The Centers of Excellence in Research program was initiated in 2015 to speed the translation of lab discoveries into real benefits for patients. It brings together traditional lab scientists with front-line physicians to focus on the advances that are most needed by patients now. Initially funded internally, the long-term goal of this initiative is to involve supporters who are passionate about specific disease areas. In 2017, five new centers won a competitive process to receive initial funding.
Center of Excellence in Prostate Cancer Research (est. 2015)
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men with about 1 in 7 men being diagnosed during in his lifetime. The majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from the disease. However, those who do (nearly 30,000 each year) develop aggressive tumors that grow and spread rapidly, sometimes even after radical surgery to remove all cancerous tissue. The goal of this Center of Excellence is to better understand lethal prostate cancer in order to identify treatments that will improve patient care and survival.
Center of Excellence in Pulmonary Vascular Disease Research (est. 2015)
Pulmonary vascular diseases (PVD) are a diverse group of heart and lung disorders made up of overlapping syndromes that commonly present as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). The goal of this Center of Excellence is to better understand the mechanisms of vascular dysfunction that lead to PVD, including the various forms of PAH, and to develop new targets and strategies for individualized therapies. To achieve this goal, the center’s clinical and basic investigators are engaging in four distinct yet synergistic projects: 1) identifying mechanisms of abnormal cell proliferation, 2) examining the role of thrombosis in the development of PAH, 3) studying the role of nitric oxide deficiency in PAH, and 4) testing two existing drugs to restore lost cellular function due to a genetic mutation related to PAH.
Raed Dweik, MD
Center of Excellence in Cancer Thrombosis Research (est. 2016)
Cancer-associated thrombosis (blood clot formation) occurs in approximately one-fifth of all cancer patients and remains the second leading cause of death in hospitalized and ambulatory cases. Research suggests that several forms of cancer as well as some cancer treatments, such as certain types of chemotherapies, increase the risk of blood clots, which cause death by blocking or obstructing blood flow in the body and preventing vital organs from receiving oxygen and nutrients. The goal of this Center of Excellence is to better define thrombus development in patients with cancer, test the efficacy of novel therapies, develop new preclinical models, and create and expand biorepositories to provide a valuable resource to researchers across Cleveland Clinic.
Center of Excellence in Colon Cancer Metastasis Research (est. 2016)
With awareness increasing and colonoscopy widely available, colorectal cancer can be a preventable disease. However, for the 20-30 percent of patients who develop metastatic disease, the discovery of new treatment options is critical. In patients whose colon cancer has spread (most often to the liver), current treatments extend life by, at most, less than two years.
To help combat this problem, this Center of Excellence harnesses expertise from research and clinical areas of Cleveland Clinic to understand the causes of colon cancer metastasis and to improve prevention, treatment and, ultimately, patient outcomes. The center is undertaking several projects, including examining colon cancer’s cellular microenvironment, reversing the effects of angiogenesis and understanding how genetic changes may make colon cancer cells more aggressive in some individuals and how those changes may be reversed.
Center of Excellence in Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia Research (est. 2016)
Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is a type of cancer that occurs when the blood contains an abnormally high amount of white blood cells. Affecting approximately three in 100,000 Americans each year, CMML is a rare disease that generally affects older adults and is found in more men than women. Currently, the cause of CMML remains unknown and treatment options are limited. This Center of Excellence aims to improve the management of CMML and develop curative therapies for the disease. Initial projects further examine recently discovered mutations that are found in more than 80 percent of CMML patients. These projects are exploring therapeutic options, including developing targeted gene therapies and novel epigenetic therapies.
Jaroslaw Maciejewski, MD, PhD
Center of Excellence in Liver Tumor Research (est. 2017)
Current treatments for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, the most common type of liver cancer) do not work for all patients and only offer a modest benefit. This Center of Excellence team will focus on obesity-driven HCC. The diverse group of experts has developed a biorepository of patient-derived tissues, which will be used for testing investigational drugs in preclinical models. Several novel therapeutic targets have already been identified, and drug discovery efforts continue.
Center of Excellence in Ex-Vivo Liver Perfusion Research (est. 2017)
Ex-vivo organ perfusion (EVOP), pioneered at Cleveland Clinic, is rapidly emerging as a potential superior preservation technology over cold storage in clinical transplantation. To date, 10 patients have received successful transplants using EVOP. The goal of this center is to advance basic and clinical liver preservation research and to establish the world’s first clinical “organ ICU.” Since liver transplantation remains the only chance of a cure for end-stage liver disease, improving transplant organ quality is critical for caring for these patients and will help close the gap between patient need and available organs.
Center of Excellence in Precision Radiotherapy Research (est. 2017)
More than 50 percent of patients with cancer receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment. However, radiation is still delivered in a “one size fits all” manner. The goal of this center is to bring radiotherapy into the era of personalized medicine by identifying genetic markers of radiotherapy resistance and uncovering how heterogeneity within tumors affects radiotherapy efficacy. The long-term goal of the center is to develop novel, individualized therapeutic strategies to increase the cure rate for lung cancer.
Mohamed Abazeed, MD, PhD
Center of Excellence in Translational Therapies for Post-Stroke Rehabilitation (est. 2017)
The main goal of this Center of Excellence is to identify and evaluate new approaches to enhance stroke recovery for patients with motor and cognitive deficits by bridging the divide between preclinical research and clinical trials. Projects include developing a novel preclinical model of ischemic stroke and applying functional MRI to characterize brain changes, improving measures of post-stroke clinical assessment, and combining brain stimulation with directed rehabilitation.
Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular Translational Functional Genomics (est. 2017)
While many patients have familial cardiovascular conditions, genetic testing is not always used effectively in the clinical setting. This center aims to identify and address critical gaps that could enhance personalized care. The team plans to accomplish this goal by expanding whole genome or exome sequencing for patients, using patient-derived cells to discover new disease mechanisms, and personalized drug library screening. Studies will focus on three main disease areas: arrhythmias; heart failure; and aortic, vascular or valve diseases.
Mina Chung, MD
Wilson Tang, MD