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Tufts CTSI Pilot Studies Program

2011 Pilot Studies Grant Awardees

2011 Tufts CTSI Pilot Studies Awards

Tufts CTSI is pleased to announce the 13 recipients of the 2011 Tufts CTSI Pilot Studies Awards.   Congratulations to them all.


Catalyst Grants

Catalyst Grants are awarded to multidisciplinary research teams of at least two investigators, representing the basic, clinical, and/or applied sciences.  These collaborators must have developed a preliminary hypothesis underlying the research, and must have a defined plan for eventually seeking extramural funding.  The objective of these grants is to develop sufficient preliminary data to secure future extramural funding.  Projects are:


Zebrafish as a Model for Elucidation of Roles of Angiogenin in ALS

Project Abstract: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a lethal, neurodegenerative disease with specific loss of motor neurons affecting ~22,000 people in the US at any given time. There is presently no effective pharmacologic treatment for ALS to halt or slow motor neuron degeneration. Riluzole, the only drug approved for ALS since 1995, only extends survival by 2-3 months. Unfortunately, riluzole does not slow down the disease progression or improve muscle function. Therefore, riluzole is not a cure, or even an effective treatment, for ALS. The search for better therapeutic agents continues, but none have been shown to be effective at this time. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Guo-Fu Hu, PhD, Associate Professor, Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center
Pamela C. Yelick, PhD, Professor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine


Development of a Reservoir Targeted Vaccine for Lyme Disease

Project Abstract: The incidence and geographic distribution of Lyme disease in the U.S. has increased steadily since its first description in 1977. Efforts to stem the spread of the disease through controlling the population of its tick vector and/or the mouse reservoirs of the disease have met with only limited success. The only approved human vaccine to protect against Lyme disease was recently removed from the market by its manufacturer further highlighting the need for new approaches to controlling the disease.

We have been working on the development of an orally-available Lyme vaccine targeted towards the mouse and tick reservoirs of the disease. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Linden T. Hu, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center
Sam R. Telford, ScD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine


Heart Failure and the Role of Intestinal Dysfunction

Project Abstract: Heart failure affects approximately 5 million people in the United States and contributes to a yearly mortality of 287,000 people. With more than 500,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the U.S., annual direct costs and indirect costs of heart failure are estimated at greater than 33 billion dollars. Thus, new therapeutic strategies are urgently needed. One relatively underexploited therapeutic area is prevention/treatment of heart failure-associated systemic inflammation. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Dakshina M. Jandhyala, PhD, Research Associate, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center
Robert M. Blanton, MD, MA, Assistant Professor, Division of Cardiology, Tufts Medical Center
Cheleste M. Thorpe, Associate Professor, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center


Novel MAPK Pathways in Obesity-Induced Insulin Resistance

Project Abstract: Pathological inflammation is emerging as an important mechanism that could be targeted for the development of novel therapies for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus; the effective treatment of which remains a significant unmet medical need. (Read more)

Co-PIs: John M. Kyriakis, PhD, Professor, Molecular Cardiology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center
Andrew S. Greenberg, MD, Senior Scientist and Director, Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging


Preferences and Practices in Prescribing Antipsychotics for Pediatric ADHD

Project Abstract: This Catalyst Grant application proposes to examine a current, pressing public health concern: the escalating use of the second-generation antipsychotic medications (SGAs) among children and adolescents for the treatment of symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), despite limited data regarding the safety and efficacy of SGAs in pediatric populations. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Laurel K. Leslie, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Institute for Clinical Research & Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center
Susan K. Parsons, MD, MRP, Professor, Institute for Clinical Research & Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center
Christopher Bellonci, MD, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry, Tufts Medical Center
Joshua T. Cohen, MA, PhD, Research Associate Professor, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center
John B. Wong, MD, Professor, Clinical Decision Making, Informatics and Telemedicine, Tufts Medical Center


Effects of Prospective Metformin Administration on Colon Cancer Stem Cells in Patient Tumors

Project Abstract: Colon Cancer Stem Cells (CCSC) make up only a small subset of cells in a tumor, but are believed to drive chemotherapy resistance and harbor cells that are responsible for cancer recurrence. Metformin kills cancer stem cells in preclinical models, however there has been little focused effort to develop this drug in cancer perhaps because it has been overlooked; killing the small subset of cancer stem cells within a tumor results in minimal immediate shrinkage in the tumor bulk. Additionally, this is a generic drug without pharmaceutical backing. Therefore, presently there are too little data on safety in oncology patients and on the pharmacodynamic effects of metformin on patient tumors to support a dedicated clinical trial testing metformin in a clinically meaningful setting. The work proposed for the CTSI catalyst award will provide the essential background for applying for extramural funding to run such a translational clinical trial. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Robert E. Martell, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Tufts Medical Center
Philip N. Tsichlis, MD, Professor, Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center


Dissection in the Veterans Administration

Project Abstract: Exposure to cervical manipulation is common and has been associated with cervical artery dissection and stroke. Yet, there exists controversy about this association and the magnitude of its strength. We hypothesize that cervical manipulation causes cervical artery dissection. (Read more)

Co-PIs: David E. Thaler, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Tufts Medical Center
Edward Feldmann, MD, Professor, Department of Neurology, Tufts Medical Center
Leonard D’Avolio, PhD, Associate Center Director, Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center, VA Boston Healthcare System
Louis Fiore, MD, MPH, Chief, General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, VA Boston Healthcare System


Determinants of Susceptibility to Human Babesiosis, an Emerging Infectious Disease

Project Abstract: In the United States, human babesiosis caused by Babesia microti is an emerging infectious disease. Symptomatic babesiosis typically is diagnosed in the elderly, in immunocompromised patients and in asplenic individuals. Yet, in these populations, the severity of babesiosis varies among individuals. The long-term objective of our research is to characterize genetic determinants of host resistance to babesiosis. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Edouard G. Vannier, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center
Peter J. Krause, MD. Senior Research Scientist and Lecturer, Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale University School of Public Health
Peter J. Castaldi, MD, Assistant Professor, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center


Methods Development Grants

New in 2011, Methods Development Grants enable investigators to develop specific methods that will advance translational research across the T1 –T4 spectrum. These novel methods are likely to be successfully developed within a one-year timeframe given provided resources. Such methods must foster an approach to research that is new, otherwise not possible or would be less effective with current methods. Delineation of plans for securing future funding must also be defined.  Projects are:


Development of a Minimally Invasive Biomarker for Breast Cancer Development and Metastasis

Project Abstract: We propose the development of a minimally invasive method aimed to serve as a biomarker for breast cancer development and metastasis. The approach relies on the use of microfluidic based-flow cytometry measurements that exploit endogenous light scattering and fluorescence optical contrast to detect circulating breast cancer and immature white blood cells. The former will be identified based on their unique light scattering properties compared to normal circulating white and red blood cells, while the latter are detected based on their strong autofluorescence in the red region of the spectrum. Our hypothesis is that the combined use of the number of circulating breast cancer and immature white blood cells is a good predictor for the development of primary and metastatic breast cancers. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Irene Georgakoudi, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University School of Engineering
Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine
Rachel J. Buchsbaum, MD, Assistant Professor, Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center


Development of a Diagnostic Test for Advanced Glycation End-products in Pulmonary Hypertension

Project Abstract: Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) and Pulmonary Venous Hypertension (PVH) are two highly morbid forms of pulmonary hypertension that currently can only be differentiated by cardiac catheterization, a highly invasive and expensive procedure. Distinguishing PAH from PVH is critical as each condition has distinct treatment modalities for optimal outcomes. Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) are an excellent candidate biomarker for such an assay. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Kari E. Roberts, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Tufts Medical Center
Joel A. Wirth, MD, Director, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Maine Medical Center
Anne Breggia, PhD, Laboratory Manager, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Maine Medical Center Research Institute


Latent Class Analysis for Two-Stage Comparative Effectiveness Studies of Screening Instruments

Project Abstract: The goal of this project is to develop statistical methods to facilitate comparative effectiveness research in regard to pediatric screening. As a result of a growing number of professional recommendations and state-sponsored programs, pediatricians are increasingly using parent-report instruments to screen for developmental and behavioral disorders in primary care. (Read more)

Co-PIs: R. Christopher Sheldrick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, Tufts Medical Center
Ellen C. Perrin, MD, Professor, Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, Tufts Medical Center
Steven A. Cohen, DrPH, , Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine


Methods Development for Measuring Energy Intake and Dietary Patterns in Pediatric ALL Survivors

Project Abstract: Diet is among the most important modifiable behaviors. Childhood cancer survivors are at a high risk of developing obesity and yet few studies have addressed their dietary patterns and energy balance in association with obesity late-effects. Childhood cancer survivors may also experience food cravings that persist long after glucocorticoid treatment, which can contribute to increased intake and subsequent obesity. As a methods development project, this study aims to assess the feasibility and validity of methods used to measure diet, energy intake and food craving in childhood cancer survivors. (Read more)

Co-PIs: Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition Science, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
Michael J. Kelly, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Tufts Medical Center


Planning Grants

Planning Grants are intended for multidisciplinary research teams of at least two investigators from basic, clinical, and/or applied sciences, and provide an early mechanism through which a minimum of two scientists can develop partnerships and initial hypotheses or study questions.  The goal of Planning Grants is to make projects eligible for Catalyst Awards or other translational pilot programs.  Projects are:


Reproductive Risk Factors in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension: Unraveling Gender Disparities

Project Abstract: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a fatal disease that disproportionately affects women. This gender disparity in risk has been documented across several general populations and high risk groups, yet is unexplained by a differential distribution of known predictors of PAH by sex. While variability in reproductive events or hormonal exposures is implicated in diseases such as lung cancer and autoimmunity, there exist no epidemiologic data defining the impact of reproductive risk factors in PAH. This proposal capitalizes on a synergistic collaboration between two Tufts investigators in order to address a critical and unanswered question in the etiology of PAH: what is the basis for the gender disparity observed in this disease? (Read more)

Co-PIs: Kari E. Roberts, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Tufts Medical Center
Jessica K. Paulus, ScD, Assistant Professor, Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Congratulations to all awardees!   For information on the Tufts CTSI Pilot Studies Program go here.