LAB Notes

PRIORITIZE-ing hepatitis C research

UF Health has enrolled its first patient in a landmark clinical trial to study the effectiveness of three hepatitis C medications. The initial patient has begun a 12-week drug regimen and is one of 3,750 people who will be randomly assigned one of the medications as part of the five-year trial, said David R. Nelson, M.D., director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute and a professor of medicine in the UF College of Medicine. A $14.97 million research contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI, is funding the trial, known as the PRIORITIZE Study, at UF Health and 45 centers nationwide. In addition to comparing the effectiveness of the three oral medications, Nelson said researchers will learn more about how the treatments perform when used by a diverse group of patients that includes minorities and people with other medical conditions. — Doug Bennett

Preventing sepsis in premature babies

Shawn Larson, M.D., an assistant professor in UF’s department of surgery, and James Wynn, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics, are working toward a vaccine adjuvant, or immune system stimulant, to prevent sepsis in premature infants. Sepsis can affect up to six of every 10 babies born prematurely and results in death or major lifelong disability in four of 10 who become infected. Wynn and Larson’s research team believes that stimulating the baby’s innate immune system can help fight — and even prevent — sepsis. According to their research with neonatal mice, introducing sterile components of bacteria into the bloodstream can prompt neutrophils — a type of white blood cell — to seek and destroy invading organisms. They hope to replicate the results in humans. With a drop of blood, they have already developed a method to gauge a premature infant’s immune system response to sepsis.  — Karin Lillis

Researching the deadliest form of prostate cancer

A UF researcher has received a five-year, $1.7 million grant to study when, how and why prostate cancer — which physicians consider highly curable — sometimes spreads, and to develop treatment options for this uncommon but life-threatening occurrence. The most common non-skin cancer afflicting men in the United States, prostate cancer claims the lives of 28,000 men annually in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. The majority of prostate cancer patients who have an increased risk of dying have an advanced form of the disease and develop distant skeletal metastases. Metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from the original site to other places in the body; in prostate cancer patients, bone metastasis can result in devastating skeletal-related complications and high mortality? We’re trying to understand what causes cancer cells to spread from primary tumors to distant sites,” said principal investigator Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D., associate chair and the John P. Cofrin professor in radiation therapy in the department of radiation oncology in the UF College of Medicine. —Marilee Griffin