Recipients Drs. Laura Dichtel and Karen Miller, MDs, of Massachusetts General Hospital’s neuroendocrine unit will study the effects of low-dose testosterone on specific brain regions via MRI in women resistant to antidepressant therapy. This study will help determine if testosterone augmentation therapy positively affects mood, energy and libido in such women. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime.
Dr. Miller is an Associate Physician and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She is Director of the Neuroendocrine Research Program in Women’s Health at Mass General Hospital and has extensive research experience including leadership positions at NIH and Mass General Hospital as a research reviewer. Karen’s academic honors include several women’s health research and scholar awards. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Yale College with numerous honors.
Recipient Dr. Robert Flaumenaft, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will study a promising flavonoid treatment for reducing blood clots and concomitant cardiovascular disease in women. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in women and blood clots are the underlying cause of heart disease and stroke. Limitations of current therapies such as aspirin and blood thinners are evidenced by the high incidence of recurrent thrombosis. His previous research identified a dietary flavonoid naturally occurring in food as an effective clot inhibitor in an animal model. This study was published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigations and received medical and media attention for its potential for providing a safer, more effective preventative treatment. This study will explore this therapy for preventing blood clots and reducing risk of heart attack and stroke in women.
Dr. Flaumenhaft is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a hematologist with training in hematology/oncology and internal medicine. He is dedicated to biomedical research and has won highly competitive awards from the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the American Society of Hematology, the American Heart Association, and others. Rob is also an ad-hoc reviewer for leading hematology medical journals. He received both MD and PhD degrees with honors from New York University School of Medicine.
The Arnhold Women’s Health Research Award named in honor of Jody & John Arnhold in recognition of their support to women’s health research and education provided one-time funding to support research on women and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Vesna Garovic, MD of Mayo Clinic, one of the nation’s leading medical institutions in cardiovascular disease, was selected for her work in developing a diagnostic test for early preeclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia is a disorder during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It is one of the leading causes of both maternal and fetal death in the United States. Preeclampsia is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease later in life. Improving screening, preventative and treatment strategies for preeclampsia will not only save lives for pregnant women, it may also have a long-term impact in reducing women’s cardiovascular disease risk years after pregnancy. Currently the only treatment for preeclampsia is early delivery which frequently leads to premature birth and high neonatal morbidity. This study, titled “Podocyturia as an Early Marker and Screening Test for Preeclampsia” will expand Dr. Garovic’s initial identification of a possible urine marker as a screening test for preeclampsia. This can lead to improved patient care, outcomes and reduce later risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Garovic has received several awards for her work including the “Department of Medicine Landmark Contribution to the Literature Award” and “Hong Kong Society of Cardiology Award for identifying preeclampsia as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease later in life.”
The Jane Walentas Women’s Health Research Award named in honor of Jane Walentas in recognition of her support to women’s health research and education, provides one-time funding to support a study concerning endocrine and women’s health including menopause, hormone therapy, obesity, diabetes, metabolism and pregnancy as related to hormones and metabolism.
Dr. Pouneh Fazeli, MD of Harvard Medical School, to support research of a potential treatment for bone loss in women with anorexia nervosa over the age of 35 years old. Anorexia nervosa (AN), a psychiatric disorder characterized by self-imposed starvation has a high morbidity and mortality rate. While AN is most commonly thought of as an adolescent or college-aged disease, there is increasing evidence of a rapid rise in the number of peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women being diagnosed. For example, the Renfew Center, the nation’s oldest inpatient eating disorders facility, recently reported that nearly 25% of their patient population was older than age 35, representing a 70% increase in that age group over prior years. For women with AN as well as those in recovery, bone loss is one of the most common medical complications. Osteoporosis and bone fractures are seven times more likely as compared to healthy women of a similar age. Right now there is no effective treatment for bone loss in AN sufferers. Treatments for bone loss in otherwise healthy women do not work with this growing population. This study will test the use of parathyroid hormone (PTH) as a possible treatment for anorexia-induced bone loss in women over age 35.
Lead investigator, Dr. Pouneh Fazeli, MD is a clinical and research fellow at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fazeli received an M.D. and Masters in Bioethics from Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania Medical School. She has received numerous honors most recently a Young Investigator Award from The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Medical Society.
The Joyce Brenner Women’s Health Research Award was created in the esteemed memory of Joyce Brenner to improve medicine’s understanding of women’s health. This award provides one time funding of up to $20,000 to a study deemed important to women’s health.
The recipient of this award is Dr. Alison Huang MD, Mphil, assistant professor of the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine of the University of California San Francisco to support: “Endogenous Estradiol and the Effects of Estrogen Therapy on Major Outcomes of the Women’s Health Initiatives Trials.”
This study is important to providing better information to women as they enter menopause and assess the risks and benefits of hormone therapy. Specifically it will examine how postmenopausal women’s baseline levels of estradiol (an estrogen molecule) relate to treatment effects of hormone therapy on cardiovascular disease, blood clots, fractures, breast cancer, dementia, and mild cognitive impairment. Researchers will use samples taken from women who participated in a large national study known as the “Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)” which was widely reported about in 2002. This is an important follow up to the WHI because it examines a factor that varies between individuals and thus provides much needed exploration of individual factors at play when assessing hormone therapy use.
The principal investigator, Dr. Alison Huang, graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and received her Masters of Philosophy from Cambridge University prior to earning an M.D. from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine where she received advanced training in clinical research and primary care. Dr. Huang wrote: “I am very grateful to have this opportunity…[It is] a topic which is important to me not only as a researcher and a doctor, but also as a woman who will some day have to face these difficult choices about postmenopause therapy. I hope this research…will help improve the health and well-being of many more women who will also face these difficult decisions.”
The Rachel Tawil Women’s Health Award was created by Bob & Laura Toussie in the esteemed memory of Rachel Tawil to support research on cardiovascular disease in women. This award provides one time funding of up to $15,000.
The recipient of this award is Dr. Sonja Schrepfer, MD, PhD of Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Falk Cardiovascular Research Center to support: “Regenerative Cell Therapy: Is source gender a biologically relevant aspect of protective power?” Ischemic heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States among both women and men. Adult mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) transplantation holds promise for treating patients suffering from ischemic heart disease. To date, very few studies have examined whether gender differences exist in MSC function and it remains unknown whether gender differences exist in these cells ability to release protective growth factors. This study hypothesizes that because female MSCs produce more growth factor when stressed, such cells will be more effective in tissue regeneration and treating those suffering from ischemic heart disease. This study will help to better understand sex-related differences in cell-based myocardial regeneration therapy and explain the high variability and conflicting results reported in medical literature on this subject.
Lead investigator Sonja Schrepfer MD, PhD was mid-way thru her six year training to become a cardiac surgeon when she decided to also pursue her PhD in immunology in order to devote her career to medical research. She has won numerous awards in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery and transplantation. Dr. Schrepfer wrote: “I am very honored to receive the Rachel Tawil Women’s Health Award. Based on the results I am able to generate… I am planning to apply for NIH funding. Much more work needs to be done to lead to a better understanding of [this subject]. Thank you again for this wonderful award.”
The FWW Women’s Health Research Fund was created to raise support for small, short-term studies on leading women’s health issues from heart disease and leading female cancers to the role of hormones in causing and treating health concerns. Today there is a lack of funds available for such studies which are essential for providing new information and galvanizing larger scale research funded by the federal government. FWW Medical Advisory Board evaluates proposals for quality of design, innovation, relevance to women’s health, and investigators’ merit. Awards are announced on FWW’s website, www.grantsnet.org and e-newsletter www.newgrantinfo.com
The first FWW Women’s Health Research Fund award is supporting a study concerning the causes of abdominal fat accumulation during menopause, lead by Wendolyn Gozansky MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. “Without support from FWW, I wouldn’t have obtained the preliminary data that I needed to secure NIH funding for a more comprehensive study of estrogen-mediated regulation of abdominal fat,” says Dr. Gozansky. “As the NIH [National Institutes of Health] budget cuts are making it more and more difficult to get research funded, support from groups like FWW are critical to foster the next generation of investigators in women’s health.”
Excessive abdominal fat, also known as central obesity, is a significant risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, even more so than total body fat. This is because fat in the abdominal area is linked to elevated blood sugar levels resulting from insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Too much abdominal fat is also associated with lower healthy HDL cholesterol and higher unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Prior to menopause women tend to store fat in the hips and thighs rather than in the abdomen. As a woman enters menopause and estrogen levels decrease, abdominal fat deposition increases putting women at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast or colon. How estrogens prevent abdominal fat accumulation is unknown; however studies in rodents find estrogen deficiency increases the conversion of the inactive hormone cortisone to the active hormone cortisol, a potent stimulus of abdominal fat deposition. Mice genetically engineered to lack the enzyme that converts cortisone to cortisol were resistant to the development of central obesity. Conversely, mice engineered to have higher levels of this enzyme in fat cells had increased accumulation of abdominal fat, which lead to the same health risks seen in centrally obese humans.
Dr. Gozansky’s research is specifically examining how estrogen levels in women affect the conversion of cortisone to cortisol, triggering an increase in abdominal fat. The study’s design will enable researchers to separate the effects of sex hormone deficiency from the more general effects of aging and provide new findings for developing therapies that could potentially mitigate this health risk. “This research is vital because women now live many vibrant years after the menopausal transition when heart disease becomes a major health threat, in fact the leading cause of death in women,” says Sharon Cravitz, FWW’s Executive Director. “FWW had one research award to give and we received dozens of requests from top-notch physicians working on relevant and tangible health issues affecting millions of women. The need throughout women’s health is tremendous, it was difficult to choose just one.”