Research Briefs

Apr 20, 2017, 12:50 PM by User Not Found
New research led by Dr. Fangjian Guo, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTMB, suggests that the increase in women receiving BRCA gene testing may not necessarily mean better diagnosis of those at risk of certain types of cancer. Traditionally, women tested for mutations in the cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been those diagnosed with early onset breast or ovarian cancer in order to guide treatment options. However, the study findings published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that during the past decade, the use of BRCA testing, a blood test that can identify harmful gene mutations, has gradually shifted from primarily cancer patients to women without breast or ovarian cancer. The research team found that more than 60 percent of BRCA tests performed are in unaffected women compared to 2004 when only 24.3 percent performed were among unaffected women. Study findings attribute much of the increase in testing among unaffected women to the abundance of marketing targeting consumers, which increases interest in BRCA testing. Guo says effective testing strategies that promote equitable distribution and rational use of BRCA testing that also maximize the detection of mutation carriers are needed. The National Institutes of Health supported the study. Other authors include Jacqueline Hirth, Yu-li Lin, Gwyn Richardson, Lyuba Levine, Abbey Berenson and Yong-Fang Kuo.
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awarded a multidisciplinary team of UMTB data scientists and clinicians $525,000 to develop a new visual analytical method that would use large datasets to improve the prediction of hospital readmission in the elderly. Led by Suresh K. Bhavnani, PhD, associate professor of biomedical informatics in the Institute for Translational Sciences, the team will work to develop a new visual analytical method to identify patient subgroups in large datasets such as Medicare data, and test whether those subgroups can help to improve the prediction of hospital readmission in the elderly. This is the first PCORI award that UTMB has received. Knowing which patients are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after a procedure would be helpful to both patients and their health care providers. Doctors would be able to customize care for high-risk patients, which could result in reducing the personal and financial burdens associated with hospital readmission.
Chad Mire, PhD, and Tom Geisbert, PhD, faculty in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, have developed an antibody treatment that successfully protected nonhuman primates against the deadly Marburg and Ravn viruses even when given five days after infection. There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved for human use to protect against the two viruses. They are in the same virus family as Ebola, and cause severe and often lethal disease in people. Monoclonal antibodies are a technology that is currently in wide use for treating autoimmune diseases and cancers. “In this paper, we demonstrated that one monoclonal antibody is able to protect up to 100 percent of Marburg or Ravn virus-infected nonhuman primates when the antibody treatment is given up to five days following exposure to a lethal amount of the virus,” said Geisbert. “These findings extend the growing body of evidence that monoclonal antibodies can provide protection during advanced stages of disease with highly dangerous viruses and could be useful during an epidemic.” The findings are detailed in Science Translational Medicine.

Compiled from press releases written by Christopher Smith Gonzalez, Kurt Koopmann and Donna Ramirez. Find out more at