Disease Prevention and Control

With the support of philanthropy, experts at Cedars-Sinai have made important strides in treating patients with serious illnesses. Whether distinguishing themselves in the laboratory, innovating patient care or collaborating with colleagues, these specialists advanced their search for effective approaches that prevent disease, and they changed the ways patients are treated and, ultimately, healed.

Key Advances in Diabetes

In 2016, scientists from nearly a dozen top-tier institutions from around the country shared information and ideas and discussed recent findings about two of the nation’s most common maladies: diabetes and obesity. The inaugural Cedars-Sinai Symposium on Diabetes and Obesity showcased research* that indicates exercise won’t necessarily make you slimmer, antipsychotic drugs may make you fat and gastric-bypass surgery can be used to treat Type 2 diabetes. The symposium was hosted by Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Sports Spectacular Diabetes and Obesity Wellness and Research Center at Cedars-Sinai, professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine, and the Alfred Jay Firestein Chair in Diabetes Research. His research*—published in Diabetes—showed that incapacitating specific nerves to the kidneys improves the work of insulin on the liver, which will potentially provide positive outcomes for patients with diabetes. Bergman also co-authored a study demonstrating a correlation between obesity and living at lower elevations, which could have implications for increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and several types of cancer. His research revealed that Latinos are more likely to store fat in the pancreas and less able to compensate by excreting additional insulin, making them more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes.

Building Expertise in Women’s Heart Health

Cedars-Sinai investigators broke ground in the area of women’s heart health through strong research, awareness, prevention efforts and campaign support.

C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute, the Linda Joy Pollin Women’s Heart Health Program, the Erika J. Glazer Women’s Heart Research Initiative, the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center, and the Irwin and Sheila Allen Chair in Women’s Heart Research, led research at Cedars-Sinai that significantly impacted the field of female cardiac medicine.

Over the past eight years, experts elucidated key differentiators between heart disease in women and men, strengthening efforts to fight the illness in all patients. Efforts included:

  1. Broadening knowledge of the risk factors that heighten a woman’s likelihood for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as adverse pregnancy outcomes, estrogen deficiency and
    premature menopause.
  2. Deepening comprehension of female-pattern heart disease, such as coronary microvascular dysfunction and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, as well as treatment for these conditions. New findings by scientists at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center suggest that chest pain in female-pattern heart disease is linked to abnormal blood flow and that the drug ranolazine may offer relief for severe dysfunction.
  3. Launching a study of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as stress-related cardiomyopathy or broken-heart syndrome, a largely reversible but potentially life-threatening condition occurring almost exclusively in women. Utilizing functional MRI, investigators are looking at neural pathway activation changes in the brain when someone is exposed to stress and employing cardiac MRI to study similar neural pathways to the heart.
  4. Leading a chronic heart disease study which showed that women who practiced transcendental meditation had lower blood pressure, blood sugar and risk of sudden cardiac death than those receiving medical treatment only, and that cardiac-specific acupuncture treatments resulted in a positive change in heart rate variability.

Conquering Prostate Cancer

Scientists at Cedars-Sinai uncovered novel approaches to fighting prostate cancer. Through their work, they found ways to identify which patients are likely to develop aggressive types of the disease even if their tumors at first appear to be lower risk. Leading this effort was Michael Freeman, PhD, director of the Division of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Research in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, director of Basic Science Research in the Department of Surgery, professor of Surgery and Biomedical Sciences, and the Ben Maltz Chair in Cancer Therapeutics. He and his colleagues also:

  • Uncovered the vital role that a common protein plays in the stroma, the cell-lined area outside of a prostate tumor, finding that a decreased level of the protein indicated tumor growth.
  • Identified a gene (DIAPH3) responsible for the growth of many breast and prostate cancers, a discovery that could enable physicians to determine which patients might respond well to certain chemotherapy drugs.
  • Advanced the discovery of cancer therapies applied at the molecular level, which are more effective and less toxic
    than conventional chemotherapy. This contributed to a better understanding of novel mechanisms of taxane resistance, which will impact the treatment of nearly all the common types of solid tumors.

Leading Efforts Against Liver Disease

Impactful research in treating patients with liver disease now underway at the medical center includes developing an online, multicenter, secure platform to collect clinical information on patients with hepatitis B, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. This database will facilitate new treatment options, streamline clinical management and enable faster enrollment in clinical trials.