Tuesday, January 1, 2013

UVA's Virtual Cancer Center

UVA is addressing the unique challenges faced by cancer patients in rural areas, communities, and organizations throughout Appalachia and Southwest Virginia. The University of Virginia (UVA) is working with rural communities to create a virtual hospital called the “Cancer Center Without Walls”. This effort is designed to help patients that need advanced cancer care and clinical trials close to their home.

Funding for the center comes from an 18 month $965,000 grant awarded by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification Community Revitalization Commission with funding beginning in 2013.

According to Michael J. Weber, PhD, Director of the UVA Cancer Center, “The Center is designed to help create a seamless network for care so that everyone across the Commonwealth from the coalfields to the Atlantic will have access to the very finest resources.”

Many people in Virginia’s tobacco regions do not have access to clinical trials and specialists at NCI-designated cancer centers, like the Cancer Center that exists at UVA. To meet the needs of these residents, the virtual cancer center will take advantage of the broadband network in Southwest Virginia to expand telemedicine initiatives and increase access. 

The region has excellent cancer physicians and centers but the partnership with UVA will increase access to advanced care and clinical research. For example UVA will collaborate with local health systems to expand telemedicine opportunities for breast and cervical cancer screenings.

By expanding the use of mobile digital mammography and video-colopscopy, it is possible to bring screening and prevention options where cancer is prevalent and screening options are limited.

In another development at UVA, researchers have developed a new computer model showing how the heart reacts to stresses such as high blood pressure. This new model is shedding light on a common cause of heart failure and will make it possible to develop new drugs to treat and prevent heart failure.

The computer is able to map out the signaling network that controls how heart cells grow in response to biochemical and mechanical stresses. This is critically important to understand because the cells attempt to adapt to stresses when a heart attack occurs which can often lead to additional cardiac problems.

According to Jeff Saucerman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UVA, “Unlike previous research that focused on individual proteins and genes affecting heart growth, UVA’s model takes a broader approach.” As he explains, “Most studies have focused on individual trees, but we’re trying to see the bigger picture of the forest.”