Press Releases & Announcements

Danbury Hospital Opens Biomedical Research Center With Renowned International Team

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - Danbury, CT

Biomedical Research Center at Danbury Hospital

In a bold move to join the ranks of the nation’s leading research institutions, Danbury Hospital has established a biomedical research center with a team of renowned physician scientists known for their groundbreaking work in the fields of cancer and proteomics.

Located at 131 West St. in Danbury, the Danbury Hospital Biomedical Research Center is a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art laboratory that will initially focus on women’s reproductive cancers with the goal of bringing research findings to patients in clinical settings as soon as possible.

“As an institution, we want to offer not only the latest therapies currently available but also the promise of tomorrow’s treatments for those who need them now,” said John Murphy, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer designee at Danbury Hospital. “This research center allows Danbury Hospital to be on the forefront of new information, enabling patients to receive the best evidence-based care available.”

Regional resource for research and excellence

The research center, which is expected to eventually employ 30 to 40 people, represents a major investment in the Danbury community and a milestone in Danbury Hospital’s evolution.

“The opening of the Danbury Hospital Biomedical Research Center is the latest step in the hospital’s transformation from a community hospital to a regional health care facility that focuses on clinical excellence, patient safety, medical education and scientific research,” said Ramin Ahmadi, MD, MPH, Director of Medical Education and Research at Danbury Hospital. “The new facility complements the ongoing research being conducted at the hospital, including clinical trails and epidemiologic studies.”

Patient benefits abound

The potential patient benefits of this research are far-reaching, including the development of:

  • New drugs and less-toxic therapies that can target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.
  • More effective personalized drugs based on an individual’s unique genetic make-up.
  • New diagnostic techniques using protein biomarkers to identify people who are at risk for the disease or who are likely to resist certain treatment regimens.

Dynamic team of physician scientists

The venture brings together two internationally recognized physician scientists—Shohreh Shahabi, MD, and Cristiano Ferlini, MD—to work at the center’s Reproductive Tumor Biology Research Laboratory.

A cancer researcher, author and surgeon specializing in gynecological oncology, Dr. Shahabi is Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Danbury Hospital and Chair of the laboratory. Dr. Shahabi’s research led to the discovery of beta V tubulin as a marker of resistance to taxol in human ovarian cells. She established the first translational laboratory in ovarian cancer at Montefiore Medical Center to bring research results to the bedside.

Dr. Shahabi was director of gynecologic oncology and head of the Gynecologic Oncology Research Laboratory, Moses Division at Montefiore Medical Center before joining Danbury Hospital.

A researcher and author known worldwide for his groundbreaking work in the field of basic research in Gynecologic Oncology, Dr. Ferlini will serve as the laboratory’s director. Before joining Danbury Hospital, Dr. Ferlini was a professor of pharmacogenetics and director of the Laboratory of Antineoplastic Pharmacology at Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy. The author of more than 85 papers published in international peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Ferlini’s research has focused on development of innovative anticancer strategies, particularly in the application of functional proteomics in the development of novel drugs.

According to Dr. Shahabi, the laboratory will focus on the following areas:

  • Cytoskeleton—the cellular scaffolding made of protein found in every cell.
  • Drug resistance—why certain proteins and cells resist standard treatments.
  • Tumor immune biology—a look at what role the “micro environment of the tumor” plays when cells resist standard treatments or agents.

What is functional proteomics?

Researchers will use an innovative method known as “functional proteomics” to examine the structure and function of proteins and the complexities of protein-protein interactions, said Dr. Ferlini.

“Proteomics has become an essential component of biological research. It’s a complex field because proteins can differ from cell to cell and from time to time depending on the changes taking place.”

This novel approach can help “identify proteins and pathways associated with a disease to determine how they modify when resisting standard cancer treatments,” said Dr. Shahabi. “This information can be used to develop new anticancer agents or lower the resistance to certain therapies.”

Hope for the future

Establishing a research laboratory at Danbury Hospital was a major priority for Dr. Shahabi when she joined the institution last fall. “As women’s cancer surgeon, I know we can use the most up-to-date surgical approaches to treat cancer,” she said. “We are also looking for additional targeted treatments for certain cancers.”

Dr. Shahabi hopes the research center will lead to discoveries that ultimately “eradicate cancer” and shed light on new ways of treating other diseases, as well. “We have a unique opportunity to establish an interactive laboratory that is easily accessible to the community,” she said.

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders, radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve on the faculty of the nation’s finest medical centers offering a higher level of experience.

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