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Our 12 Top Stories Show Great Things Happened for Children's Health in 2016

Published on December 27, 2016 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 3 months 2 weeks ago


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As we approach the end of 2016, for good or ill, this time of year lends itself to reflection. To look back over these 12 months in research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, we’ve decided to pick 12 of the most popular stories we’ve brought you in the past year. While any year has its hardships and its triumphs, we’re proud to say that this selection of stories is just a small glimpse of how much smart scientists, committed healthcare providers, dedicated families, and other supporters, can achieve together in advancing the discovery of better ways to help more children grow up healthy and strong. Because we can only pick a few highlights, for the purposes of this post we’ve chosen our top three most popular or engaging stories from four different places we share them — Cornerstone, Bench to Bedside, Facebook, and Twitter.

CHOP Launches Center for Data-Driven Discovery in Biomedicine

The launch of the Center for Data-Driven Discovery in Biomedicine (D3b) at CHOP coincided with the National Cancer Moonshot kickoff visit by Vice President Joe Biden to the Penn-CHOP campus in January. D3b Co-Directors Adam Resnick, PhD, and Phillip “Jay” Storm, announced the plans for their new center with a guest post on the Cornerstone blog.  The D3b launch was also one of the top Facebook and Twitter posts from CHOP Research in 2016. To learn more about the center’s latest developments, see the article in the November issue of Bench to Bedside.

Family-Centered Care in the Spotlight

This year, PolicyLab at CHOP launched an intergenerational family services research portfolio to research, implement and test innovative ways to engage parents and guardians around their own physical and mental health needs and therefore improve their children’s health outcomes. Read more in the March issue of Bench to Bedside.

‘Mean Girls’ Learn to Use Social Influence for Good

Any middle school student could tell you that gossip, rumors, and manipulation of social relationships are hallmarks of “mean girls.” That pattern of behavior is better known as relational aggression to researchers who work to understand these dynamics and intervene to help young people develop healthier relationship skills. Behavioral researchers have observed another trend that youth might find obvious: The “mean girls” are often quite popular. This year, researchers from the Violence Prevention Initiative at CHOP reported finding that they could learn to harness that social influence and use it for good. Read more in the August issue of Bench to Bedside.

New Treatment for Devastating Lymphatic Disorder

A CHOP research team has discovered the cause of a rare, life-threatening complication called plastic bronchitis that occurs after some surgeries for congenital heart disease — and they developed a new method to reverse it.  “This is a new treatment option for children with plastic bronchitis and has the potential to offer long-term improvement of this condition,” said pediatric cardiologist Yoav Dori, MD. “This procedure may even provide cure and avoid the need for a heart transplant.” The study reporting on outcomes for 18 children treated at CHOP was published in the journal Circulation. — Facebook

The innovative new techniques to both image and intervene on lymphatic blockages in plastic bronchitis are a boon for children with this devastating condition. But they also signify new potential for treating the lymphatic system in many other diseases, as we later reported in Bench to Bedside. Read more in the September issue.

Patient Impact Award for N. Scott Adzick, MD

N. Scott Adzick, MD, MMM, FACS, FAAP, Surgeon-in-Chief and the founder and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP, has dedicated his career to pursuing groundbreaking prenatal treatments to correct debilitating and life-threatening birth defects. In recognition of his innovative accomplishments, Dr. Adzick received the Patient Impact Award at Life Sciences Pennsylvania’s, formerly Pennsylvania Bio’s, annual dinner in March. Read more on Cornerstone.

Baby Poop Study Digs Into Obesity Risk

We don’t want to make a stink. We just think this study is fascinating, and, judging by the traffic, readers agree. In January, we brought you the story of the Infant Growth and Microbiome (I-Gram) study, which was then entering its second phase under Principal Investigator Babette Zemel, PhD. The study tracks the growth of microbes in the digestive system to understand the development of obesity risk early in life. Don’t miss our follow-up Q&A conversation with Eileen Ford, program manager of the I-Gram study.

Precision Medicine Neuroblastoma Trial Speeds Up Success

In January, we were delighted to share more details of the NEPENTHE trial for neuroblastoma (for NExt-generation Personalized NEuroblastoma THErapy).

“The novelty of this trial could be viewed on numerous levels,” said principal investigator Yael Mossé, MD, a CHOP pediatric oncologist. “It’s based on rigorous preclinical data, understanding the molecular drivers that are important in this disease. It’s combining multiple novel drugs, not just one at a time. And it’s bringing that to the clinic and assigning patients to therapy based on what their tumor genetics are teaching us at the time that they meet us with relapsed or refractory cancer.”

The trial design could be a model for other precision-medicine trials in pediatric cancer and other rare diseases with small subsets of patients.

No. 1 Pediatrics Graduate Program

Recognition is awarding and electrifying! Our Facebook community was thrilled to share in the excitement in March when we learned that the department of Pediatrics at CHOP and Penn was ranked the best in the country again.

Read more on Cornerstone.

Mentorship in Medicine Q&A with ASHG Mentorship Award Winner Elaine Zackai, MD

We learned from Elaine Zackai that it is a good idea to “think zebras.” This advice — based on a medical adage that usually says to do the opposite — was among the pearls of wisdom she shared on the subject of mentorship after being selected as the first-ever recipient of the mentorship award from the American Society of Human Genetics. Don’t miss a word of her insights; check out the Cornerstone post from October.

CPR for Children Gets Smarter

It doesn’t get much more life-or-death than CPR in the intensive care unit. Perhaps that’s why Bench to Bedside readers found this story in the March issue so exciting. Researchers at CHOP were recently awarded a grant to take their bundle of clinical activities that have doubled patient survival with favorable neurologic outcomes, and disseminate it through a multi-site clinical trial. And that’s just one part of it.

“CHOP has led the field in discovering what is important for the quality of CPR for children, in the knowledge exchange and implementation science of how to perform and disseminate high quality CPR, and in modeling how CPR affects outcomes and quality of life for critically ill and injured children,” said Vinay M. Nadkarni, MD. “Kids are not just little adults. We’ve led the field in trying to figure out the impact of age, size, and developmental life cycle on performance and outcomes of CPR.”

Sociology for Superbugs

When the going gets tough, the tough get interdisciplinary.

In May, we brought you the story of how CHOP and Penn are working to understand the underlying social factors that affect antimicrobial stewardship practices and the rising risk of microbes that are resistant to our best medicines. Read more in Cornerstone.

Honoring the Legacy of Henrietta Lacks

It is only fitting that we end this list with an acknowledgement of how important patients and families are in making scientific research possible. In September, CHOP was honored to welcome David Lacks as a guest, discussing his family’s legacy in which his late grandmother’s cells were used for research without her knowledge or consent. The Lacks family’s journey over the last few decades is one worth paying attention to.

“Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer and loving mother of four children, was an unsung hero for too long. After her doctor collected cells from her cervical cancer tumor in 1951, Henrietta unwittingly had an integral role in the transformation of biomedical research over that past six decades. The cells, known as HeLa, were the first human cells to grow and divide continuously in the lab, making research on tissue culture possible and contributing to many huge advances in medicine, such as the development of modern vaccines and cancer therapies. But her contributions were largely unknown and uncredited until the publication of a bestselling book in 2010, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”  Today, Henrietta’s descendants have a key role and important perspective on the next revolution in biomedicine: Engaging patients as partners. CHOP’s Center for Data-Driven Discovery in Biomedicine hosted an event on that theme last week, and we were honored to welcome David Lacks, Henrietta’s grandson, as a speaker. Our Q&A covers our conversation with him about his perspective on engaging as a partner in research, on his family’s legacy, and on the movie now in production with Oprah Winfrey:

Read more in our Q&A with David Lacks on Cornerstone.