$1.4 million grant awarded to study 2 little-understood neurological disorders

December 17, 2007

NEW YORK (Dec. 17, 2007) -- The Leon Levy Foundation has awarded over $1.4 million in grants to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City in support of collaborative research into two little-understood neurological disorders: chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction in adult cancer patients and Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), also known as "water on the brain," a progressive neurologic disorder in older adults that may be present in as many as 5 percent of dementia cases.

The three-year joint study on chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction will assess changes in brain structure, particularly in the hippocampus and the white matter, and cognitive functions in adult cancer patients treated with chemotherapy prior to receiving a stem-cell transplant.

"A significant number of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy experience changes in memory and other cognitive functions that interfere with their ability to lead a normal life. Yet despite the seriousness of the problem, little is known about it," says the study's principal investigator, Dr. Denise D. Correa, assistant professor of neuropsychology in Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neuropsychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The collaborative study involving researchers from Weill Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and City University of New York (CUNY) will be the first to test the hypothesis that chemotherapy affects specific brain structures, particularly the hippocampus and white matter.

Dr. Correa hopes the research leads to efforts to identify "neuroprotective agents" that may minimize or prevent chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction.

A second three-year study will investigate techniques to improve detection of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), a condition in which an excess of fluid compresses the brain, causing disturbances in gait, balance, control of urination and memory.

This investigation will be led by Dr. Norman Relkin, an authority in the diagnosis of the condition and author of international guidelines for the diagnosis of NPH. He is director of the Memory Disorders Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and associate professor of clinical neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"NPH is treatable, but grossly under-recognized. Sadly, its symptoms are too often mistaken for Alzheimer's, Vascular Dementia or Parkinson's disease," explains Dr. Relkin. "There is currently no single method for objectively diagnosing NPH, and the available means of diagnosis involve a costly and time-consuming combination of clinical examinations, brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage procedures. Furthermore, in published studies, the accuracy of this conventional approach is only about 50 percent in the hands of most physicians."

The three-year study will examine two techniques: Quantitative Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging (QDT-MRI) and Proteomic Analysis of Cerebrospinal Fluid (PA-CSF) -- approaches Dr. Relkin says "have shown excellent promise in our preliminary study and could revolutionize NPH diagnosis and management."

Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, says, "Leon was interested in the function of the human brain and its effects on behavior. He also had a very high regard for the work of Dr. Norman Relkin. This important research should advance our knowledge of these two perplexing neurological disorders. We have great confidence in the excellence of Dr. Relkin and Dr. Correa, and the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurological program, and are therefore pleased to support this critical effort."
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Leon Levy Foundation

The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, a legendary investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation's overarching goal is to continue the tradition of humanism characteristic of Mr. Levy by supporting scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances -- from the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer to the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth, and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally-conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian, which is ranked sixth on the U.S.News & World Report list of top hospitals, also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and www.med.cornell.edu.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

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