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News and Features Gastroenterology Research Leads the Way for New Treatments, Services

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News and Features Gastroenterology Research Leads the Way for New Treatments, Services

Considerable growth in research and clinical services have vaulted Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics’ gastroenterology program into a top 25 ranking this year by U.S. News and World Report.

“The value of research for us locally is that our patients will have access to cutting-edge diagnostics and therapeutics that won’t necessarily be available elsewhere, and they create knowledge that helps kids here and everywhere,’’ says Craig Friesen, MD, Division Director, Gastroenterology, and Professor of Pediatrics at UMKC School of Medicine.

The Gastroenterology Division has snagged National Institutes of Health multi-center grants and five new grants for investigator-initiated studies. In the last year, more than $300,000 in private donations has funded research primarily in the areas of abdominal pain, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and liver development.

New research programs have been launched dealing with liver development and liver cancer, cancerous polyps and IBD.

IBD and Medication Adherence

Michele Herzer, PhD, a psychologist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UMKC School of Medicine, is leading IBD research that examines how best to get children’s adherence to medication regimens.

“Most research nationally is about how you get disease,” Dr. Friesen says. “Not a lot of people are doing work on adherence.”

The problem, Dr. Friesen says, is that “when kids are doing well, they stop taking their medicine and about a month later, the disease will activate. Then they will start taking their medicines, and there’s about a month lag before they respond.”

Medication Effectiveness

Julie Bass, DO, is collaborating with the hospital’s clinical pharmacologists to examine the efficacy of medicines and what works best for individual patients.

Although there have been trials of medicines comparing their effectiveness to placebos, “nobody has really looked at individualized medicine,” Dr. Friesen says.

Researchers are analyzing what factors, such as dosage, timing of medication, genetics and metabolism, affect how well medicines work for individual patients.

Liver Development and Cancer

James (Jack) Daniel, MD, Medical Director, Liver Transplantation and The Liver Care Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UMKC School of Medicine, and Seth Septer, DO, are collaborating on a research project that examines liver growth.

“Your liver stops growing at a certain point,” Dr. Friesen says. “So what are the brakes on stopping it?”

When the proteins that affect liver growth go astray, uncontrolled growth can ensue. The physicians have found that also factors into the development of liver cancers and cancerous polyps.

Dr. Septer has previously worked with Henry Lynch, MD, of Omaha, a renowned polyps researcher. Now, with new expertise in polyps, the hospital plans to open a polyps clinic in July or August.

New Services

In addition to research, the Gastroenterology Division also has developed a number of specialized programs in the last year, including interdisciplinary clinics in IBD and eosinophilic esophagitis and programs in intestinal rehabilitation, Celiac disease, polyposis and special endoscopic procedures.

The hospital’s Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplant Center is now drawing small bowel rehab patients from Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as Missouri and Kansas. Small bowel transplant will begin in 2012.

For more information, call 1-800-GO MERCY.

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