patients.
“The process will involve bringing an innovative technology from the Baylor College of Medicine to Hoxworth to collect blood from the patient, isolate white blood cell groups and genetically engineer the cells to express proteins that mimic the proteins of cytomegalovirus (herpes), Epstein-Barr virus and adenovirus (most commonly affecting the respiratory tract)—the three most common viruses affecting this population,” he says. “This will help white blood cells identify the pathogens and begin fighting them before they are reintroduced to the patient’s system.”
Cancelas’ team will analyze the role of stem cell proteins in adult bone marrow to see how they can be manipulated to improve side effects of chemotherapy.
“Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in U.S.,” says Cancelas, director of research at Hoxworth and an associate professor at the College of Medicine. “A cornerstone of cancer therapy is chemo-radiotherapy, but a major side effect of chemo-radiotherapy is damage of blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow. Our project intends to analyze the role of a protein involved in the cell-to-cell communication in the blood from inside the environment of the bone marrow and to see if manipulation of the function of this protein may improve some of the problems associated with cancer therapy.”
Patrick Ward, executive director of the Deaconess Associations Foundation, says he is pleased that this gift will not only be used to create cutting-edge treatments for patients, but also to further support Deaconess’ mission encouraging medical innovation.
“We have a vital interest in furthering medical research, and we welcome this opportunity to partner with Hoxworth Blood Center,” he says. “Deaconess is proud to support this groundbreaking research in the name of the Heimlich Institute.”
The Heimlich Institute, housed on the campus of Deaconess Hospital, moved from its original home in New York to Cincinnati about 30 years ago. The institute became a member of Deaconess Associations, Inc. in June 1998 to help advance and promote the mission of supporting educational efforts.
The Heimlich Institute is named after Henry Heimlich, MD, a noted Cincinnatian and inventor of the Heimlich maneuver.
Ronald Sacher, MD, director of Hoxworth Blood Center, says the gift is creating exciting opportunities for the blood center in addition to contributing to Proudly Cincinnati, UC’s $1 billion fundraising campaign. Currently, the university has raised more than $638 million.
“We are pleased to be working with Deaconess to ramp up medical innovation in the Tristate,” he says. “With this generous gift, we are promoting collaboration and are truly working toward breakthrough discoveries that have the potential to help millions worldwide.
“We thank Deaconess and the Heimlich Institute for their generosity.”
Last year, Hoxworth received nearly $2.4 million in research funding. To learn more about Hoxworth Blood Center, visit www.hoxworth.org.
For more information about the Heimlich Institute, visit www.heimlichinstitute.org.
Proudly Cincinnati: Tower of Strength, Rock of Truth is the university’s most ambitious campaign in history, supporting the vision for UC to become the finest urban research university in the United States. Proudly Cincinnati’s goal is to raise $1 billion by 2013 for scholarships, innovative teaching and groundbreaking research.