Francis named chair of UofL obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health

Francis named chair of UofL obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health

Sean Francis, M.D.

Jan. 15, 2016

Sean L. Francis, currently the interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Louisville, has been named to the post permanently. The appointment was approved by the UofL Board of Trustees at its Jan. 14 meeting.

“Dr. Francis brings a patient-centered approach to care that enables him to partner with our patients to identify the best treatment options and infuses that approach in his work leading the department, its residents and students,” said Toni M. Ganzel, M.D., dean of the UofL School of Medcine.

Francis was named interim chair in February 2015. He came to UofL in 2012 as associate professor and chief of the divisions of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMR) and Minimally Invasive and Gynecologic Surgery. He also is FPMR fellowship director and practices with University of Louisville Physicians-Urogynecology. Prior to his tenure at UofL, he was on the faculty of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

Francis is board-certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and FBMR and completed a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale’s Department of Gynecology, Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery.

He has been named to “Top Doctors in America,” “Best Doctors in America,” “Top Doctors in Louisville” and “Top Surgeons in Louisville.” The author or co-author of chapters in two reference manuals and 20 journal articles, Francis has made 47 oral, video and poster presentations at professional meetings in the United States, Canada and Wales.

He is a past winner of the Faculty Award for Excellence in Resident Education by the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching; and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists’ Special Excellence in Endoscopic Procedures Award.

Francis earned a bachelor’s of science degree, cum laude, in biology from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Ga., and his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He completed a residency in internal medicine at Case Western’s Mount Sinai Hospital and another in obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical College of Georgia.

Supporting future professionals

Minority Pre-Health Symposium provides guidance for high school and undergraduate students interested in health professions
Supporting future professionals

Students at the 2018 Minority Pre-Health Symposium

Kyle Castaneda knows the value of mentors and connections for applying to medical school. A University of Louisville senior majoring in biochemistry, he credits the networking and advice he gained at events such as the Minority Pre-Health Symposium with helping him achieve admission to the UofL School of Medicine, where he will enroll this fall.

“I was from a very rural county. I was not prepared when I got to college to become a successful applicant for medical school,” Castaneda said. “I didn’t know a lot about when to shadow, when to volunteer or when to apply to medical school.”

High school and undergraduate students interested in health professions visited the UofL Health Sciences Center (HSC) campus Feb. 10 to learn about career and educational opportunities, tour the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health & Information Sciences, and meet with advisors and potential mentors. Representatives from the four HSC schools were on hand to discuss with students the skills needed to navigate the road to higher education in the health sciences.

Hannah Granholm, a high school sophomore from Louisville, attended the symposium to learn more about becoming a nurse practitioner. “I learned that a nurse practitioner does more than just give people shots and medicine. They do a lot more, and it takes a lot of work to do it,” Granholm said.

Glenda Granholm, Hannah’s mother, encouraged Hannah to attend. “I thought she could get exposure to different fields and could talk to people who know the field. That way she’ll be more comfortable asking questions.”

Vivian Doyle, a second-year UofL medical student, took a group of the students on a tour of the School of Medicine. She said a mentor provides essential support for students aspiring to careers in medicine, dentistry or graduate studies.

“It’s definitely important to find mentors – a physician, a medical student or an upper classman. That way, if you do get nervous or you have your doubts, you can go to your mentor and ask advice,” Doyle said.

Barbara Ekeh, another second year medical student, said the event also provided an opportunity to learn about the lesser-known careers in health-care, such as public health, graduate studies or dentistry.

“There are so many avenues in medicine and some are more visible than others. One student was asking, ‘What is public health?’ I didn’t know what that was until I was in college. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.” Ekeh said. “This is an avenue where they can meet other students to try and figure out what they are interested in doing.”

The event also allowed the students to connect with advisors and faculty members who could help them along in the process. Ashley O’Neil, a program coordinator in the UofL HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion, helps students determine the best fit and guides them through the application process.

“There are people like me who will help you figure out your path and what it is going to take for you to succeed. I’m here to help in your journey with shadowing, clinical work, understanding the MCAT and its whole process, and the application itself,” O’Neil said.

Alona Pack, M.S.N., M.A., R.N., assistant professor in the UofL School of Nursing, said student organizations also can be important resources for the students.

“We have support systems for minority students here, particularly the Black Student Nurses Association. They provide mentorship and academic support to the students. They also do community outreach and develop leadership skills. It’s a good network for the students.”

The Student National Medical Association, Student National Dental Association, Health and Social Justice Scholars, Black Student Nurses Association, and the UofL Health Sciences Center Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the program, attended by 85 high school and undergraduate college students. The event was funded by the UofL Student Government Association Club Programming Committee (CPC) and the UofL Commission of Diversity and Racial Equality (CODRE).

Castaneda said events such as the symposium can help students connect with other programs and student organizations, which he found helpful. Castaneda attended the Professional Education Preparation Program (PEPP) prior to college, and joined the Multicultural Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) once he arrived on campus.

“PEPP particularly got me up to speed and it made me feel a lot more comfortable when I got to college. I just kept doing the programs. They give you more exposure to the field. They let you meet great people and they help you along the process.”

See a photo gallery from the event here.

For more information on mentoring programs, visit the UofL HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

Show support for breast cancer research with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center Facebook frame

Show support for breast cancer research with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center Facebook frame

The UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center has made this frame available for Facebook cover photos to show support for breast cancer research.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at UofL invites you to show your support on your Facebook page all month long.

The stats are sobering: Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women, and about one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

You can show support for all that the Brown Cancer Center does to end breast cancer by adding our Facebook profile frame. It’s easy:

From your phone: 1. Click on your profile picture. 2. Click “Add Frame.” 3. In the search function, type in “Brown Cancer Center.” 4. Click “Change Frame.”

From your desktop or laptop: 1. Go to 2. In the search function type in “Brown Cancer Center.” 3. Once you have found the correct frame, click “Use as Profile Picture” to save.

While you are at it, like the Brown Cancer Center on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date with the latest news and events.


UofL cardiovascular surgeon implants two patients with new heart-support device at Jewish Hospital

Minimally invasive device in trial stage for use as bridge to heart transplant or for long-term cardiovascular support in patients with severe heart failure
UofL cardiovascular surgeon implants two patients with new heart-support device at Jewish Hospital

iVAS illustration courtesy NuPulseCV, Inc.

University of Louisville heart transplant surgeon Mark Slaughter, M.D., has implanted two patients with an investigational device, the intravascular ventricular assist system (iVAS), at Jewish Hospital to improve heart function. The iVAS is a minimally invasive alternative to ventricular assist devices for use in patients with severe heart failure, allowing more mobility and implant without open-heart surgery. The iVAS supports heart function and can be used temporarily while patients await a heart transplant or as a more permanent treatment. UofL is the only site in Kentucky participating in the iVAS trial.

The iVAS is a counterpulsation heart device, assisting the heart by pumping between beats while the heart is resting to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Manufactured by NuPulseCV, Inc., the device consists of a balloon-type pump placed in the descending aorta. This pump is inflated and deflated to help move blood through the body. The intra-aortic pump is connected through the skin to an external drive unit. The new technology is an improvement over other heart assist devices such as the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) most significantly in that the iVAS is implanted with a minimally invasive procedure, not requiring open heart surgery.

“The iVAS is put in through a peripheral artery so it does not require opening the chest or placing the patient on a heart-lung machine,” said Slaughter, chair of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery in the UofL School of Medicine and surgical director of heart transplant and mechanical assist devices for UofL and Jewish Hospital. “Through this clinical trial, we may find additional advantages such as the opportunity for patients to disconnect from the device intermittently. With the VAD, you are always tethered to the device. With the iVAS, you may be able to be untethered or turn it off for short periods,” Slaughter said.

Another benefit, Slaughter said, is patients are not required to be on long-term blood thinners, which can have serious side effects.

Robert Hughes, one of the patients who received the iVAS implanted by Slaughter in Louisville, had a heart attack in May and subsequently learned he had heart failure.

“I finished chemo for leukemia in January. I had gone from 200 pounds to 145 pounds and I was pretty weak,” Hughes said. “Then I had the heart attack on May 17. Afterward I was getting dizzy just standing. I felt like I would faint. It was very unnerving. I didn’t want to get out and do a nosedive at Pic Pac,” Hughes said.

Hughes’s diagnosis was advanced heart failure, but he did not qualify for either a heart transplant or open-heart surgery, so when he was presented with the iVAS as a long-term option, he was ready to participate in the trial. His iVAS was implanted on Aug. 13. Within a few weeks, he was able to go home.

“Since the surgery, I feel stronger and haven’t had dizzy spells. I am gaining my weight back,” Hughes said. “I am very pleased with the outcome. As far as I’m concerned, everything is a plus.”

Hughes said he has been able to get out for trips to the drug store or grocery store without fear of passing out. The external drive unit for iVAS weighs only 8 pounds, permitting patients to be discharged from the hospital to await transplant or continue their lives at home and free to go out in the community.

The goal of the clinical trial is to determine whether iVAS is as effective as the LVAD. Including the two patients at Jewish Hospital, 70 patients have been implanted with the iVAS device in 12 centers across the United States. 

Learn more about clinical trials at UofL here.




Sept. 30, 2019

First patient enrolled in NanoKnife® DIRECT study for treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer

First patient enrolled in NanoKnife® DIRECT study for treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer

Dr. Robert Martin

The University of Louisville has enrolled the first patient in AngioDynamics’ NanoKnife® Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) “Data IRE Cancer Treatment” clinical study (DIRECT). The DIRECT Study supports a proposed expanded use of the NanoKnife System in the treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer.

“We are pleased to be the first enrolling site. The DIRECT Study represents an important milestone in the standardization of care for patients with stage III pancreatic cancer,” said Robert C.G. Martin, MD, co-principal investigator of the DIRECT Study; director, Division of Surgical Oncology; professor of surgery, University of Louisville and surgical oncologist with UofL Physicians – Surgical Oncology.

“Our goal is to generate important data that should standardize and optimize the use of IRE in the treatment of locally advanced pancreatic cancer, significantly improving outcomes for patients with this late-stage diagnosis,” Martin said.

Annually, there are approximately 57,000 new cases and 46,000 estimated deaths from pancreatic cancer in the United States. Deaths from pancreatic cancer are projected to increase dramatically in the coming years, with a trajectory of becoming the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths before 2030.

The mortality rate is high due to the aggressive nature of the disease and lack of early warning signs. Less than 20 percent of patients are candidates for surgical resection at time of diagnosis.

Approximately 35 to 40 percent of patients will initially present with stage III and 45 to 55 percent with metastatic disease. Regardless of the stage of pancreatic cancer, it is one of the least survivable cancers, and survival rates have not improved substantially for more than 40 years. For all stages combined, the five-year relative survival rate is 8 percent and, for those with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, the five-year survival rate remains at 3 percent.

The DIRECT study continues the research of Martin and other health care providers at UofL that has helped lead to results that have tripled the overall survival in stage III pancreatic cancer.

AngioDynamics’ DIRECT clinical study features a comprehensive data collection strategy that will provide meaningful clinical information to health care professionals, support a regulatory indication for the treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer and facilitate reimbursement for hospitals and treating physicians. The next-generation study is classified as a Category B IDE by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which allows participating sites to obtain coverage for procedures performed, in addition to related routine costs.

The DIRECT Study includes a randomized controlled trial at up to 15 sites, as well as a real-world evidence, next generation registry at up to 30 sites, each with a NanoKnife System treatment arm and a control arm. AngioDynamics expects each NanoKnife arm to consist of approximately 250 patients with an equal number of control patients. The primary goal of the study is overall survival.

As part of the DIRECT Study, AngioDynamics launched to facilitate the enrollment of participants. The online platform provides patients and their families with information about pancreatic cancer and details about the study. It also features a physician locator to help prospective participants and referring health care professionals identify clinical study locations.

UofL Physicians ALS Clinic named Recognized Treatment Clinic

UofL to launch ALS research program
UofL Physicians ALS Clinic named Recognized Treatment Clinic

UofL President James Ramsey has kicked off the new UofL ALS research fund with a personal donation of $10,000.

The University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic, located at Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health, was named a Recognized Treatment Clinic by The ALS Association on Tuesday, Sept. 16. The clinic is one of 50 in the United States to earn such a designation.

The designation follows a rigorous clinical and administrative review by the association and a vote of its board. Earning the recognition means the clinic meets a national standard of quality and implements best-practice care for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In addition to celebrating the designation, the University of Louisville announced the establishment of a research fund to further the activities of the clinic as it pursues its goal of becoming a Certified Center for Excellence. Dr. James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, kicked off the new UofL ALS research fund with a personal donation of $10,000, which he announced at the news conference Tuesday.

“For me, ALS is personal,” Ramsey said. “My mother-in-law passed away from ALS, and developing this clinic and an ALS research program at UofL has been a goal of mine for a long time. I hope others will choose to donate to UofL’s ALS research program as well so we might help find the cause and a cure for this devastating disease.”

Ramsey made his donation as part of the “ice bucket challenge” that has swept the nation since July and greatly raised awareness of ALS and contributions to ALS research. He participated in the challenge on Aug. 28 on the UofL Health Sciences Campus. (Watch here:

On Tuesday, The ALS Association’s Kentucky Chapter also presented the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic with a $10,000 check.

“We are proud to present this one-time donation to the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic, which is made possible by a gift from Heaven Hill Distilleries through the sale of Parker’s Heritage bourbon to help us continue to fulfill our three mission priorities, one of which is to expand our care services,” said Mari Bacon, executive director of the chapter.

Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon is named for Parker Beam, a sixth-generation master distiller for Heaven Hill who has ALS. As a way to help The ALS Association raise funds to find a cure, Heaven Hill donates a portion from the sale of every bottle to The ALS Association.

Recognition process

The ALS Association’s Certified Center Program – which includes Recognized Treatment Clinics and Certified Centers of Excellence – selects, recognizes and supports distinguished institutions recognized as the best in the field when it comes to knowledge, skill and experience with ALS; access to care; and neurological diagnostics and imaging. Recognized Treatment Clinics must also have an on-site designated multidisciplinary team.

Other requirements to become a Recognized Treatment Clinic are serving a number of patients living with ALS, and an ongoing relationship with the local chapter to provide programs to assist those with ALS and their families. The primary goal of the ALS recognition process is to ensure each patient receives the best evidence-based care closely linked to positive outcomes.

The designation confirms to patients and families, as well as government institutions and other key stakeholders, the validity and comprehensiveness of the UofL Physicians program.

“We are honored to recognize the University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic for the staff’s expertise, and for all they have done and are continuing to do for patients living with the disease,” said Shawn Mullennex, president of the board for The ALS Association’s Kentucky Chapter. “Becoming a Recognized Treatment Clinic is not easy to achieve, and patients who come to the UofL Physicians clinic can feel confident that they are receiving the best care possible, in a compassionate and caring environment.”

Mullennex presented clinic director Dr. Martin Brown with a plaque designating the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic as an ALS Recognized Treatment Clinic, a goal that was years in the making. Brown was joined by Dr. Kerri Remmel, chief of vascular neurology at University of Louisville Physicians, and Randy Napier, president of Frazier Rehab Institute, in receiving the plaque.

Lisa Shannon, chief operating officer of KentuckyOne Health, said the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic at Frazier Rehab “is indeed yet another example of the partnership between UofL, Frazier Rehab and KentuckyOne Health to advance medical care and research in the Commonwealth.”

“It is our mission to bring wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved. The ALS clinic and the research that will be done here is part of that mission, and I want to emphasize the word ‘hope,’” Shannon said. “ALS is a devastating disease. But through research, there is hope. Hope for better care and advancements in treatment that can improve quality of life for these patients, and maybe one day find a cure.”

Napier added “We are honored to be the home of the ALS Clinic and the physicians, staff and researchers that will work with us every day to make a difference in the lives of the patients and their families who entrust us for care. The Frazier Rehab team that cares for ALS patients is an incredibly dedicated group of professionals – from physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to psychology, pulmonary rehab and case management.”

UofL ALS research

Brown said the new UofL research program will have two components: clinical research, which includes trials of possible treatments for existing patients; and basic science research of ALS to try to determine how the disease starts and why it progresses.

“We don’t know what causes ALS, why it starts or how it spreads from one limb to another,” Brown said. “It’s hard to come up with a treatment if we don’t know the underlying cause. Our goal is to try to answer some of those questions, and give patients more hope through clinical trials that might make a difference. Research is the key to fighting ALS.”

For more on the University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic and the new UofL ALS research fund, visit or email

History of the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic

UofL’s quest to serve patients with ALS started with a conversation nearly 10 years ago between Dr. Kerri Remmel, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and UofL President Dr. James Ramsey. It was an important cause for both – for Remmel as a neurologist, and for Ramsey for his family.

Dr. Martin Brown was then hired in 2007 to help develop the clinic, and in 2011, he met with The ALS Association’s national chief of care services, Kim Maginnis, and the Kentucky Chapter’s executive director, Mari Bacon, to discuss becoming a Recognized Treatment Clinic. He had already begun seeing patients, and he and clinic coordinator Johanna Harris had started working with the association’s Kentucky care services manager, Patricia Peak.

In June 2013, the clinic became a reality, seeing patients on the sixth floor at Frazier Rehab Institute, 220 Abraham Flexner Way. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, the clinic became a Recognized Treatment Clinic by the ALS Association.

UofL pediatric spinal cord injury research program garners significant support

The Helmsley Charitable Trust provides $1.5 million grant
UofL pediatric spinal cord injury research program garners significant support

Andrea Behrman, Ph.D.

At three months of age, Emmalie Smith suffered a spinal cord injury leaving her paralyzed. Her parents, Amy and Bryce, took her to traditional physical and occupational therapy three times a week with the hope that their little girl would regain her ability to move.

Amy says the results were underwhelming, with Emmalie using her forehead to activate a motorized wheelchair.

Unsatisfied with that as an option, Amy contacted the University of Louisville and Andrea Behrman, Ph.D., who had brought to UofL her research into the use of Locomotor Training to provide better rehabilitation to children with paralysis from spinal cord injuries.

Nine months after the intense physical therapy at the Frazier Rehab Institute, a part of KentuckyOne Health, Emmalie was able to better move her arms, roll over and come to sit in bed, and use a manual wheelchair. After her most recent work with Behrman and the pediatric team, the now 4-year-old from Brighton, Mich., is beginning to stand. With an injury at such a very young age, these are new experiences in Emmalie’s growth and development.

“This has made a tremendous difference in Emmalie’s life,” Amy said. “Her core strength is to where she is able to sit on her own and doesn’t need a chest belt. She’s able to get herself around and is much more independent. Working with Dr. Behrman and her team has had a huge impact on Emmalie and our entire family.”

More children like Emmalie will be able to benefit from Behrman’s groundbreaking efforts, thanks to a three-year, $1.5 million grant provided by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“The work of Dr. Behrman and her team is a perfect example of the goal of every researcher at the UofL Health Sciences Center -- transforming peoples’ lives through creating and translating into actions new knowledge about how to prevent, treat and cure medical issues,” said James R. Ramsey, Ph.D., president of the University of Louisville, in announcing the grant at a news conference today (Sept. 4). “We are very excited and grateful that the Helmsley Charitable Trust shares our vision and is providing significant support to help us achieve this ambitious objective.”

To date, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has provided nearly $16.5 million to support UofL researchers investigating both cancer prevention and cures and rehabilitation efforts for adults and children who are paralyzed.

“Dr. Behrman’s work has the potential to be truly transformative for adults and children who are affected by paralysis -- not just in Louisville and Kentucky, but around the world.” said John Codey, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.  “With this latest grant that is focused on treating pediatric spinal cord injuries, the Trust is thrilled to build upon our relationship with UofL’s world-class team of researchers, who continue to break new ground in the quest to understand and solve some of the most critical medical challenges that we face today.”

“The importance of support from our partners cannot be over-emphasized,” said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., UofL executive vice president for health affairs. “The current research funding environment does not guarantee that projects like Dr. Behrman’s will receive support from the typical funding agencies. We are extremely grateful that the Helmsley Charitable Trust recognizes that the work taking place at the University of Louisville has the significant potential to change the lives of children throughout the world.”

Behrman, professor of neurosurgery and director of the UofL Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery, is a pioneer in the use of Locomotor Training in children. The intense physical therapy regime was developed by Behrman and fellow UofL faculty member Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery and the Owsley B. Frazier Chair in Neurological Rehabilitation at UofL and the Rehabilitation Research Director of the UofL Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Locomotor Training allows individuals with certain kinds of spinal cord injuries to repetitively practice standing and stepping using body weight support and a treadmill with manual facilitation from therapists and technicians. The ultimate goal is to re-train patients with spinal cord injuries to sit independently, stand and walk again. Further benefits including improved respiration, bladder control, and sensation have made a significant impact on the quality of life for children. Behrman’s goal is to help children who not only have spinal cord injuries, but also conditions such as head trauma and tumors.

“The generous support we are receiving from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will enable our team to develop equipment that better fits children as they participate in Locomotor Training,” Behrman said. “Also, we now will be able to develop a systematic database for immediate and long-term outcomes for the children who are participating in our program. We also will gain a better understanding of the value of sensory cues such as surface texture, heat/cold or vibrations and their potential impact on the child’s rehabilitation effort.”

Breast radiation trial provides more convenience, better compliance, lowered cost and patient outcomes on par with current treatment

UofL researcher finds once-weekly regimen successful with no adverse effects
Breast radiation trial provides more convenience, better compliance, lowered cost and patient outcomes on par with current treatment

Anthony E. Dragun, M.D.

An experimental regimen of once-weekly breast irradiation following lumpectomy provides more convenience to patients at a lower cost, results in better completion rates of prescribed radiation treatment, and produces cosmetic outcomes comparable to the current standard of daily radiation.

These interim results of the 5-year Phase II clinical trial using the experimental regimen were presented Sept. 4 at the Breast Cancer Symposium 2014 in San Francisco by Anthony E. Dragun, M.D., vice chair and associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Louisville.

Dragun, a radiation oncologist with University of Louisville Physicians, launched the trial three years ago at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health and the only site offering the experimental regimen in the United States. A second KentuckyOne Health site is being planned, he said, and is expected to begin enrolling patients this autumn.

Reviewing data from Europe – the United Kingdom in particular – Dragun found an alternative to the currently standard daily radiation treatments prescribed to patients after a lumpectomy. Physicians in the U.K. and other European countries were reporting excellent results with a regimen of radiation administered once-weekly.

“Instead of daily treatments for 25-30 days, five to six treatments administered once each week were being used,” he said. “I thought this regimen would give our patients here in Kentucky a great deal of access and choice, so we developed the trial and launched it in 2011.”

Approximately 150 female patients have been enrolled in the trial thus far, he said. Patients undergoing a lumpectomy following diagnosis of breast cancer are given a choice of the current standard of daily radiation treatments or the option to enroll in the trial and receive treatment one time per week.

The radiation dosing has been calibrated to compensate for the change in how the treatments are administered, but no adverse effects have been seen, Dragun said. “The outcomes with once-weekly treatments are absolutely in line with what we see in daily breast irradiation,” he said. “The standard of care is maintained.”

Giving women the choice of how their treatment is administered means more women complete their treatment, he said. “Finding time for daily treatments for 6 weeks or more just isn’t possible for many women,” Dragun said. “Scheduling once-weekly treatments is much easier to fit into the busy lives our patients lead.

“We also see many patients who depend on public transportation or live in rural areas that are 30 miles or more from our center, and they have told us that they would not have been able to complete a traditional course of daily radiation treatment.  Their only alternative would be a mastectomy,” he said.

Because radiation treatment is reimbursed on a per-treatment basis, Dragun said the overall cost is lowered. “We have reduced the number of treatments to about one-fourth to one-third of what the current daily treatment regimen is,” he said. “Medicare reimburses radiation costs on a per-treatment basis, and most private insurers do likewise.

“This means we’ve been able to reduce the cost by 50 to 60 percent without jeopardizing the quality of care.”

Dragun plans to enroll another 50 patients at the Louisville site and 30 at the future trial site. After the completion of this trial, he intends to expand into a multi-center Phase III trial at facilities in other states.

“We believe the once-weekly regimen such as this will become a standard option in the next decade,” he said.





Bhatnagar leads group developing first policy statement on e-cigarettes

Bhatnagar leads group developing first policy statement on e-cigarettes

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.

A University of Louisville professor chaired a 10-member American Heart Association panel of experts in formulating the association’s first-ever policy statement on e-cigarettes.

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine and director of the UofL Diabetes and Obesity Center, is lead author of the statement as published in the journal CirculationAug. 24.

While much is still unknown about the rapidly growing electronic cigarette industry, e-cigarettes are dangerous because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine, and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use, according to the policy statement.

The battery-powered e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are tobacco products and should be subject to all laws that apply to these products, according to recommendations in the policy statement. The association also calls for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, and for more research into the product’s health impact.

“People need to know that e-cigarettes are unregulated and there are many variables that we don’t know about them,” Bhatnagar said. “Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could re-normalize smoking in our society.”

Manufacturers present e-cigarettes as “cool and sexy and acceptable, which is a problem because you’re increasing addiction,” Bhatnagar said. Companies also use terms like “vaping” rather than smoking to gain public acceptance and try to break the connection between e-cigarettes and traditional, “combustible” cigarettes, he added.

In April the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules banning the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and subjecting the $2 billion industry to federal regulation for the first time. Such rules had been long sought by the AHA and other organizations.

The FDA’s proposal fell short of what was hoped for by the AHA and other public health advocates, however, because it did not go far enough in limiting online sales, advertising and flavored products, all tactics used to make e-cigarettes appealing to young people.

Liquid nicotine used by e-cigarettes comes in many flavors like bubble gum, caramel, chocolate, fruit and mint, all attractive to young people, and many brands use colorful, candy-like packaging.

“That’s an unfortunate trend, to make them palatable and attractive to children,” Bhatnagar said.

UofL pediatricians make changes to improve care for community’s children

The University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics is reorganizing its general pediatrics division, positioning itself to respond better to the needs of the community’s children and to the changing health care enrivonment.

The division provides primary care services to children in Louisville and Campbellsville, Ky., and helps train students and residents in medicine, nursing, dentistry, psychology and social work.. In 2013, its 22 pediatricians were responsible for more than 22,000 patients. Approximately 12 percent of the children in metro Louisville sees a UofL pediatrician as their primary care provider.

“Health care reform has placed a greater emphasis on primary care, where providers can promote health and safety,” said Gerard Rabalais, M.D., MHA, chair of the UofL Department of Pediatrics. “Pediatric programs like ours may be the best place to achieve success with health care reform since we have the ‘longest runway’ to influence attitudes about prevention and healthy lifestyle.”

A number of changes are planned for the coming months.

Consolidating offices, redeploying physicians

The department created a single, expanded practice site in Downtown Louisville, moving the office formerly located on Broadway at Floyd Street a few blocks north  of the Children & Youth Project (C&Y) at 555 S. Floyd St.

C&Y will offer all of the services previously offered at the Broadway office, and the expanded downtown clinic will serve as a medical home with a wider array of on-site ancillary services: social work, psychology, dental care, home health, speech therapy, WIC nutrition services and legal counseling.

“This practice demonstrates the power of a university to bring multiple disciplines together to provide comprehensive health care for children,” Rabalais said.

Patients may see a UofL pediatrician at C&Y or one of the department’s other general pediatrics practices: the Stonestreet location at 9702 Stonestreet Road; or the Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre at 982 Eastern Parkway.

Families who want a Spanish-speaking provider will have three office locations to choose from in Downtown Louisville, Germantown and South Louisville.

“Consolidating these two offices and deploying our physicians to different locations lays the groundwork for increasing access and building partnerships in the communities we serve,” said Gil Liu, M.D., chief of the UofL general pediatrics division. “Increasingly, we want to be able to say, ‘Our pediatricians are coming to a neighborhood near you.’”

Adding pediatric practices

This summer, the UofL Department of Pediatrics will partner with an East Louisville pediatric practice, bringing the number of general pediatricians and nurse practitioners in the department to 36.

The department will also expand its Campbellsville, Ky., practice – located at 73 Kingswood Dr. – later this summer, partnering with Taylor Regional Hospital to open a satellite office in Columbia, Ky.

Plans also are underway to provide general pediatric care in the West End of Louisville.

“We see these additions as opportunities to expand availability to patients and support community practitioners, who don’t have the resources to support multiple disciplines or the buying power and advantage in contract negotiations that we do,” Rabalais said.

Creating a network

All of the Louisville pediatric practices will soon operate as a network. That means patients will have a medical home for routine visits as well as access to urgent care at any of the other Louisville general pediatric practices. The network also will enable families to access ancillary services headquartered at C&Y and specialty care by UofL pediatric specialists.

“We think an arrangement that offers ‘one-stop shopping’ for multiple health care providers will be good for all our patients,” Dr. Liu said.

Creating additional learning opportunities for trainees

The department’s reorganization also ensures that residents, medical students and trainees from other programs will have places to learn primary care pediatrics. Historically, trainees have spent time in community pediatric practices but these practices may struggle to continue hosting students because of changes in the health care landscape.

“It is part of our educational mission to expand primary care opportunities,” Rabalais said.


Ratajczak wins Landsteiner Prize

Ratajczak wins Landsteiner Prize

Mariusz Ratajczak, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci.

Mariusz Ratajczak, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., has been selected to receive the prestigious Karl Landsteiner Prize from the German Society for Transfusion Medicine and Immunohematology. Ratajczak holds the Henry M. and Stella M. Hoenig Endowed Chair at the University of Louisville.

The Landsteiner Prize is given by the society to a doctor for outstanding achievements and research in the fields of transfusion and/or immunology. The prize is named after Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian biologist and physician. In addition to distinguishing the main blood groups, Landsteiner also discovered polio along with several other researchers and received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930. Landsteiner is recognized as the father of transfusion medicine. Previous recipients of the Karl Landsteiner Prize include Nobel Prize laureate Rolf Zinkernagel (Basel), Karl Blume (Seattle) and Stephanie Dimmeler (Frankfurt).

Ratajczak was honored for his outstanding achievements in the characterization of mechanisms involved in the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells and the discovery of very small embryonic like stem cells in the adult tissue.

An internationally known specialist in the field of adult stem cell biology, his 2005 discovery of embryonic-like stem cells in adult bone marrow has potential to revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine. The discovery may lead to new treatments for heart disease, eye disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as provide insight into the development of many forms of leukemia.

In addition to his endowed position, Ratajczak is a professor in the Department of Medicine and the director of the Developmental Biology Research Program and of the Research Flow and Sorting Core Facility at the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

In addition to receiving the Karl Landsteiner Prize, Ratajczak has also been invited to deliver an opening lecture on Sept. 9 during the society’s annual meeting in Dresden, Germany.

Air pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young adults

UofL research team co-authors American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report
Air pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young adults

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.

 Fine particulate matter air pollution may be associated with blood vessel damage and inflammation among young, healthy adults, according to new research in CirculationResearch, anAmerican Heart Association journal.

“These results substantially expand our understanding about how air pollutioncontributes to cardiovascular disease by showing that exposure is associated with a cascade of adverse effects,” said C. Arden Pope, Ph.D., study lead author and Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

“These findings suggest that living in a polluted environment could promote the development of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke more pervasively and at an earlier stage than previously thought,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., study co-author and the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine at the University of Louisville. “Although we have known for some time that air pollution can trigger heart attacks or strokes in susceptible, high-risk individuals, the finding that it could also affect even seemingly healthy individuals suggests that increased levels of air pollution are of concern to all of us, not just the sick or the elderly.”

Air pollution is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease and related deaths. In 2004, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement, updated in 2010, warning of the risk and recommending that people talk to their doctor about avoiding exposure to air pollution specific to their area. What remained unclear, however, was how air pollution actually affects the blood vessels to increase the risk of disease.

For this study, investigators analyzed the component of air pollution known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — the tiny pieces of solid or liquid pollution emitted from motor vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking. They found that periodic exposure to fine particulate matter was associated with several abnormal changes in the blood that are markers for cardiovascular disease. As air pollution rose, they found:

  • small, micro-particles indicating cell injury and death significantly increased in number;

  • levels of proteins that inhibit blood vessel growth increased; and

  • proteins that signify blood-vessel inflammation also showed significant increases.

Study participants included 72 healthy, nonsmoking, adults in Provo, Utah. Their average age was 23, most were white and more than half were male. During the winters of 2013, 2014 and 2015, participants provided blood samples, which researchers then tested for markers of cardiovascular disease. Due to the unique weather and geographical features of Provo, they were able to evaluate these informative blood markers with various levels of air pollution.

However, researchers noted that the third study year, 2015, was relatively unpolluted, which could have affected the results.

Other co-authors are James P. McCracken, Ph.D.; Wesley Abplanalp, Ph.D.; Daniel J. Conklin, Ph.D.; and Timothy O’Toole, Ph.D., all of UofL. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Additional Resources:


Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at


Spinal cord injury research: Bonus benefit to activity-based training

UofL researchers report activity-based training improves urinary function after spinal cord injury, investigate effects of epidural stimulation
Spinal cord injury research:  Bonus benefit to activity-based training

Charles Hubscher, Ph.D.

Activity-based training has resulted in unexpected benefits for individuals with severe spinal cord injury (SCI). Researchers in the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville have discovered that the training, designed to help individuals with SCI improve motor function, also leads to improved bladder and bowel function and increased sexual desire.

Research participants receiving activity-based training conducted by KSCIRC at Frazier Rehab Institute initially reported improvements in bladder, bowel and sexual function anecdotally. Charles Hubscher, Ph.D., professor and researcher at KSCIRC, has documented those changes in research published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

For individuals with severe spinal cord injury, bladder and bowel dysfunction are among the most detrimental factors to their quality of life, even more than the loss of independent mobility.

“Patients with spinal cord injury say they are most concerned by the problems associated with bladder function,” Hubscher said. “These issues contribute heavily to a decline in their quality of life and impacts overall health.”

Bladder dysfunction associated with SCI results in numerous health complications, requiring lifelong management and urological care in the form of catheterization, drug and surgical interventions, peripheral electrical stimulation and urethral stents. All of these therapies bring with them serious side effects and none substantially improves the basic functions.

To document changes in bladder, bowel and sexual function resulting from activity-based therapy, Hubscher and his colleagues performed urological testing (urodynamics) and asked research participants with severe spinal cord injury (SCI) to complete surveys about their bladder and other functions. Eight of the participants received activity-based training, which includes locomotor training, stepping on a treadmill with their body weight supported, and stand training in a specially designed frame. Four participants did not receive training.

The active participants’ functions following training were compared with their own condition prior to training and with individuals not receiving training. Following 80 daily sessions of locomotor training with or without stand training, the active individuals were found to store significantly more urine at safer pressures, reported fewer incidents of nighttime voiding and reduced general incontinence, as well as improved bowel functioning and increased sexual desire.

“Today’s published research indicates that activity-based training strengthens the neural circuits that control urogenital and bowel functions,” Hubscher said. “We hope to further validate those findings by determining if the improvements can lead to elimination of related medications and/or long-term reduction in the number of daily catheterizations. In addition, we are evaluating the effects of spinal cord epidural stimulation on those circuitries.”

Susan Harkema, Ph.D., professor and associate director of KSCIRC and an author of the study, said the publication highlights the value of the research collaborations at UofL.

“This work showcases the exceptional environment for research at UofL, with basic scientists working in parallel with clinicians in rehabilitation and neurosurgery,” Harkema said. “There are relatively few researchers addressing bladder, bowel and sexual function both in animals and humans in chronic spinal cord injury. Dr. Hubscher’s work adds a unique and valuable aspect to our research.”

Epidural Stimulation Research

Researchers at KSCIRC are investigating the use of spinal cord epidural stimulation (scES) to facilitate the ability of SCI patients to stand, voluntarily control leg movements, and improve other functions. Spinal cord epidural stimulation involves the delivery of electrical signals to motor neurons in the spine by an implanted device.

In concert with this research, Hubscher is investigating the effects of scES on bladder, bowel and sexual function in SCI patients. Funded by a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Hubscher has begun work to map the lumbosacral spinal cord for multiple aspects of bladder function. This work will identify locations on the spine and device configurations for using scES to improve bladder storage and voiding efficiency.

The funding is through the NIH Common Fund program Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC), which aims to increase the understanding of nerve-organ interactions and neuromodulation to advance treatment of diseases and conditions for which conventional therapies fall short.

Hubscher’s SPARC project has a three-year timeline and includes concurrent investigations in both animals and humans. His team will enlist six human research participants who have received scES devices and have completed the initial epidural stimulation study to assist with the development of device parameters, then test those parameters at home.

For the estimated 1,275,000 people in the United States who live with paralysis from SCI, therapies resulting from this research have the potential to increase their quality of life as well as reduce health-care costs.


About the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville

The Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC), opened in 2001, provides the opportunity for basic scientists, physicians, neurosurgeons and physical therapists to work collaboratively with the common goal of curing paralysis. Through close association with clinical colleagues in the UofL Department of Neurological Surgery, KSCIRC is in a unique position to conduct research designed to ultimately lead to effective treatments for spinal cord injury. This continuum of research has facilitated a “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside-to-bench” approach, where basic science questions are examined from a translational perspective and findings in the clinical setting enlighten or guide future basic scientific studies.

Research supported by NICHHD grant no. R01HD080205, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. KSCIRC Neuroscience Core facilities supported by NIH/NCRR P30 grant no. 8P30GM103507. NIH:  Functional Mapping with Lumbosacral Epidural Stimulation for Restoration of Bladder Function After Spinal Cord Injury, grant no. 1OT2OD024898-01.

Normal eye dominance is not necessary for restoring visual acuity in amblyopia

Research shows eye dominance and visual acuity are independent, governed by separate areas of the brain
Normal eye dominance is not necessary for restoring visual acuity in amblyopia

Aaron W. McGee, Ph.D.

Amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye,” is a visual disorder common in children. The symptoms often are low acuity in the affected or “lazy” eye and impaired depth perception. Researchers have long believed that the impaired vision by one eye is a consequence of exaggerated eye dominance that favors the fellow or “good” eye.

Amblyopia typically is treated by patching the fellow eye to strengthen the affected eye with the goal of restoring normal eye dominance. If correction is not achieved prior to the closing of a “critical period” that ends in early adolescence, visual impairments are more difficult to treat, if not permanent.

Research published today, led by Aaron W. McGee, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Louisville Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, may lead to changes in how amblyopia is treated, particularly in adults. The research shows that eye dominance and visual acuity are controlled by different areas of the brain, and that one can be corrected without correcting the other.

“We unexpectedly discovered that they aren’t related. They’re independent,” McGee said. “It may not be necessary to instill normal eye dominance to correct visual acuity.”

Previously, McGee and fellow researchers identified a gene called ngr1 as essential in closing the critical period. He found that deleting ngr1 in animal models permits the critical period to remain open or to re-open, facilitating recovery of normal eye dominance and visual acuity. However, the relationship between the improved visual acuity and eye dominance was not clear.

Today’s research reports that recovery of eye dominance alone is not sufficient to promote recovery of acuity, and recovery of acuity can occur even if eye dominance remains impaired. McGee and his colleagues found that eye dominance is regulated by the brain’s primary visual cortex, while visual acuity is governed by another area of the brain, the thalamus.

McGee is the senior author on the article, published in Current Biology, (Distinct Circuits for Recovery of Eye Dominance and Acuity in Murine Amblyopia). Co-authors include Céleste-Élise Stephany Ph.D., a graduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of the research and now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, Shenfeng Qiu, Ph.D., assistant professor of the University of Arizona, and others.

The researchers applied tools to selectively delete the ngr1 gene in different areas of the brain. When ngr1 was deleted from the primary visual cortex, normal eye dominance was recovered but acuity remained impaired. When ngr1 was deleted from the thalamus, eye dominance was impaired, but visual acuity recovered to normal.

“Genes that are limiting recovery from amblyopia are working in parts of brain circuitry that previously were not recognized to have a role in improving visual acuity,” McGee said. “This could allow researchers to address acuity directly, without having to restore normal eye dominance.”



June 7, 2018

UofL physician to participate in UN Day panel Saturday

Mittel will discuss health consequences of human trafficking
UofL physician to participate in UN Day panel Saturday

Olivia Mittel, M.D.

October 28, 2015

Olivia Mittel, M.D., assistant dean for student affairs at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, will be among an expert panel discussing human trafficking Saturday, Oct. 31. The event is part of the 70th United Nations Day Commemoration Conference, hosted by the Kentucky Division of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).

The event will kick off at 11 a.m. at the University Club Ballroom, 200 E. Brandeis Ave.

At UofL, Mittel is among the team that educates and trains medical students and residents to recognize the signs of human trafficking in patients and to intervene on their behalf.

In advance of the UN Day panel, Mittel shares the following statement:

“It is well known that human trafficking victims suffer severe mental and physical health consequences as a result of their exploitation. Because they often require immediate attention for violence-related injuries, serious psychological illness, pregnancy and substance abuse, health care workers are likely to be the only professionals to interact with these victims while they are being trafficked.

“For this reason, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, together with KentuckyOne Health, are committed to developing training protocols to teach our students, nurses and physicians how to identify these patients and refer them to safety.

“By increasing our efforts to understand the nature and scope of the problem in our community, we can better intervene on behalf of these patients and ultimately play a vital role in the fight to eliminate modern-day slavery.”

Mittel will be joined on the panel with Dianna Anderson, chair, Louisville Metro Human Trafficking Task Force; Amy Leenerts, founder and director, Free2Hope Inc.; and Jeanette Westbrook, UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Other speakers during the UN Day program include Rep. John Yarmuth, District 10 Louisville Metro Councilman Steve Magre and lecturer Ambassador Shabazz. Speakers in the afternoon include Mike Beard, executive director of UN Foundation Advocacy and global health director of the Better World Campaign; and Karen Mulhauser, national chair, UNA-USA.

For information, contact Teena Halbig, 502-267-6883 or


LMPD officers train to save lives at UofL

Willed Body Program provides resources to help officers learn to stop arterial bleeding
LMPD officers train to save lives at UofL

Police officers are often first on the scene when someone receives a serious injury. For victims with arterial bleeding, every second that passes puts them at greater risk of dying from their injuries. If emergency medical personnel cannot get there in time, it could be up to the police officer to save an individual’s life.

Thanks to the University of Louisville’s Willed Body Program, 16 Louisville police officers received special training this month in how to stop arterial bleeding – and potentially save a life. At the fresh tissue lab in the UofL Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology, members of the Louisville Metro Police Department participated in a day-long session to learn how to handle life-threatening arterial bleeds they may encounter at an accident or crime scene.

Emergency Medical Technician Brandon Heming and other emergency medical personnel instructed the officers using cadavers made available in the lab. It was the first such training held at the UofL lab for police officers.

“We are teaching police officers to save lives. No other form of training allows for the realism that is provided by utilizing a tissue lab,” Heming said.

Joe Heitzman, LMPD officer and one of the organizers of the training, said this was the first time many of the officers had worked with cadavers.

“The officers who were in the class had a great learning experience and a lot of them told me that the training was the first time they actually got to see how trauma affects our bodies and how to use a tourniquet correctly to save a life,” Heitzman said. “This was an opportunity that not many officers will ever get a chance at and they were excited about the lab.”

Nicole Herring, Ph.D., director of the Fresh Tissue and Willed Body Programs at UofL, said this type of training is part of the mission of the program, which provides cadavers for medical training within the UofL Health Sciences Center, as well as health-care professional students from Spalding, Bellarmine and Sullivan Universities, and Army Medical Corps team members from Ft. Knox.

“One of our primary goals for the Willed Body Program is not only to provide a resource for education for our medical and dental students, but for health-care professionals in our community as well,” Herring said.

October 20, 2015

UofL researchers awarded patents for innovations to improve cancer treatments, bone grafts and therapies for spinal cord damage

UofL researchers awarded patents for innovations to improve cancer treatments, bone grafts and therapies for spinal cord damage

Trabs, particles used in Trabexus EB bone graft material

Technologies to improve bone grafts and cancer immunotherapies, protect lung tissue during radiation treatment, reverse neurological damage and improve recovery from spinal cord injury are among the patents issued to the University of Louisville Research Foundation recently. Two of the inventions have been licensed and are in the process of making their way into the health-care system to improve the lives of patients.

Bone graft cement - A substitute bone graft material called Trabexus EB has been patented and cleared by the FDA for use by orthopaedic surgeons in patient care. The product, developed by Michael Voor, Ph.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and bioengineering at UofL, along with Robert Burden, M. Eng., a former student and employee of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Lab, is a bone replacement cement that provides both strength and resorbability in bone repairs. Licensed and marketed by Vivorte, Trabexus EB contains specially shaped bone particles, called Trabs, which interconnect to provide a biologically active framework for the bone repair. The specially formulated calcium phosphate that binds the particles together allows the material to flow into irregular void spaces then provides strength while allowing the body to resorb the material and replace it with living bone. Trabexus EB is used by orthopaedic surgeons in repairing bones damaged through injury, tumor or other defects.

Revolutionary treatment for paralysis - A three-pronged approach to the treatment of paralysis following spinal cord injury has received a patent based on the research of Susan Harkema, Ph.D., and Claudia Angeli, Ph.D., of UofL’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, along with researchers at UCLA and elsewhere. The treatment method centers on the use of epidural stimulation to activate the spinal cord, along with physical training and medications that when combined, allow individuals with spinal cord injury to have voluntary control of body movements and improve heart, lung and other autonomic functions. To activate the spinal circuits, an electrode array, controlled by the patient, is implanted in the lower spine. Participants in epidural stimulation research at UofL have experienced the ability to move and stand unassisted with some improvements in heart, pulmonary and bladder function.

Cancer therapy improvement - Haval Shirwan, Ph.D., endowed chair and professor in UofL’s Institute for Cellular Therapeutics, along with Esma Yolcu, Ph.D., of UofL and Kutlu Elpek, Ph.D., now of Boston, have developed a method of using a series of ligands, molecules that bind to cell receptors, to enhance immunotherapies used for the treatment of cancer and chronic viral infections, such as HIV. When diseases such as cancer and HIV have overcome the patient’s immune system, the T cells, which provide a natural immune response, are “switched off.” The patented compositions utilize specific ligands in combination with antigens or infectious agents to reactivate and generate new T cells, allowing the patient’s immune system to respond more vigorously in eliminating the tumors or disease and preventing recurrence. This method of stimulating the immune system has significant potential to make immunotherapies more effective and provide protection against recurrence of the disease.

Protecting lung function - Software to detect areas of depleted lung function during radiation treatment for lung cancer is the subject of a patent based on the work of Shiao Woo, M.D., chair, and Neal Dunlap, M.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at UofL, along with Amir Amini, Ph.D., professor and endowed chair in bioimaging at UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, and Mohammadrezza Negahdar, Ph.D., now at Stanford University. The group developed 4-D computed tomography (CT) image analysis software that can be incorporated into existing lung imaging used during radiation therapy to detect early changes in lung elasticity. If specific areas of the lung have been damaged by radiation, the treatments can be adjusted to prevent permanent breathing problems. The process also may be used in other lung diseases, such as fibrosis, to detect early changes in lung function.

Repairing the spinal cord - Fred Roisen, Ph.D., former chair of the UofL Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, along with UofL researchers Meng Qiu, Ph.D., and Chengliang Lu, M.D., and UofL graduate Meng Wang, Ph.D., developed a method for a tissue biopsy from a patient’s nasal passages and from those cells, isolating progenitor stem cells called RhinoCytes. These RhinoCtyes regenerate the spinal cord to repair an injury. The stem cells also can be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. The method of generating the RhinoCytes has been licensed from UofL by RhinoCyte, Inc., and is scheduled for a concept study at the University of Louisville Hospital with Phase I/II clinical trials beginning in 2016.

These patents have been awarded to the University of Louisville Research Foundation, Inc., in the current fiscal year, which began in July, 2015, according to the office of Technology Transfer & Industry Engagement. That office works with UofL researchers to submit patent applications and negotiates commercialization opportunities for patented technologies. The university received 60 U.S. patents in the past two fiscal years, half of which are related to medical research at the School of Medicine. The Speed School of Engineering is responsible for most of the other patent applications.

UofL is the only university with three of the most prestigious innovation-associated commercialization grants, having received grants from the Coulter Translational Research Partnership, the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps and the National Institutes of Health Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH).


October 19, 2015

Parkinson’s Disease Buddy Program seeking participants

Program in its second year matching Parkinson’s patients with first-year medical students
Parkinson’s Disease Buddy Program seeking participants

Participants in the Parkinson’s Disease Buddy Program, 2015

Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease are invited to participate in the Parkinson’s Disease Buddy Program, which matches them with first-year University of Louisville medical students for a series of one-on-one meetings designed to benefit both students and the patients. Buddies will be paired for one calendar year beginning in September, meeting two to three hours a month and at special group events.

The PD Buddy program, the only one of its kind for Parkinson’s patients, was launched last summer as a partnership between UofL and the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana. Twenty-five buddy pairs participated in the year-long program designed to give the patients social interaction and allow them to share their stories with the students, who in turn gained first-hand knowledge about living with a nervous system disorder. The program also serves to better educate students about Parkinson's, introduce students to research and career opportunities in neurology and movement disorders, and provide people with Parkinson's Disease the opportunity to interact more closely with the medical community.

Kathrin LaFaver, M.D., the Raymond Lee Lebby Chair for Parkinson’s Disease Research in the Department of Neurology at UofL and director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Clinic at UofL Physicians, said the exchanges give the students a deeper understanding of how patients cope with the disease. LaFaver also meets monthly with the students to provide additional medical information and inform the students about research and career opportunities in neurology and movement disorders.

Since this program is unique for Parkinson’s patients, LaFaver, along with Erika Branch, executive director of the Parkinson Support Center, and Denise Cumberland, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UofL College of Education and Human Development, will present findings from the first year of the PD Buddy Program at the World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Ore., in September.

The PD Buddy Program, also sponsored by KentuckyOne Health, is open to anyone diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease who has the time and interest to participate. In addition to one-on-one meetings with the students, several group activities will be planned over the course of the year. Patients must understand that this is an education program and that the medical students will not be able to give medical advice.

Interested individuals may call the UofL Physicians Movement Disorders Clinic at 502-582-7654, the Parkinson Support Center of Kentucky at 502-254-3388, or email a completed application form to prior to August 15. Application forms may be downloaded at

Newest institute named in honor of Christina Lee Brown

Newest institute named in honor of Christina Lee Brown

Christina Lee Brown (third from the right)

In recognition of her support, the University of Louisville will rename its most recently created institute to The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute. The UofL Board of Trustees voted on the name change today.

“I cannot think of a better way to honor Christie for her tremendous generosity that has allowed the institute to become a reality and to get off to such a strong start,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi.

In May, Brown committed $5 million in support of the institute, which takes a holistic approach to researching how the human-environment interrelationship impacts peoples’ lives. In addition to building on the pioneering work of Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., that established the field of environmental cardiology, UofL will incorporate community engagement and citizen science to introduce a singular, new approach to the study of health. Bhatnagar is the institute’s director, as well as the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine.

The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute develops new infrastructure for transdisciplinary knowledge, bridging academic research with community engagement it transforms the city of Louisville into an urban laboratory and establishes the university as a repository of knowledge about the envirome. The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute offers global leadership in developing new models of living by making decisions through the lens of health.

Louisville Bats game on Aug. 11 supports cancer patients at UofL

Louisville Bats game on Aug. 11 supports cancer patients at UofL

The M. Krista Loyd Resource Center at the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center provides support, education and comfort to patients battling cancer.

Louisvillians who love sports and want to support the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center can do both on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018.

They can head on over to Louisville Slugger Field, 401 E. Main St and see the Louisville Bats take on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of Allentown, Penn., on MARVEL Super Hero Night No. 2. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the game starts at 6:30 p.m.

The event will support the M. Krista Loyd Resource Center at the Brown Cancer Center, said Elea Fox, executive director of development for the cancer center. “This is a great opportunity for baseball fans to support the region’s only comprehensive cancer center,” Fox said. “It gives supporters the chance to take take part in a fun evening while giving back to the Brown Cancer Center.”

In addition to fund-raising, representatives from the M. Krista Loyd Resource Center and the Kentucky Cancer Program at UofLwill be at the game providing cancer screenings and educational materials. Located on the first floor of the Brown Cancer Center, 529 S. Jackson St., the center is named for a former patient and her family who generously support the programs and services offered to the patients and to the community.

From coffee to counseling, the resource center provides a peaceful environment for cancer patients to learn, relax and heal emotionally. The goal of the M. Krista Loyd Resource Center is to help connect patients and family members with the services that go beyond medical treatment to achieve the best possible experience.

Educational materials, videos and Internet access to cancer-related websites are offered to patients, and the staff provides information patients need to cope with their condition and its treatment. Patients are connected with support groups and other free services that can help in the healing process.


About Louisville Bats’ MARVEL Super Hero Night No. 2

Coming off the success of MARVEL Super Hero Night No. 1 on June 23, the second MARVEL Super Hero Night on Aug. 11 will feature the Hulk with giveaways and promotions. Fans should be on the lookout for character meet-and-greet opportunities, special super hero-themed jerseys worn by the players and additional super hero merchandise, sights and sounds. Plus, the first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a special edition MARVEL Hulk bobblehead.

An added feature will come the following week: The hero-themed jerseys worn by players will be auctioned off online, also benefitting the resource center.

Raymond Loyd and his family provided funding to create the M. Krista Loyd Resource Center at UofL's James Graham Brown Cancer Center in honor of his daughter. A pre-game party with band will open the evening, and Raymond Loyd – whose family donated funding to create the M. Krista Loyd Resource Center – will throw out the first pitch. He will be joined on the field with other members of the Loyd family, including Krista’s children.

Cancer heroes and survivors will be honored throughout the evening, and resource center staff will be on hand with cancer awareness and education materials. An added feature will come the following week: The hero-themed jerseys worn by players will be auctioned off online, also benefitting the resource center. For details and ticket options, go to the Louisville Bats’ MARVEL Super Hero Night website.