The Commonwealth Medical College was awarded a three-year, $945,142 contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) to study Interstitial Cystitis (IC), a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs along the wall of the bladder.
Sonia Lobo Planey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Basic Sciences at TCMC, whose research is the basis of the project, will serve as principal investigator of the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) Investigator-Initiated Research Award, titled “Validation of APF as a Urinary Biomarker for Interstitial Cystitis.” Jun Ling, Ph.D., also an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at TCMC, will serve as a research collaborator on the project.
Funding recommendations were made at a second-tier, programmatic review meeting based on program goals and scientific merit. Overall, 941 pre-applications were received by the DoD for the program, 244 principal investigators were invited to submit full applications and only 55 were recommended for funding. Dr. Planey’s proposal was the only one of eight applications addressing the PRMRP congressionally directed topic area of IC to be awarded funding.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for TCMC that validates the impact of our research program in improving healthcare,” said TCMC’s president and dean Steven J. Scheinman, M.D. “The awarding of this DoD contract demonstrates the major strides we are making in research right here to pioneer the development of new treatments and therapies that will benefit the people of this region, and beyond.”
The Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA) estimates that four million people in the U.S. have IC and that up to another eight million may be undiagnosed. Most patients with IC have recurring pelvic pain, pressure, or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, and urinary frequency. Diagnosis of the disease can be complicated by the fact that painful urination can be associated with several other conditions, particularly bladder infections, and current tests are only able to identify fewer than 75% of patients with IC. These tests are expensive and involve an invasive procedure performed under general anesthesia.
“Many of the struggles that clinicians face in diagnosing this disease and in selecting treatments, evaluating treatment effects, and deciding when and how to modify treatments could be overcome if a validated biomarker for IC existed,” stated Dr. Planey. “Likewise, patients would benefit tremendously from a facilitated diagnosis that might come sooner in the course of their disease.”
Dr. Planey and her colleagues have developed a method that detects a small biomolecule in urine named antiproliferative factor that is uniquely associated with IC. The technique uses advanced technology to measure the presence of this biomolecule in urine in as little as 30 minutes, with no invasive procedures.
“Funding from the DoD is critical to the testing and refinement of this methodology, which we believe could eventually lead to a non-invasive, diagnostic test for IC,” said Dr. Planey. Such a test, if approved, would not only be safer and less costly, it will help physicians to quickly diagnose and treat this painful condition, usually with changes in diet, exercise and medications that help heal the bladder.
“I am grateful to have the support of local urologists from Delta Medix, P.C., and two dedicated researchers in the IC field, Dr. Susan Keay from the University of Maryland and Dr. Phillip Hanno from the University of Pennsylvania, who will serve as collaborators on this project. Their involvement and expertise not only makes possible critical aspects of this research, but also enhances our likelihood for success.”