Bone marrow researcher recieves Pew Award

July 05, 2005

A researcher from the University of Rochester Medical Center is one of 15 nationwide selected as 2005 Pew Scholars in Biomedical Science. As a Pew Scholar, Laura M. Calvi, M.D., assistant professor in the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, will receive $240,000 to support her research over four years. The program is funded through a grant made to the University of California at San Francisco by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The announcement was made late last week by both institutions.

The grant will support Calvi's effort to determine how cells in the bone marrow influence the creation of blood cells. A better understanding could improve survival rates in cancer patients who receive bone marrow transplants. Chemotherapy and radiation kill specialized stem cells in bone that give rise to blood cells, causing anemia and other side effects. Cancer patients often receive bone marrow transplants to help restore their blood cell levels. How they respond to a transplant depends on whether blood-producing cells from the transplanted marrow thrive.

In prior research, Calvi's team discovered that treating bone-forming cells with a related hormone causes blood cell counts to expand, and survival to become more likely, in mice receiving marrow transplants. With the Pew grant, Calvi can now explore whether the addition of parathyroid hormone to human cells has the same effect.

"Dr. Calvi's work is unique, ambitious and holds great potential for patients, all in the spirit of the Pew awards," said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Medical Center. "The award represents a great win for her research effort, and the Pew award program in general, by encouraging researchers to make intellectual leaps, is a boon to medical science."

Since 1985, the Pew Scholars program has provided support to investigators in the early stages of their careers who show "outstanding promise in the basic and clinical sciences." While many grants have strict guidelines governing how the funds must be spent, this award offers intellectual flexibility, and is designed to encourage scientists to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads. Since 1985, the Pew trusts have invested more than $100 million to fund nearly 400 scholars. Scholars must be nominated by one of 136 invited institutions and demonstrate innovation in their research. A national advisory committee selects the scholars.

"I am honored to have received a Pew Scholar Award and believe the funding will enable my group to more quickly translate our basic science findings into therapies that help patients," Calvi said. "Additional studies now need to be done to better understand how parathyroid hormone favors bone cells' support of the most primitive blood-generating stem cells. We are striving to define, not only the mechanisms behind this biologic finding, but also to replicate our work in humans. I am grateful for the support of the Department of Medicine and the University of Rochester in nominating me."
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For more information on the winners, please visit http://www.pewtrusts.com

University of Rochester Medical Center

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