The Surgical Research Core, led by Dr. Barbara W. Trautner and Dr. Scott A. LeMaire, vice chair for research, includes a cadre of nearly 20 team members, including clinical trial coordinators, grant managers, database experts, a biostatistician, a medical writer and editor, and a medical illustrator. The core team serves all faculty members, trainees, and students in the Department of Surgery and their collaborators. This comprehensive clinical trial management service achieves efficiency through direct one-on-one contact with researchers, providing support for grant submission, clinical trial start up and management, and eventually manuscript preparation and submission.
As a result of this collaborative effort, the number of clinical trials under management by the core has increased from four last year to 18 current active clinical studies (and an additional 12 in start-up). Our NIH funding has likewise increased by 250 percent in the past year (from $1.2 to $3.1 million), placing us in a predicted top 40 rank among surgery departments. Our total extramural research funding has increased from $4 million in 2013 to $8.6 million in 2015, achieved through a total of $39 million in grant submissions to the NIH, DoD, AHRQ, CPRIT, and multiple foundations in 2014.
The mission of the division is to promote the development and growth of highly successful research programs by providing a supportive environment for investigators. Division Ph.D. scientists work together with surgeons to investigate molecular mechanisms of surgical diseases and to develop new strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases, such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, aortic aneurysms and dissection, heart failure, mesothelioma, and neuroblastoma.
The division benefits from resources that include well-established human tissue banks, a wide variety of clinically relevant animal models, molecular biology and nanotechnology expertise, and integrative imaging. The DSR promotes scientific discussions and extensive collaborations through regular seminar series and grant review sessions, provides advice and technical assistance in conducting experimental studies, supports core utilization of equipment and resources, and sponsors the development of joint research projects, grants, and publications.
Joining its many other highly productive researchers, the division recently welcomed associate professor Dr. Rita Serda, assistant professor Dr. Stuart Corr, and assistant professor Dr. Jian-Ming Lu. Dr. Serda and Dr. Corr work together in using nanotechnology and radio waves to drive the accumulation of therapeutics at sites of pathology with the major goal of stimulating anticancer immune responses. Dr. Lu’s research focuses on the delivery of nanoparticle gene/drug complexes targeted to cancer and vascular cells with antibodies or other specific proteins conjugated to PLGA-based nanoparticles.
Exemplifying the success of DSR scientists, special kudos go to longstanding DSR member Dr. Qizhi Cathy Yao, who received a five-year NIH R01 grant award for her studies of pancreatic cancer, and who also received the Barry Stephen Smith Memorial Pancreatic Cancer Award from the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center for her pre-clinical study of pancreatic cancer immunotherapy.