Massey becomes first treatment center in Virginia to offer FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy

3d illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes.

Medical illustration of a T-cell attacking cancer.

VCU Massey Cancer Center is now an official treatment center for Yescarta by Kite Pharma for adult patients living with certain types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (recurrent or refractory B-cell lymphoma), making it the first treatment center in Virginia to offer an FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy. Massey, in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, also will soon be offering another FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy, KYMRIAH by Novartis, for children and young adults with recurrent or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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VCU Alumni announces regional chapter name changes to reflect broader inclusive commitment

The VCU Alumni RVA GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) and DMV GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) chapters have changed their names to Richmond Chapter and DMV Chapter, respectively. The name changes reflect VCU Alumni’s broader commitment to be more inclusive of all alumni in geographical regions and to shape the future of alumni engagement.

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The sprint to SpaceX: Inside VCU’s dash to beat the clock — and the odds — at the Hyperloop finals

The frame and shell of the VCU Hyperloop team's pod.

An interdisciplinary team from VCU is attempting to design and build the best transport pod for Hyperloop, a high-speed ground transportation concept advanced by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

At 6 p.m. on the most beautiful Saturday in June, five sleep-deprived students hunch silently around a table as a fluorescent light hums overhead. A wrench or drill occasionally cuts through the quiet. But there are few words. Like athletes or surgeons, they know the task — and each other’s rhythms — well enough to speak in the shorthand of nods, gestures and eye contact.

They have been here all day and will stay until coffee doesn’t work anymore. Would they rather be somewhere else? Not a chance. What’s a day at the beach compared with a shot at changing the world?

For the past 10 months, Hyperloop at Virginia Commonwealth University has been beating the odds and beating the clock in a dash to build the best high-speed pod vehicle to race at Elon Musk’s 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. A Hyperloop is a sealed tube free of air resistance or friction through which a pod vehicle travels at ultra-high speeds.

As SpaceX develops this proposed alternative to high-speed rail, student teams from universities worldwide compete for a slot in its annual pod competition. Hyperloop at VCU battled past challenges that eliminated hundreds of other hopefuls from around the globe. Now they are among the elites eyeing the finish line.

Last fall and winter, Hyperloop at VCU advanced through two preliminary rounds to become one of only 11 teams in the United States, and one of just 20 internationally, to earn a spot in the final round of SpaceX’s Hyperloop Competition on July 22. They’re working day and night in pursuit of maximum speed.

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Thousands of women with breast cancer may be spared chemotherapy, landmark study shows

Infusion pump feeding IV drip into patients arm focus on needle

The 12-year TAILORx study, co-authored by a VCU Massey Cancer Center physician-researcher, shows chemotherapy does not increase disease-free survival rates for women with early stage breast cancer and an intermediate risk of recurrence.

Seventy percent of women with the most common type of newly diagnosed breast cancer can now be identified and safely skip chemotherapy, according to the results of a landmark 12-year clinical research study.

Data from the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment show that chemotherapy does not increase disease-free survival rates for women with early stage breast cancer and an intermediate risk of recurrence determined by the Oncotype DX Recurrence Score test. The study was designed to more precisely determine the effect of chemotherapy, if any, for women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative, axillary lymph node-negative breast cancer.

The findings, recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are expected to inform treatment decisions for thousands of breast cancer patients.

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VCU Health surgeon is first on East Coast to complete robotic-assisted kidney implantation

A team of doctors leaning over a patient on an operating table.

Robotic-assisted transplantation is the latest technical milestone in kidney transplant surgery and demands a level of technical expertise that few transplant centers in the country possess.

A surgeon at the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center is the first on the East Coast to successfully complete a kidney implantation using the da Vinci Surgical System. Along with an interdisciplinary medical team, Chandra Bhati, M.D., associate professor of surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, implanted a kidney from a living organ donor to a recipient on June 19. During robotic-assisted kidney implantations, the surgeon relies on the surgical system’s robotic arms to complete the procedure and does not use hands to assist with the surgery.

“With this surgery, we are able to offer kidney transplantation to obese people who traditionally have been denied the procedure,” Bhati said, emphasizing that the main benefit of robotic-assisted kidney transplantation is the availability to people who are obese. In obese people whose body mass index is between 35 and 40, the wound infection rate with traditional kidney transplantation is between 30 and 40 percent. The increased risk of infections and other complications leads most transplant surgeons to recommend against kidney transplantation for obese patients.

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Bucket Brigade: Office of Sustainability interns design, transform buckets at Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden

Volunteers planting crops in buckets at the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden.

Volunteers plant crops in buckets at the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden.

Interns in the Office of Sustainability have decorated more than 125 food-grade buckets to create a colorful border — and more growing space — for the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden. The garden, located behind the Cary Street Parking Deck, grows food for donation to Virginia Commonwealth University’s RamPantry and the nonprofit Center for Healthy Hearts.

“We are increasing our growing space at a low cost, fostering creative expression through art and ensuring the best portable growing environment for our veggies,” said Erin Stanforth, director of sustainability. “By cultivating an imaginative environment in our garden, we hope it will attract more interested community members to be involved.”Designs vary from simple stripes to an elaborate replica of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover — complete with beetles replacing John, Paul, George and Ringo on the crosswalk. Other buckets feature a “give peas a chance” design, ice cream cones and windmills.

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CHoR named one of nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report

 

Exterior shot of the Children's Hospital of Richmond (2016).

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is the only hospital in Virginia to rank in the nephrology and pulmonology categories in U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of best children’s hospitals.

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in its new 2018-19 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings. 

CHoR is the only hospital in Virginia to rank in the nephrology and pulmonology categories. The hospital rose from No. 45 to No. 41 in nephrology and ranked No. 43 in pulmonology. This is the fifth time CHoR has been ranked for kidney care and its first ranking in pulmonology.

“I’m truly proud of our team for earning this national recognition — not for the acknowledgement or the shiny badges — but for the thousands of children from Virginia and beyond who benefit from our kidney and respiratory programs,” said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “Our decrease in asthma-related emergency room visits, excellent outcomes for patients with cystic fibrosis, and impressive kidney transplant program are all examples of how we are dedicated to continuing to advance children’s health in our community. Families can find expert care in all of pediatric medicine close to home.”

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VCU receives $2.7M to study use of anti-inflammatory medicine for treatment of heart failure

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $2.7 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine to evaluate the use of anti-inflammatory therapy to treat heart failure.

The grant will fund a clinical trial with 102 heart-disease patients. Researchers will investigate if reducing inflammation in the heart muscle can improve the patients’ health and reduce the need for hospitalization. Researchers expect to begin enrolling patients later this year.

It is the fourth NIH grant for the research team that is co-led by Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., vice chair for clinical research and associate professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, and Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair of the Division of Cardiology in the VCU School of Medicine. The current study will build on encouraging results from a smaller 2016 study also funded by the NIH.

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Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU fall exhibitions will explore race and identity

“Provocations” by artist Rashid Johnson.

This fall, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University will present two exhibitions featuring leading international contemporary artists, including two new site-specific commissions.

Opening simultaneously on Oct. 17, “Provocations: Rashid Johnson” and “Hedges, Edges, Dirt” explore socially and culturally specific issues that relate to race, identity and the environment in nuanced, conceptual and poetic ways. Through these, the ICA will continue presenting exhibitions that engage audiences with dynamic programming on themes of social relevance and local resonance.

“Building from our inaugural exhibition, ‘Declaration,’ we have continued to ask what the ICA can contribute to our place and time,” said Stephanie Smith, ICA chief curator. “These new projects by an extraordinary group of artists will activate the Markel Center in fresh and beautiful ways and catalyze conversations that reach beyond our walls.”

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Template to create superatoms, created by VCU researchers, could make for better batteries

A rendering of protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom.

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have discovered a novel strategy for creating superatoms — combinations of atoms that can mimic the properties of more than one group of elements of the periodic table. These superatoms could be used to create new materials, including more efficient batteries and better semiconductors; a core component of microchips, transistors and most computerized devices.

Batteries and semiconductors rely on the movement of charges from one group of atoms to another. During this process, electrons are transferred from donor atoms to acceptor atoms. Forming superatoms that can supply or accept multiple electrons while maintaining structural stability is a key requirement for creating better batteries or semiconductors, said Shiv Khanna, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor and chair of the Department of Physics in the College of Humanities and Sciences. The ability of superatoms to effectively move charges while staying intact is attributed to how they mimic the properties of multiple groups of elements.

“We have devised a new approach in which one can synthesize such metal-based superatoms,” Khanna said.

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