Research by Area

Genetic and Genomics

Mesothelioma - for Surgery Dept. Use only (320x240)
credit: Scott HolmesMesothelioma

New Research into the Genetic Basis of Mesothelioma Opens New Doors for Better Treatment

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a deadly malignancy caused by asbestos that affects more than 3,000 individuals in the United States each year.

The five-year survival of mesothelioma has increased to about 10 percent with aggressive multimodality therapy, but a report published in Nature Genetics (February 2016) provides new hope for more effective treatments.

Translational Technology

Quantum Dot RF illuminated tumor (320x240)
credit: Scott HolmesRF illuminated quantum dots light up a tumor

Mass Spectrometry-Based Testing for Thyroid FNA Nodules

James Suliburk, M.D., associate professor of surgery in the Division of General Surgery, is co-principal investigator, with University of Texas-Austin professor Dr. Livia Schiavinato, on the study “Ambient Mass Spectrometry for Molecular Diagnosis of Thyroid Fine Need Aspirate Biopsies” funded by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Early Translational Research Award.

New Technology for Managing Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy in Cancer Patients

Bijan Najafi, Ph.D., MSc., professor and director of clinical research in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy and director of iCAMP (Interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance), is principal investigator of an NIH National Cancer Institute (NCI) R21-funded study “Managing Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy in Cancer Patients Using Exergaming” (1R21CA190933-01A1), and several ongoing trials funded by the NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). Dr. Najafi leads a research team at iCAMP, which specializes in the translation of wearable and smart technologies—from jewelry to socks—for prevention and treatment of a wide-spectrum of diseases. 

IHERTZ: A Novel Technology for Rapidly Assessing Multi-Frequency Tumor Treating Fields

Stuart Corr, Ph.D., M.Eng., assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research and director of technology development for the Department of Surgery, received a Salem Award from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and the St. Luke’s Foundation for his study, “IHERTZ: A Novel Technology for Rapidly Assessing Multi-Frequency Tumor Treating Fields.”

Novel Strategies for Local Tumor Control in Borderline Resectable Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Matthew Ware, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate in Nanomedicine and Surgical Research, received a Salem Award from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and the St. Luke’s Foundation for his study, “Novel Strategies for Local Tumor Control in Borderline Resectable Pancreatic Cancer Patients.”  Under the direction of Steven Curley, M.D., professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology, Dr. Ware conducts pre-clinical studies of noninvasive radiofrequency for the treatment of pancreatic and hepatic cancers.

Redefining Liver Surgery

Sanjeev Vasudevan, M.D., assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Pediatric Surgery, conducts research into a form of pediatric liver cancer called hepatoblastoma funded by The Macy Easom Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Vasudevan’s research uses new imaging techniques to investigate intraoperative, real-time visualization of a tumor and blood vessels. These imaging techniques will allow surgeons to look at the actual structure of the liver during surgery without relying on previous scans that may not show the immediate condition of the liver. These methods allow surgeons to take as little of the non-cancerous area as possible by fully visualizing the tumor margin in relation to the blood vessels of the liver.

Developing the Next Generation of Artificial Liver

Normal L. Sussman, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Abdominal Transplantation and medical director of Project ECHO, has been awarded $50,000 from the Phillip A. Salem Chair in Cancer Research Fund to develop artificial livers for patients with liver failure or liver cancer. Co-investigators on the project are Stuart J. Corr, Ph.D., M.Eng., assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research and director of technology development in the Department of Surgery, and James H. Kelly, Ph.D. The funds will be used to develop a novel liver support system that could supply the biochemical function of the liver and allow patients to be stabilized before transplantation or, in the case of acute liver failure, allow their own liver sufficient time to recover. If successful, these experiments could lead to the production of the first standardized, reproducible, available-on-demand liver support system based on normal hepatocytes. This would be analogous to the development of kidney dialysis.

Immunotherapy and Vaccines

Bacteriophages by Scott Holmes (320x240)
credit: Scott HolmesViruses that specifically kill bacteria, called bacteriophages, might one day help solve the growing problem of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment.

NIH-Funded Study to Develop VLP Vaccines

Qizhi Cathy Yao, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Research, has been awarded a grant by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the NIH to fund a collaborative project with Molecular Express, Inc. based on their virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine strategy. In preclinical studies, VLPs formed by structural proteins are highly immunogenic.

When VLPs are conjugated with VesiVax® formulations containing toll-like receptor agonists, strong humoral and cellular immune responses against various diseases can be generated. Previously, Dr. Yao's lab has studied the basic mechanisms of VLP-induced immune responses, and other factors that affect these responses. For example, they found that VLP vaccines activate conventional B2 cells and promote B cell differentiation to IgG2a-producing plasma cells. They also found that VLP vaccines travel to the lymph nodes upon immunization and can be directly visualized by optical imaging techniques and that intradermal immunization generates improved responses and might be a preferable delivery route for viral and cancer immunotherapeutic studies involving VLPs.      

In this new study "The VesiVax® System: Vaccine Development Made Easy" Dr. Yao will use the system to develop better adjuvants for many different diseases including pancreatic cancer and Chagas Disease.

NIH-Funded Study of Allogenic Antibody Therapy for Malignant Mesothelioma

Bryan Burt, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and associate chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery, was recently awarded an R03 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research titled, "Allogeneic Antibody Therapy for Malignant Mesothelioma."

NIH Grant to Study the TGF-ß Pathway and Immune Response in Lung Cancer

Xin-Hua Feng, Ph.D., professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Research, has been awarded an NIH R21 grant for his study titled, "ALK Causes TGF-ß Insensitivity in Lung Cancer Cells." TGF-ß is a major inflammatory and immune-regulatory cytokine.

Dr. Feng's research is focused the underlying mechanisms and interplays among protein modifications, signaling pathways, and gene transcription as well as understanding their roles in cell proliferation, tissue differentiation, and pathogenesis of human diseases.

Microbiology

NIH Grant to Study Altered Microbe in Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

William E. Fisher, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of General Surgery and clinical vice chair for the Department of Surgery, was also awarded an NIH NIDDKD-National Cancer Institute (NCI) U01 (5U01DK108326-02) grant for his collaborative project entitled “Altered Microbe in Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer.” The study will characterize the microorganisms in pancreatic tissue from patients with chronic pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, and pancreatic cancer using next-generation sequencing across multiple sites. Dr. Fisher and colleagues at the Elkin's Pancreas Center at Baylor College of Medicine join the ranks of a collaborative group composed of one Coordination and Data Management Center and multiple clinical sites to form a Consortium to Study Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer.

Clinical Trials

New Clinical Trials Available at the Mesothelioma Center and Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine

Shawn Groth, M.D., assistant professor of surgery in the Division of General Thoracic Surgery, is the principal investigator of a new phase I clinical study (H-36460) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Mesothelioma Treatment Center for patients with malignant pleura mesothelioma that will investigate the use of two chemotherapy drugs delivered directly to the chest during surgery. 

Research by Disease

Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma

A New Comprehensive Multi-Specialty Treatment Approach to Lung and Pleural Disease

The Lung Institute was founded in 2014 under the direction of Dr. David Sugarbaker, one of the preeminent experts in the treatment of mesothelioma. Dr. Sugarbaker built a comprehensive multidisciplinary program that focuses on the disease of the lung. The Lung Institute’s unique approach integrates patient care and a strong surgical program with clinical and translational research, leveraging Baylor’s’ leading genomic research program.

NIH-Funded Study of Allogenic Antibody Therapy for Malignant Mesothelioma

Bryan Burt, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and associate chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery, was recently awarded an R03 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research titled, "Allogeneic Antibody Therapy for Malignant Mesothelioma."

New Clinical Trials Available at the Mesothelioma Center and Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine

Shawn Groth, M.D., assistant professor of surgery in the Division of General Thoracic Surgery, is the principal investigator of a new phase I clinical study (H-36460) at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center for patients with malignant pleura mesothelioma that will investigate the use of two chemotherapy drugs delivered directly to the chest during surgery. 

Bryan Burt, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and associate chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery is the primary investigator of the first in human clinical trial (H-36952) that combines immunotherapy and surgery for the treatment of mesothelioma. He is leading an investigator-initiated, single institution phase II clinical trial entitled “Window-of-opportunity, phase II trial of checkpoint inhibitors administered in the neoadjuvant setting for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma” (H-38140) supported by a Dan L Duncan Cancer Center seed grant.

Thyroid Cancer

CPRIT Grant to Develop MS-Based Testing for Thyroid FNA Biopsies

James Suliburk, M.D.,  associate professor of surgery in the Division of General Surgery, is co-principal investigator, with University of Texas-Austin professor Dr. Livia Schiavinato, on the study “Ambient Mass Spectrometry for Molecular Diagnosis of Thyroid Fine Need Aspirate Biopsies” funded by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Early Translational Research Award. This work will focus on the development of a next generation of diagnostics to reduce the incidence of indeterminate thyroid FNA biopsies.

Liver Cancer

Redefining Liver Surgery

Sanjeev Vasudevan, M.D., assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Pediatric Surgery, conducts research into a form of pediatric liver cancer called hepatoblastoma funded by The Macy Easom Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Vasudevan’s research uses new imaging techniques to investigate intra-operative, real-time visualization of a tumor and blood vessels. These imaging techniques will allow surgeons to look at the actual structure of the liver during surgery without relying on previous scans that may not show the immediate condition of the liver. These methods allow surgeons to take as little of the non-cancerous area as possible by fully visualizing the tumor margin in relation to the blood vessels of the liver.

This research is a collaborative project with the Texas Children’s Departments of Radiology and Surgery. Dr. Ketankumar Ghaghada, assistant professor in The Singleton Department of Pediatric Radiology, is co-principal investigator on this research study. The project team is made up of multi-disciplinary specialists from Surgery and Radiology, Dr. Vasudevan is driven to discover more effective treatments for pediatric liver cancer. The high rates of relapse, the metastatic nature of the disease and the considerable issues related to chemotherapy treatment in children are of great concern to him.

Developing the Next Generation of Artificial Liver

Normal L. Sussman, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Abdominal Transplantation and medical director of Project ECHO, has been awarded $50,000 from the Phillip A. Salem Chair in Cancer Research Fund to develop artificial livers for patients with liver failure or liver cancer. Co-investigators on the project are Stuart J. Corr, Ph.D., M.Eng., assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research and director of technology development in the Department of Surgery, and James H. Kelly, Ph.D. The funds will be used to develop a novel liver support system that could supply the biochemical function of the liver and allow patients to be stabilized before transplantation or, in the case of acute liver failure, allow their own liver sufficient time to recover. If successful, these experiments could lead to the production of the first standardized, reproducible, available-on-demand liver support system based on normal hepatocytes. This would be analogous to the development of kidney dialysis.

Leukemia

American Cancer Society (ACS)-funded Study of the Role of Sall4 in Normal and Leukemic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Maintenance

Jianchang Yang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research, has been studying the SALL4 gene for nearly a decade. Currently, Dr. Yang is principal investigator of an ongoing study of the “Roles of Sall4 in normal and leukemic hematopoietic stem cell maintenance,” funded by the American Cancer Society. The purpose of this research is to define Sall4 functions in norm and leukemic hematopoietic stem cell property maintenance.

Pancreatic Cancer

NIH Grants to Build a National Pancreatic Surgery Consortium

William E. Fisher, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of General Surgery and clinical vice chair for the Department of Surgery, is a nationally recognized leader in pancreatic surgical research. Since he was appointed director of the Elkins Pancreas Center at Baylor in 2003, Dr. Fisher has developed and coordinated all of the clinical care for a large pancreatic cancer patient population as well as all of the basic science and clinical research related to pancreatic cancer being performed at Baylor. Dr. Fisher was awarded an NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) R21 grant (5R21DK106650-02) to build a pancreatic surgery consortium via a randomized controlled trial of drain replacement.

NIH Grant to Study Altered Microbe in Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

William E. Fisher, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of General Surgery and clinical vice chair for the Department of Surgery, was awarded an NIH NIDDKD-National Cancer Institute (NCI) U01 (5U01DK108326-02) grant for his collaborative project entitled “Altered Microbe in Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer.” The study will characterize the microorganisms in pancreatic tissue from patients with chronic pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, and pancreatic cancer using next-generation sequencing across multiple sites. Dr. Fisher and colleagues at the Elkin's Pancreas Center at Baylor College of Medicine join the ranks of a collaborative group composed of one coordination and data management center and multiple clinical sites to form a consortium to study chronic pancreatitis, diabetes and pancreatic cancer.