11 months ago

2013 Annual Report

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50 % 50% of people with

50 % 50% of people with aneurysmal bone cysts are children. 11 GIVE TODAY AT VAI.ORG/GIVE Dr. Matt Steensma and Nathaniel

Center for Skeletal Disease and Tumor Metastasis Coming Together for Nathaniel Nathaniel is a spirited five-year-old who was referred to Dr. Matt Steensma, an Assistant Professor at Van Andel Institute’s Center for Skeletal Disease Research, who oversees the Institute’s Laboratory of Musculoskeletal Oncology. Steensma is also an orthopedic oncological surgeon with Spectrum Health Medical Group who practices at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and maintains a position at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Following an MRI and biopsy, Steensma discovered Nathaniel had an aneurysmal bone cyst – an aggressive, bone-eating tumor. Although not cancerous, the tumor was damaging bone, causing pain and making it difficult for Nathaniel to walk. Because of the tumor’s location, surgery was not an option. “This was one of the most severe cases of an aneurysmal bone cyst in a child,” Steensma said. “When these tumors occur on the spine, they can be very difficult to treat because of the anatomy that’s around them.” Steensma scoured literature trying to find an effective treatment and discovered an FDA approved treatment for a related tumor. This therapy targets a protein called RANK ligand (RANKL), and he found significant evidence that aneurysmal bone cysts also contain the protein RANKL. He decided repurposing this therapy might benefit his patient. With oversight by Dr. Deanna Mitchell, a pediatric oncologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Nathaniel was placed on a monthly regimen that entailed a simple injection beneath the skin. In two months, his pain was almost completely gone, and he was able to walk without difficulty. “Nathaniel has had a dramatic response with this drug, and it’s been sustained more than a year with minimal side effects,” Steensma said. “We are delighted. It was a much better treatment than surgery.” In order to determine if this therapy would benefit other patients with similar tumors, Steensma had to return to his lab at Van Andel Institute. “I was able to look at VAI’s banked samples of aneurysmal bone cysts and demonstrate that RANKL is expressed highly in these specific tumors, which suggests that other bone cysts like Nathaniel’s can be treated similarly,” Steensma said. Steensma is proud that his clinical team at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the research team at Van Andel Institute played a significant role in changing Nathaniel’s life, with the potential to benefit others around the world. Van Andel Institute researchers like Dr. Matt Steensma have the potential to impact more patients around the world with your help. A Shared Purpose A collaborative research environment, such as the one found at Van Andel Institute, accelerates the speed at which discoveries can benefit patients. This focus allows researchers and clinicians to work in bold, innovative ways. Van Andel Institute researchers have the potential to impact more patients around the world with your help. Your gift significantly aids the fight against disease by funding special projects and purchasing state-of-the-art equipment to help individuals like Nathaniel. Every donation speeds the rate scientists are able to put innovative new treatments into patients’ hands. Support the innovative work at Van Andel Research Institute by giving today at “It’s incredibly engaging and stimulating work,” Steensma said. “I can see firsthand our clinical research results, and that’s really what I love about my job.” key discoveries Prostate Cancer Van Andel Institute scientists are working to further understand a key signaling pathway that may provide more effective treatments for patients whose prostate cancer has spread to their bones. Currently, there is no curative treatment and few dependable palliative options once the cancer moves to the skeleton. Osteoarthritis Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Center for Skeletal Disease and Tumor Metastasis have shown that a mutation of the Lrp6 gene can lead to severe osteoarthritis and further clarifies the roles of the Lrp6 and Lrp5 genes in bone stability. By using a genetic model, Van Andel Institute scientists were able to ascertain a clear link between the genes and the cells responsible for the formation of bone. Osteoarthritis Research initiated in Van Andel Institute’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and continued with colleagues in the Center for Skeletal Disease and Tumor Metastasis has linked a deficiency of Mig-6, a gene associated with joint stability, to osteoarthritis development and the regulation of cartilage cells. This work could lead to disease-modifying treatments for osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of joint disease in humans. Center for Skeletal Disease and Tumor Metastasis van andel research institute 12

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