July 30, 1999
Volume XXXII No. 30

Studies report fish oil effective
with chemotherapy drug

New studies in press with the British Journal of Cancer suggest that, in mice at least, consumption of a diet enhanced with fish oil helped a chemotherapy drug to work more effectively against cancer cells, and also reduced intestinal damage caused by the drug.

The researchers, Drs. W. Elaine Hardman, Mary Pat Moyer and Ivan Cameron of the Health Science Center, noted significantly increased tumor regression in mice receiving fish oil-enhanced diets. The findings are so promising, Dr. Hardman said, that the researchers have proposed a clinical trial in humans to the National Cancer Institute. The chemotherapy drug in the study was CPT-11 (irinotecan).

Dr. Hardman, research assistant professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, and Dr. Cameron, professor of cellular and structural biology, compared groups of mice on normal diets and fish oil-added diets. The fish oil-supplemented group of mice received a low dose of specially processed omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), equivalent to a human consumption of 10 to 12 grams of fish oil per day.

"While the chemotherapy stopped growth of the implanted breast cancers in mice eating a normal diet, in those mice eating a fish oil-added diet the tumors were significantly reduced and the intestinal damage caused by CPT-11 was ameliorated," Dr. Hardman said. "We therefore know that the chemotherapy worked better with the fish oil diet. We've also tried this with two other chemotherapy drugs, doxorubicin and edelfosine, and have shown that the fish oil diet enhanced the efficacy of those drugs. We are studying several hypotheses to explain these effects."

Salmon, striped bass, swordfish and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and scientists previously have shown that these fatty acids slow or prevent tumor growth. The new study is one of the first to show the impact of fish oil on the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy, however.

Walnuts, soybeans, canola oil and flaxseed are other less-concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Hardman emphasized that the tumor regression findings were based on use of specially processed and formulated omega-3 fatty acids, and cannot be extrapolated to consumption of currently available fish oil products.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. cancer patients receive cancer chemotherapy each year. Although it results in cancer remission in many cases, side effects such as intestinal problems cause therapy to be stopped in other patients.

Omega-3 fatty acids may make it easier for chemotherapy drugs to damage a cancer cell's membrane. "Studies suggest that the more of the omega-3 fatty acids that cancer cells incorporate, the more sensitive they become to damage by certain chemotherapeutic drugs," Dr. Hardman said. "Left unchecked, this damage can initiate a chain reaction that ultimately kills the cancer cell."

The research is funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and a small business technology transfer grant from the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with INCELL Corp.

INCELL is a San Antonio biotechnology company headed by Dr. Moyer, CEO of INCELL and part-time professor at the Health Science Center. The fish oil formulation used in the study will soon be marketed by INCELL as a nutritional supplement only, pending clinical studies to validate its use in humans. The product will be called INCELL-AFFATM.

Dr. Jiang awarded research grant in aging

Dr. Jean Jiang, biochemistry, was recently awarded a $40,000 American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) grant for her project "Estrogen and Intercellular Communication in Bone Osteocytes."

The 1999 AFAR Grant for Biomedical Research in Gerontology and Geriatrics provided Dr. Jiang with one year of support to continue her studies on osteoporosis, a condition of aging that results in a loss of bone and subsequent vertebral and hip fractures.

Dr. Jiang's research centers around understanding the precise molecular mechanism by which estrogens control bone remodeling and how estrogen is involved in osteoporosis. This research could lead to a better understanding of osteoporosis and could provide the necessary clues leading to the discovery of drugs for treatment.

"Dr. Jiang is studying an extremely important area, namely, what happens to bones as we age," said Dr. Arlan Richardson, director of the Health Science Center's Aging Research and Education Center. "Osteoporosis is a very serious disease that affects millions of the elderly, especially women. Dr. Jiang will be studying a novel area of bone biology, the role of cell communications, and how alterations in communication may lead to disease."

Dr. Jiang is a graduate of the State University of New York, with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and cell biology. Formerly an instructor in the cell biology department at Harvard Medical School, she joined the Health Science Center's Department of Biochemistry in 1997. Dr. Jiang is a recipient of the National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health and the San Antonio Area Foundation Award, among other honors.

The AFAR grant program was started in 1982 to fund research projects dealing with the basic mechanisms of aging, the nature of age-related impairments and the role of aging processes in the development of disease. The organization awards up to 30 grants a year to fund investigators such as Dr. Jiang in the early stages of their research careers.

Studying the plans

Dr. Fox

Health Science Center employees read through information packets at the Open Enrollment Period benefits fair, which was held July 14-15 in the auditorium. The annual Open Enrollment Period, the designated time for employees to make changes to their benefit plans, will run through Aug. 6. The Office of Human Resources sponsored the two-day benefits fair in an effort to give employees an opportunity to meet with representatives from each of the health care service providers before choosing from various benefit options.

Health Science Center Zip code changed

The Health Science Center's zip code and four-digit extension has been changed. Faculty and staff members have one year to make the transition to the new zip code and extension, which is 78229-3900. All Health Science Center departments will use the 3900 extension.

The U.S. Postal Service will forward all incoming mail displaying the institution's previous code for one year. For questions or more information, call ext. 5992.

Tex-MUG meeting set for Aug. 4

The next meeting of the Health Science Center Macintosh Computer Users Group, Tex-MUG, is Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 11:45 a.m. in Lecture Hall 3.102B (near the Briscoe Library).

Dr. Terry Mikiten, associate dean of the graduate school, will present the second in a series of three sessions on the FileMaker Pro database program. Wednesday's session is designed for the intermediate-level user and will build upon the first presentation, in which members created a "pencils" database and several different layouts.

FileMaker Pro is a cross-platform program, so this presentation is applicable to both Macintosh and Windows environments. Tex-MUG meetings are open to all interested individuals.

Parman House application form on Web page

Health Science Center employees wishing to request the use of the Parman House Conference Center for events can now access the application form directly from the university's HSC Today Web page. The form can be retrieved and printed out at the office and faxed to ext. 6811.

Employees also have access to the guidelines and policies that pertain to the use of the Parman House Conference Center.

Pruitt recently installed as president
of American Surgical Association

Dr. Basil A. Pruitt Jr., clinical professor of surgery, is the new president of the American Surgical Association (ASA). He was installed during the association's 119th Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

"The presidency of the American Surgical Association is the highest honor one can achieve in American surgery," said Dr. John L. Cameron, ASA secretary, in a letter announcing Dr. Pruitt's appointment. The ASA, established in 1878, is the oldest surgical association in the
United States.

For many years Dr. Pruitt was commander and director of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), which operates the world-renowned Army Burn Center in San Antonio. Military personnel and others worldwide are transferred to the center for specialized and innovative burn treatment.

"This is an unexpected honor that recognizes the fruitful collaboration existing between the ISR and the Health Science Center," Dr. Pruitt said. "I share this honor enthusiastically with the people of both institutions."

Lawson is new financial aid director

Robert T. Lawson Jr. is one of the newest additions to the Health Science Center family, recently taking the role of director of student financial aid.

Lawson is the former assistant director of student financial aid services for Texas A&M University, where he managed a 50-person staff and awarded aid to more than 27,000 customers. The Stephen F. Austin State University graduate also served as director and assistant controller of that institution's financial aid office.

Lawson joined the Health Science Center on July 1. He and his staff in the Office of Student Services will be working with about 2,400 students each year on financial aid.

"I think I have the opportunity to help make things work better and help students with their financial aid issues," Lawson said. "I have great staff members who are genuinely interested in providing good customer services."

An active member of the community, Lawson participates in Habitat for Humanity as a builder and a member of the organization's Public Relations Committee. He is a mentor for at-risk youth and was an ambassador for the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce.

Lawson said his move to the Health Science Center has been a positive experience. He encourages students to call or send e-mail if they have questions regarding financial aid issues. He can be reached at ext. 2640 or through e-mail to <lawsonrt@uthscsa.edu>.


  • Health Science Center researchers Drs. Miguel Fernandez, Lin Johnson, Ileana Martinez, Charles Davis and Balakuntalam Kasinath co-authored the manuscript "Successful Treatment of Valproic Acid Overdose with Hemodialysis" in the April 1999 edition of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

  • Dr. Scott Spore, urology, was awarded the 1999 Pfizer Scholars in Urology Grant. Dr. Spore was nominated for the honor by Dr. Joel Teichman, urology.

Making the Rounds

  • Congratulations to Dr. Annabel Shumaker, South Texas Poison Center, who has been designated a Certified Poison Information Specialist by the Association of Poison Control Centers.

  • Dr. Bill Watson, South Texas Poison Center, presented "Smoking Water: Phencyclidine (PCP) and Formaldehyde Abuse in Emergency Department Patients" at the 19th Annual European Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicologists International Congress (EAPCCT) in Dublin, Ireland. He co-authored the paper with Dr. Mark T. Steele of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine. Dr. Watson also co-chaired the session on Organophosphate Insecticide Toxicity at the EAPCCT meeting.

  • Dr. John P. Howe, III, president, was elected to his third term on the American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs. Dr. Howe has served on this council since 1993, including as its chairman from 1995 to 1996.

Gordon awarded volunteer honor

Dr. Donald Gordon, emergency medical technology, won the Stroke Volunteer Award for 1999 from the Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association at the organization's annual awards banquet July 16. "I am very proud of this honor and honored to serve this organization," said Dr. Gordon.

Dr. Gordon is president-elect of the San Antonio Committee of the AHA and a member of the Texas Affiliate's Science and Medicine Committee.

The Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association is the second largest of 15 affiliates in the country. It supports many educational programs at the Health Science Center, including CPR Day.

Calendar for August 2-8

7:00 a.m.
Orthopaedic Teaching Conf. (MED: 309L - call ext. 5125 for more information)
8:00 a.m.
Rehab Medicine PM&R Conf. "Prosthetic Prescription for Above Knee Prosthesis," Drs. Gary Campbell & Norman Gall (UH: Reeves Rehab Center 3rd-floor classroom)

8:00 a.m.
Rehab Medicine PM&R Conf. "Prosthetic Prescription for Below Knee Prosthesis," Drs. Jim Fernandez & Norman Gall (UH: Reeves Rehab Center 3rd-floor classroom)
11:00 a.m.
TNT "Blood Banking: Viral Inactivation," Dr. Lily Lin, Cerus Corp., Concord, Calif. (call ext. 2700 for information)
12:30 p.m.
TNT "Clinical Chemistry & Toxicology: Case Studies in Organophosphate Poisoning," Dr. Miguel Fernandez, South Texas Poison Center (call ext. 2700 for information)
4:00 p.m.
Cardiovascular Pathobiology Research Conf. "Interaction of Tubulin Isotypes With Anti-mitotic Drugs," Dr. Israr Khan (MED: 331.5B-call ext. 4071 for more information)

7:00 a.m.
Vascular Surgery Grand Rounds, Dr. Mellick Sykes (LEC: 2.042)
8:00 a.m.
Medical Grand Rounds "Inflammation & Coronary Artery DiseaseIs There a Linkage?" Dr. Gregory Freeman (MED: 409L)
9:00 a.m.
Surgery Trauma M&M Conf., Dr. Ronald Stewart (MED: 309L)
11:00 a.m.
TNT "Microbiology: Bacterial Strain Typing for Epidemiological Analysis & Infection Control," Dr. Richard Goering, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Neb. (call ext. 2700 for information)

7:30 a.m.
Thoracic Surgery Resident Teaching Conf. (UH: 5th-floor neonatal ICU classroom)
Pulmonary, Thoracic & Oncology Conf. (MED: 209L)
TNT "Primary Care Forum: Case Studies in Cardiology," Dr. Robert Chilton (call ext. 2700 for information)
4:00 p.m.
Surgery Tumor Conference, Dr. Anatolio Cruz (MED: 209L)
4:30 p.m.
Citywide Thoracic Grand Rounds Conf. (MED: 309L)

7:30 a.m.
Pediatric Grand Rounds "Common Pediatric Surgery Emergencies," Dr. Frank Robertson, San Antonio Pediatric Surgery Associates (MED: 409L)
8:00 a.m.
Rehab Medicine Journal Club "Energy Consumption in Ambulation of a Prosthetic Patient," Drs. Anna-Louise Molette & Norman Gall (UH: Reeves Rehab Center 3rd-floor classroom)

7:15 a.m.
Surgical Physiology Conf., Dr. Kenneth Sirinek (MED: 209L)
9:00 a.m.
General Surgery Grand Rounds, Dr. Wayne Schwesinger (MED: 209L)

Index of issues

THE NEWS is published Fridays by the Office of Public Affairs for faculty and staff of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Vice President for University Relations.....Judy Petty Wolf
Executive Director of Development & Public Affairs.....Dr. Charles Rodriguez
Editor.....Will Sansom
Writers.....Myong Covert, Catherine Duncan, Heather Feldman, Jennifer Lorenzo
Photographers.....Jeff Anderson, Lee Bennack, Lester Rosebrock
Designer.....Kris Doyle
Web Editor.....Joanne Shaw
Production.....Printing Services

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