The funding “is tremendously important,” she said. “Otherwise this research wouldn’t be able to go through.”
Explore This IssueSeptember 2011
Dr. Chen said being able to identify and track oxygen levels in both tumors and tissue could have a “huge impact” on improving therapeutic ratio for cancer patients. “If you could just monitor the level of oxygen and know that if it is below a certain level, you should hold off on radiation treatment … because it is really causing more damage than good,” she said.
This “oxygen profiling” also has surgical applications because wounds need oxygen to heal, and surgery on hypoxic tissue could lead to complications. “Being able to know that would be incredibly helpful,” she said. “There are really few other methods to track the oxygen level, which is why the value of this research really could have an impact on treatment and outcomes of anybody who has radiation and/or surgery.”
Dr. Chen and colleagues are using a noninvasive technique to measure oxygen in the tissue on a long-term, longitudinal basis. They inject a paramagnetic probe into the tissue to measure the oxygen at a baseline level and throughout treatment. In the rat model, they “irradiate a portion of the log” and monitor the oxygen levels. So far, the levels drop in the first two weeks after irradiation “and then slowly come up” in the three to six weeks after.
The team is looking to use the results from this grant to provide preliminary data to apply for other grants to move the research to a human model. “It’s going well,” Dr. Chen said. “We are set up to move to the next phase. That’s a big hurdle.”
Johns Hopkins has a long history of sleep research, but few studies have focused on children. Dr. Ishman’s research into persistent pediatric sleep apnea uses a novel flow sensor, developed by colleague Hartmut Schneider, MD, PhD, to measure the flow of oxygen during sleep.
The grant has helped “solidify” her mentorship relationships at Hopkins. “I worked with them to put the grant together, and it was a great place to start what I hope will be a long collaboration with my adult sleep colleagues,” she said. “The second thing is just dollars and sense. I’ve been afforded more time to spend on trying to develop the program and help work on an infrastructure, so that recruiting additional patients in the future will be easier.”