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Acclaimed Specialist In Multiple Myeloma And Bone Disease Joins University Of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

PITTSBURGH, September 27, 2001 — David Roodman, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned researcher in multiple myeloma and bone marrow culture techniques, has joined the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) as director of the Multiple Myeloma Center. Dr. Roodman has also been appointed professor of medicine, division of hematology/oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director, Center for Bone Biology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

At UPCI, Dr. Roodman will be focusing on the investigation of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that play a vital role in the body’s immune defenses. Most patients with multiple myeloma die within three to five years of diagnosis.

“The newly developed Multiple Myeloma Center at UPCI under Dr. Roodman’s leadership will allow us to discover new, promising approaches to treating patients with multiple myeloma,” said Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., UPCI director and associate vice chancellor of the health sciences, University of Pittsburgh. “If these approaches are successful in clinical trials, this therapy would have a major impact on patients’ survival from this disease.”

Dr. Herberman added that in addition to low survival rates, multiple myeloma has a devastating impact on patients’ quality of life because it causes the bones to weaken and erode, which in turn causes pain and/or fractures that can affect patients’ ability to move.

In addition to multiple myeloma, Dr. Roodman’s research will focus on Paget’s (paj’ets) disease of the bone, the second most common bone disease diagnosed in the United States. Surpassed only by osteoporosis, it affects approximately 2 million Americans. In Paget’s disease, bone tissue is formed abnormally and this results in weakened and deformed bones. While Paget’s disease of the bone is not a cancer and is rarely fatal, it shares symptoms with multiple myeloma that include pain, deformity and disability.

Multiple myeloma is a disease that affects the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that manufactures antibodies to protect healthy cells from foreign substances, or antigens. These cells tend to collect in the bone marrow and the hard part of the bone.

Current treatment for both multiple myeloma and Paget’s disease addresses only the symptoms of the disease. To find an effective cure, Dr. Roodman’s research focuses on identifying the underlying factors that cause both diseases.

Dr. Roodman is studying the mechanisms that control and promote osteoclast formation to limit the breakdown of bone tissue that occurs in both diseases. Osteoclasts are large cells with multiple nuclei associated with the resorption and removal of bone. In patients with multiple myeloma and Paget’s disease, osteoclast activity is increased, resulting in the destruction of bone.

While numerous studies have sought to identify the factors that activate osteoclasts to remove bone in patients with bone diseases, most have been inconclusive because the studies were limited to taking bone cultures or isolating osteoclasts. Overcoming this limitation, Dr. Roodman has developed a model of human myeloma derived from human bone marrow. He developed this model by successfully transplanting human myeloma cell lines into mice, and then identified biochemical factors that control osteoclast formation and their mechanisms of action. These techniques have also been employed to identify the changes that occur in the bone of patients with Paget’s disease.

Dr. Roodman comes to UPCI from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where he was associate chair for research in the department of medicine. While there, he identified an enzyme, OIP-2, that appears to be a regulator of osteoclast formation. OIP-2 may be responsible for restricting osteoclast numbers to low levels, and thus holds promise as a treatment for patients with multiple myeloma and Paget’s disease suffering from damaged and weakened bones.

“Employing the insights gained from Dr. Roodman’s research has great therapeutic potential for patients with both multiple myeloma and Paget’s disease,” said Dr. Herberman. “The results from Dr. Roodman’s research bring us closer to developing therapeutic targets that can control the devastating bone loss in these patients as well as targets that promote the formation of bone.”

In other related research, Dr. Roodman was the first to find that myeloma cells produce a peptide, MIP1-a, that enhances the formation of osteoclasts. He further found that blocking MIP1-a in human myeloma bone disease in mice resulted in decreased tumor cell survival and decreased bone destruction. At UPCI, he will be examining MIP1-a receptor antagonists to determine their promise as a therapeutic agent for patients with multiple myeloma.

Dr. Roodman has authored and co-authored more than 150 publications in the medical literature. He is a member of the American Society of Hematology, International Society for Experimental Hematology and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, among others. He is on the editorial board of several journals including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Experimental Hematology.

UPCI is the only National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania, and a recognized leader in providing comprehensive cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment; bio-medical research; compassionate patient care and support; and community-based outreach services. UPCI investigators are world-renowned for their work in basic, clinical and translational research.

For more information about UPCI, call the Cancer Information and Referral Service at 1-800-237-4PCI (1-800-237-4742), or visit UPCI’s website at www.upci.upmc.edu.

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