BWH celebrated its 3rd annual Research Day on Nov. 20, 2014. The event engages the hospital community as well as the public with the innovative and cutting-edge research that happens here everyday. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Winning the War on Cancer, One Organ at a Time
Several remarkable advances have taken place in oncology research over the past few decades. Novel technologies that can diagnose tumors with unparalleled accuracy, surgical therapies that rival the precision of a sharp shooter and ever-expanding patient awareness and scientific knowledge are all on our side, slowly but steadily leading us to a future where cancer will not be anyone’s nemesis. Moderated by health care reporter Jessica Bartlett, this session featured Medicine’s Elizabeth Poole, PhD, Radiology’s Nobuhiko Hata, PhD, and Neurosurgery’s Nathalie Agar, PhD, who presented highlights of innovations in understanding, diagnosing and treating specific types of cancer. Research ran the gamut, from findings on the association between ovarian cancer and chronic stress, to the use of robotics to better diagnose prostate cancer, and how brain tumor surgery can be guided by mass spectrometry, which analyzes the mass of ions to identify the contents of tissue samples.
Science in the Media: What Makes Science Newsworthy?
Gathered in the Shapiro Breakout Room, attendees of “Science in the Media: Turn Your Research into Headlines” got the opportunity to hear what makes science newsworthy firsthand from members of the media. Moderated by Lori Schroth, of BWH Communication & Public Affairs, the panel consisted of Boston Business Journal health care reporter Jessica Bartlett, WCVB-TV Boston special projects executive producer David Hurlburt and Boston Globe science reporter Carolyn Johnson, who each explained what makes a good news story for their respective media outlets. All seemed to agree that research stories with a broad impact, compelling narrative, conflict and a local angle make for strong stories in print, online and TV. Members of the audience even got the chance to present 90-second pitches about their research and receive feedback from the panel on how their pitches could be improved to land their work in these or similar outlets.
Precision & Network Medicine: Can Big Data Save Your Life?
The idea of health care being as customized as your coffee order at Starbucks is not just wishful thinking anymore. Knowledge about the intricate inter-dependencies between the biological components of a disease is on the rise, and the outpour of information is guiding diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies that are tailored for each patient. This precision and network medicine approach is taking us beyond the age of traditional black and white clinical decision-making to an era of precise disease prevention, prediction and treatment around specific individuals. In this panel, Medicine Chair Joe Loscalzo, MD, PhD, asked Pathology’s Jeffrey Golden, MD, Radiology’s Ramin Khorasani, MD, MPH, Genetics’ Richard Maas, MD, PhD, and the Channing Division of Network Medicine’s Ed Silverman, MD, PhD, for their disciplines’ definitions and applications of precision medicine. “Precision medicine is all about discovery,” said Khorasani. “We are living in an ocean of data.” BWH researchers are working with technology to gather and present data in an intelligent and informative way, which in turn can help clinicians improve patient care.
CSI Pathogen: Investigating Microbial Fingerprints
In this morning session, BWH researchers discussed how they are applying cutting-edge technology to understand bacterial diseases more clearly. Matt Waldor, MD, PhD, an investigator in BWH’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, shared how a team of researchers from BWH, MGH and Harvard Medical School used whole-genome sequencing technology to determine how cholera, a bacterial disease that can cause diarrhea and dehydration, swept through post-earthquake Haiti in 2010. After researchers analyzed bacteria collected from Haitian patients, they determined the entire genetic code of the Haitian strain of cholera, finding that it originated in South Asia. Sophia Koo, MD, of BWH’s Division of Infectious Diseases, spoke about a novel diagnostic test she developed that uses a breathalyzer to detect invasive aspergillosis, a fungal disease affecting the lungs. When patients breathe into the device, it essentially smells something that isn’t supposed to be there, thereby detecting the presence of the disease. Koo said that better diagnostics for infectious diseases need to be created to help doctors treat patients.