ECU Logo
 
Department of Internal Medicine
Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine


labstaff


 


 
Research Program Overview

The Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine has an active translational research program with several NIH grants, as well as corporate and device trials. We provide extensive laboratory facilities with access to cutting-edge techniques. In addition, our animal facilities support ongoing studies involving animal models of human disease (asthma, PAP, sarcoidosis). Targeted research areas include:

arrowSarcoidosis and lung inflammation
arrowCytokine biology
arrowAll aspects of lung cancer and interventional pulmonology
arrowAlveolar proteinosis and lung lipid homeostasis
arrowObstructive lung disease. 

[top]

 
Research News and Events

Congratulations to Heidi Dalrymple, PhD Candidate, for winning the trainee research award at the 2007 Research Day! 

 

Dr. Mary Jane Thomassen Receives the NCBC Shared Instrument Grant for Laser Capture Microdissection: Advanced Technology for Biomedical Research [Pieces of Eight Article, PDF, page 5]

 

Biological research at the molecular level is the focus of modern science and critical to solving the problems of human disease. One of the most exciting new developments in biomedical research is laser microdissection (LCM), a technique which allows for the isolation of single cells or populations of cells from human or animal tissue sections. Dr. Mary Jane Thomassen, PhD, Director of the Lung Biology and Translational Research in the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine spearheaded a proposal to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center  to obtain a LCM instrument for collaborative use at BSOM. This technique of LCM enables the researcher to investigate DNA and proteins from specific cells or groups of cells free of adjacent tissue or contact contaminants.  Such cutting edge technologies as DNA microarrays and proteomics depend upon the isolation of single cells or pure populations of cells with specific phenotypes for meaningful results. For example, organs are complex structures with heterogeneous cellular populations.  Each distinct cell type is likely to have a signature molecular fingerprint under normal and pathological conditions and isolating these cells may provide new insights and potential therapies to a host of human conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary inflammatory diseases, and others.  The approach taken by Dr. Thomassen to obtain this shared instrument will increase translational research capacity at BSOM and will truly be a shared resource for several investigators. Co-investigators on this proposal include: Barbara Muller-Borer, PhD; Qun Lu, PhD; Douglas Weidner, PhD; and Larry Dobbs, MD, PhD.

 

[top]

 
Research Faculty and Staff
Mary Jane Thomassen, PhD
Director, Program in Lung Cell Biology and Translational Research
(252) 744-1117
thomassenm@ecu.edu

Anagha Malur
Pulmonary Research Lab Manager
(252) 744-1116
malura@ecu.edu
Sergio Arce, PhD
Assistant Professor
252.744.4653 (office)
arces@ecu.edu

Angela Easter
Public Communications Specialist
(252) 744-3451
eastera@ecu.edu

 

Isham Huizar, MD
Assistant Professor 
252-744-1834
huizari@ecu.edu

 

 

Irene Marshall, PA-C, CRC         
Clinical Research Coordinator
(252) 744-5888
marshalli@ecu.edu


Mary Catherine Cashion, BSN, RN
Clinical Reseach Specialist
252-744-2652
cashionm@ecu.edu


 

 


[top]
 
Research Studies and Clinical Trials

 

Prospective Open-Label Trial of Rituximab for Primary Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis Investigator-Initiated Study

 

UMCIRB#: 05-354

Supported by: Genentech, Incorporated

PI: Mary Jane Thomassen, Ph.D.

Sub-Investigator(s): Mani S. Kavuru, MD

Study Coordinator: Irene Marshall, PA-C, CCRC

Contact: (252) 744-5888 (p), (252) 744-4887 (f)

Email: ECU_PAP_REGISTRY@ecu.edu

 

 

The goal of this study is to conduct a prospective, open-label 6-month trial of rituximab in patients who present with symptomatic primary or idiopathic PAP. A total of 10 subjects with primary PAP will be evaluated over 12 months at East Carolina University. Patients over age 18 with a clinical diagnosis of moderate symptomatic idiopathic PAP, established by appropriate clinical history, radiographic and physiologic findings, presence of circulating anti-GM-CSF antibody, and confirmatory findings on bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage and/or open-lung biopsy will be recruited. Patients with newly diagnosed PAP or established disease may be considered for this study. 

 

[top]


 

Studies in Lung Biology Collection of Material for Tissue Banking

 

UMCIRB#: 05-354

Supported by: Genentech, Incorporated

PI: Mary Jane Thomassen, Ph.D.

Sub-Investigator(s): Mani S. Kavuru, MD

 

Study Coordinator: Irene Marshall, PA-C, CCRC

Contact: (252) 744-5888 (p), (252) 744-4887 (f)

Email: ECU_SARCOID_REGISTRY@ecu.edu

 

At East Carolina University, there is a research effort to understand the biological circumstances that lead to lung disease. As a result, there are several studies being performed that involve different groups of investigators. This is due to the fact that lung diseases are associated with many biological factors which require a “team” approach for investigation. Since several studies involve the use of blood and lung cells obtained during bronchoscopy and residual tissue from lung surgery, we are establishing a “tissue bank” of these specimens. Subjects for these studies will be: 1) patients who come to our Pulmonary Outpatient Clinic for diagnosis and treatment of lung disease 2) patients who undergo surgery for lung disease and 3) healthy volunteers (controls) who are recruited for this study through advertisement. The subjects may be cigarette smokers. Normal volunteers should be free of acute or chronic respiratory symptoms.

 

[top]


In Vitro Generation of GM-CSF Monoclonal Neutralizing Antibodies

UMCIRB#: 05-354

Supported by: Genentech, Incorporated

PI: Mary Jane Thomassen, Ph.D.

Sub-Investigator(s): Mani S. Kavuru, MD

 

Study Coordinator: Irene Marshall, PA-C, CCRC

Contact: (252) 744-5888 (p), (252) 744-4887 (f)

 

The objective of this study is to generate proof-of-principle fully human antibodies (HuMabs) specific to GM-CSF that can be optimized for affinity or production using Morphotek’s technology. Patients with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis (PAP) have high levels of circulating anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies that are believed to mediate this lung disorder. This study will utilize lymphocytes from the peripheral blood of 15 patients with PAP to help develop humanized monoclonal antibodies directed at GM-CSF in the laboratory. Only subjects with a confirmed diagnosis of pulmonary alveolar proteinosis and an anti GM-CSF titer are eligible for this study.

[top]



Cytokine Dysregulation in GM-CSF Autoimmunity 

UMCIRB#: 05-354


Supported by: Genentech, Incorporated

PI: Mary Jane Thomassen, Ph.D.

Sub-Investigator(s): Mani S. Kavuru, MD

 

Study Coordinator: Irene Marshall, PA-C, CCRC

Contact: (252) 744-5888 (p), (252) 744-4887 (f)

 

The long-term objective of this study is to delineate the relationships among immune cells, cytokines and anti-GM-CSF autoantibody in PAP pathophysiology. This study will use banked blood samples and banked tissue from bronchoscopy and, therefore, allow the study of lung fluids and cells, as well as systemic cells and mediators from blood. This protocol will enroll 10 patients with PAP being treated with Rituximab under the protocol “Prospective Open-Label Trial for Primary Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis,” 20 untreated healthy controls for a single bronchoscopy, and 70 untreated healthy controls for a single venous blood draw. The 10 PAP patients will be 18 years of age or older from throughout the United States who have been diagnosed with primary PAP (PAP that develops for unknown reasons).

 

[top]


 

PPARg Dysfunction in Sarcoidosis

 

UMCIRB#: 05-0631

Supported by: National Institutes of Health

PI: Mary Jane Thomassen, Ph.D.

Sub-Investigator(s):  Mani S. Kavuru, MD

 

Study Coordinator: Irene Marshall, PA-C, CCRC

Contact: (252) 744-5888 (p), (252) 744-4887 (f)

 

The specific aims of this study are to: (1) Evaluate intrinsic PPARg mRNA (by real time RT-PCR) and protein expression (by immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry) in pulmonary granuloma tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells; (2) Investigate in vitro  PPARg responses of BAL and peripheral blood cells to challenge with positive (interleukin 4 [IL-4], granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor [GM-CSF]), phorbol myristate acetate [PMA]); and negative (PPARg ligands, IFNg) regulators of PPARg; and (3) Determine by sequence analysis whether PPARg polymorphisms are associated with sarcoidosis. The study will use a combination of specimens from sarcoidosis patients vs healthy controls to characterize the status of PPARg in sarcoidosis.

                                                       

[top]



 
Healthy Volunteers Needed for Clinical Study

If you are over 18 years of age with:

  • No history of lung disease
  • No history of flu, chest cold, or urinary tract infection for the past six (6) weeks
  • No current respiratory symptoms

You are eligible for a clinical research study where you will be financially compensated. Learn more by clicking here.