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$6.37 million from National Institutes of Health to find new ways to treat psoriasis

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a research center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center a $6.37 million award to establish a Center of Research Translation (CORT) for the skin disease psoriasis.

This is one of the largest grants ever given to a medical institution in the United States for the study of psoriasis.

With a five-year grant from NIAMS, the Psoriasis CORT will bring a multidisciplinary team of translational physicians scientists, nurses, community clinicians, laity and basic scientists from different departments and disciplines together. This team will apply the intellectual and scientific resources of their institutions to new therapies to provide relief to patients with the skin disease that has long-term health and psychosocial consequences.

Our goal is to find ways to rebalance the human bodys immune system and skin cells to restrain the expression of this skin disease, said Kevin Cooper, M.D., department chair of dermatology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UHCMC) and professor of dermatology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. It is very important to obtain safe and durable remissions from disease because psoriasis has significant impact on patient health, spanning psychosocial effects, and risk for long-term cardiovascular complications and cancers.

The CORT grant complements a $5 million gift to University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UHCMC) from The Murdough Foundation that was received in December 2006 designed to advance the research and treatment of psoriasis. The gift remains the largest known in the United States for dermatology at an academic medical center. The Murdough Family Center for Psoriasis supports and stimulates clinical research and treatment for, and education about, psoriasis and creates a critical base for the CORT research projects and cores.

Together with the recently awarded $64 million NIH Clinical Translational Services Award to Case Western Reserve University and the NIH NIAMS Skin Diseases Research Center at Case Medical Center, the Psoriasis CORT concentrates a remarkable array of interactive research resources that we expect to change patient care with safer and better therapies, said Pamela Davis, dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

This CORT award reinforces University Hospitals Case Medical Centers dedication to, and progress with both the treatment and research of psoriasis, said Fred C. Rothstein, M.D., president and CEO of University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Our unique interdisciplinary approach to psoriasis therapy and study places us at the forefront of eventually curing this debilitating disease.

The NIAMS grant will allow research teams to focus on three projects that simultaneously utilize different strategies to study the disease.

  • PROJECT ONE: Researchers will test and explore the potential use in psoriasis of PC4, a novel photodynamic therapy (PDT), developed as a treatment for skin cancer at Case Western Reserve University by Malcolm Kenney, Ph.D., from the department of chemistry; Nancy Oleinick, Ph.D; and Drs. Cooper and Elma Baron at UHCMC.

    In a clinical trial, the non-invasive photosensitizer PC4 will be applied topically and exposed to red light to active the light-sensitive chemicals. After treatment, a real-time analysis of the psoriasis tissue will take place with the aid of a newly built device to conduct optical monitoring of tissue oxygen levels during treatments. The goal is to control inflammation that eventually brings on T-cell damage.

  • PROJECT TWO: Another focus of the Psoriasis CORT is to understand the role that S100A8/9, a pro-inflammatory protein, has in initiating the biochemical processes that result in the production of T-cells. Approximately 50 patients a year will participate in this area of the study.

    The research team hypothesizes that S100A8/9 is associated with a molecular pattern that recruits, activates and differentiates macrophage cells in the skin of patients with psoriasis and that blocking these processes will halt the progression of the disease.

  • PROJECT THREE: Through a study of genetically engineered mice with disease characteristics of psoriasis, the researchers hope to analyze the biochemical processes that create the signals leading to the disease and formulate strategies to block the signals. They also hope to study the cardiovascular risks associated with this disease in this mouse model.

Case Western Reserve and UHCMC are recognized as leaders in the study of psoriasis in multiple ways; the Skin Disease Research Center, which is one of only six NIH/NIAMS centers throughout the entire country; the Murdough Family Center for Psoriasis; NIH NIAMS research project funding; Veterans Administration translational clinical trial funding; and now the Psoriasis CORT.


Contact: Susan Griffith
Case Western Reserve University

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