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UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Women's Health Grants Go To Magee-Womens Hospital

PITTSBURGH, June 19, 2002 — Physician research groups at Magee-Womens Hospital received a $594,000 grant from Pfizer Inc. to study the effects of hormone-replacement therapy and oral contraceptives on women's health.

Grant recipients are Sarah L. Berga, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and endocrinology and a professor in the departments of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine , and Joseph Sanfilippo, M.D., vice chairman of reproductive sciences and professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Drs. Berga and Sanfilippo will use the money to pursue related investigations.

Dr. Berga received $376,000 to fund a study on the effects of hormone-replacement therapy on serotonin levels in the brains of post-menopausal women. The title of the study is "Impact of Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethindrone Upon Serotonergic Binding in the Human Female Adult Brain."

Using positron emission tomography, or PET imaging, Dr. Berga and her colleagues will compare in post menopausal women the effect of combined hormone-replacement therapy with ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone versus a placebo upon serotonergic binding. The serotonin transmitter plays a critical role in the regulation of cognition and mood. The focus of the study is to determine whether hormone replacement therapy can benefit central nervous system function in a way similar to natural sex hormones, which become severely depleted at menopause.

Working with Dr. Berga are Eydie Moses-Kolko, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry; Carolyn Cidis Meltzer, M.D., associate professor of radiology and psychiatry and medical director of the PET facility; Julie Price, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and a physicist at the PET facility; Chester Mathis, Ph.D., professor of radiology and pharmaceutical science and acting co-director of the PET facility; Kathleen L. Laychack, R.N., C.R.C.C., clinical research coordinator; and Tammy L. Loucks, M.P.H., research manager.

Dr. Sanfilippo's group received $218,000 from Pfizer, which is being shared with investigators from the Woman's Health Research Institute in Baton Rouge, La. The object of his study is to compare the effect of continuous oral contraceptive use to cyclic use in adolescents who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting some 6 percent of women of reproductive age. Most seek medical help because of infertility, irregular menstruation or other hormonal problems such as acne and unusual hair growth. The disease is characterized by the presence of multiple abnormal cysts in the ovaries.

Along with reproductive problems, women who have polycystic ovary syndrome tend to have other metabolic abnormalities, including high levels of insulin, obesity, LDL or "bad cholesterol," and high blood pressure.

Dr. Sanfilippo's group will examine the effect that differing oral contraceptive treatments may have on young women through detailed endocrinological surveys and psychological inventories.

Working with Dr. Sanfilippo are faculty members in the adolescent medicine division at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Andrew Sword, M.D., a resident in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Magee-Womens Hospital.

For information on Dr. Berga's study or to enroll, call Tammy Loucks at 412-2641-6095. For information on Dr. Sanfilippo's study or to enroll, call Christine Donahue at 412-641-3428.

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