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Senior Health Care in Oklahoma Receives $11.5 Million in Support Release

September 23, 2014       

OU Health Sciences Center awarded new grant to fund Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative 

The University of Oklahoma Health and Sciences Center has been awarded a three-year $11.5 million grant by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to further efforts to improve the health of seniors in Oklahoma.

The grant will provide critical funding for the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative, a senior health initiative of the OU College of Medicine’s Department of Geriatric Medicine.

“As the population of our state and nation continues to age, it is vital that academic-based medical centers, like ours, remain at the forefront of advancing scientific knowledge of the aging process and evidence-based treatment of health concerns that may arise with advancing age,” said Dr. M. Dewayne Andrews, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center and executive dean of the OU College of Medicine. “The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has been a valued ally as we work to improve senior health in Oklahoma and we are honored to be the recipients of this generous grant.”

The Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative aims to support Oklahoma’s seniors through a variety of programs that center on three key objectives:
Increasing senior and caregiver access to inter-professional geriatric care
Providing health education to consumers as well as health care providers
Optimizing Oklahoma’s current health and aging policy

The new grant will fund phase two of the initiative, which expands and builds on previous successes of the program. 

senior health web“The Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative has helped us establish important inroads as we work to improve senior health statewide,” said Dr. Laurence Rubenstein, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at OU. “The Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative has opened three Centers of Healthy Aging across the state already, allowing us to serve seniors in 47 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. With this grant, we will be able to add additional centers, expanding our reach to every county in the state.”

The Centers of Healthy Aging serve as hubs providing both clinical care and health education to citizens in the region.

“We look forward to being able to expand our work through the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative,” said Dr. Andrew Dentino, Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative director and vice chairman of the Department of Geriatrics.

“Already, this initiative has achieved great success for seniors in our state. We welcome the opportunity to further our educational activities for both seniors and health care professionals, to continue work already underway to better assess the needs and interests of older Oklahomans, to increase awareness of geriatric health concerns overall, and to help train the next generation of senior health care providers.”

Surveys conducted through the Initiative have verified a need for more trained senior health caregivers in Oklahoma. The new grant will enable initiative leaders to implement a certified home caregiver training program aimed at increasing the number of qualified caregivers in the workforce and also better equipping family members to perform necessary tasks when they become caregivers to elderly loved ones.

The grant also provides the funding required to add three satellite centers to better address the needs of seniors in some of the most underserved areas of the state. 

"The Reynolds Foundation is immensely proud of the critical work that the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine is doing to bring geriatrics medical care and education to the state of Oklahoma,” said Steve Anderson, president, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. “Our goal is to improve the health of older people living throughout Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative is doing just that."

The Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative was launched on the premise that good health is key to successful aging. The Institute is focused on increasing access to healthcare and providing important health education to seniors, their caregivers and healthcare providers statewide.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed over $258 million nationwide through the Aging and Quality of Life Program.

 
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Targeting Breast Cancer Tumors with Light

October 7, 2014       

OU research uses new light-drug combination to target tumors while reducing side effects

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center hope to shed new light on breast cancer treatment with fewer side effects.

They have developed an innovative treatment strategy that utilizes photodynamic therapy and site-specific chemotherapy to precisely target breast cancer tumors in an effort to maximize the therapeutic efficacy and to minimize the body’s exposure to chemotherapeutic drugs.

Youngjae You, Ph.D., a member of the Stephenson Cancer Center and associate professor with the OU College of Pharmacy, has just received a new three-year, $550,000 federal grant to advance the work.

His laboratory-based research targets a specific type of breast cancer known as triple-negative. That means the tumor does not have any of the three most common known cancer-growth factors – estrogen, progesterone or the HER-2 gene. Thus, hormonal and HER-2 targeted therapies do not work for such cancers.

“Chemotherapy, the treatment of cancer with chemical drugs, is the one of the ways to treat triple negative breast cancer,” You said. “Unfortunately, even when their breast tumors are localized, patients experience side effects from chemotherapy, like weakness, nausea, vomiting and pain, because their entire body is exposed to the drug.”

Not only can these side effects be difficult for patients, they may also limit the amount of a chemotherapy drug that can be given.

“By being able to combine chemotherapy with photodynamic therapy using our novel linker technique, we have found that we are able to have a site-specific and controlled delivery of the drugs to the tumor without all the negative side effects caused by systemic chemotherapy,” he said. 

Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that uses special drugs, called photosensitizing agents that only work after they have been activated by near infrared light. 

You and his team first deliver inactive chemotherapy drugs directly to a tumor. Next, near infrared light is introduced to the tumor site by way of a fiber optic cable. The light breaks the chemical bonds that keep the drugs from working. With those bonds broken, the drugs become active and kill cancer cells at the tumor site.

“What makes this approach so unique is that we discovered a groundbreaking way to break these bonds with near infrared light using a special chemical bond we developed,” You said. “It allows us to keep the drugs outside the tumor inactive and release the active chemotherapy drug at the tumor site, which minimizes the body’s exposure to the chemotherapeutic drugs.”

The use of near infrared light also offers a number of advantages. Unlike ultraviolet light and high-energy radiation like X-rays or gamma rays, near infrared light is not toxic. It can also reach up to a few centimeters (about an inch) inside tissues within the body, which ultraviolet light and short visible light cannot do.

Ultimately, the goal is to find a way to deliver effective cancer-fighting therapeutics while reducing bothersome side effects for patients.

“If our strategy is successful, it will be a significant advancement toward an effective and innovative treatment option that has minimal side effects for localized and inoperable advanced triple negative breast cancers,” You said.

Collaborating with You on the project are Michael Ihnat, Ph.D. and Sukyung Woo, PhD, both colleagues at the OU College of Pharmacy.  

The research is funded by U.S. Department of Defense grant W81XWH-14-1-0392.

ABOUT THE STEPHENSON CANCER CENTER 
Oklahoma’s only comprehensive academic cancer center, the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma is a nationally recognized leader in research and patient care. The Stephenson Cancer Center annually ranks among the top five cancer centers in the nation for patients participating in National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials, and it is one of 30 designated lead centers nationally in the Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network. In collaboration with the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the Stephenson Cancer Center is decreasing the burden of cancer in Oklahoma by supporting innovative laboratory, clinical and populations-based research. The Stephenson Cancer Center has 180 research members who are conducting over 100 cancer research projects at institutions across Oklahoma. This research is supported by $28.7 million in annual funding from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and other sponsors.
 
ABOUT THE OU COLLEGE OF PHARMACY
The University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy is committed to contributing to society through state-of-the-art education and research as well as modern, innovative pharmacy practices and services. With more than 4200 graduates since 1896, the college helps ensure the public need for safe and effective pharmaceutical care is met.  
 
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