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2013 Annual Report

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  • Vai.org

Center for Translational

Center for Translational Medicine Rewarding Research Focusing on the patient is an everyday reality for Dr. Lena Brundin, Associate Professor in Van Andel Research Institute’s Center for Translational Medicine and Associate Professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Dr. Brundin was a practicing clinical psychiatrist in Sweden for almost 10 years, and this direct clinical work with patients inspired her to search for answers regarding mental health in her laboratory at Van Andel Institute. “It’s an extremely rewarding way of working,” said Brundin. “I think it’s really fundamental to start with patients and build on that in the laboratory in order to have progress in science and develop good treatments.” With your help, translational medicine gives patients access to new, more effective treatments faster than Brundin, who focuses on depression and suicidality, uses basic research and clinical practice to develop new therapies for psychiatric patients with a focus on depression and suicidality. She collects data from patients and uses that information to conduct tests in her Van Andel Institute laboratory in collaboration with Spectrum Health and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Her team made exciting discoveries in 2013 that may lead to more effective treatments for patients living with severe mental health issues. Brundin also engaged in a study measuring inflammatory markers in cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The study found a significant association between inflammation and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as fatigue, depression and anxiety, which dramatically affect a patient’s quality of life. “If inflammation is really the cause of some severe psychiatric symptoms, there are plenty of anti-inflammatory medications that are already approved for clinical use. We’re a couple steps ahead compared to inventing something completely new,” said Brundin. Repurposing drugs that have already been approved by the FDA is a practice common in translational medicine that gives patients access to new, more effective treatments faster than developing new therapies. More than 14.8 million adults are affected by depression in the United States, and the need for improved treatments has never been greater. Brundin’s collaborative research is at the forefront of translational medicine, and her focus remains on how discoveries can benefit patients. 14.8 developing new therapies. “We’re trying hard to find new treatments against depression,” said Brundin. “We are excited about the progress we are making so far.” million Perfect Partners Creating affiliations with research institutions and universities has been a core value of Van Andel Institute since its inception. So when Michigan State University built its More than 14.8 million adults College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, collaboration are affected by depression in was a priority. Donor partnerships are just as important as institutional partnerships. Working with you, researchers like Brundin are able to acquire state-of-the-art equipment, support additional staff and conduct promising projects. Your support is crucial to their success. Give today at vai.org/give. “We’re trying hard to find new treatments against depression. We are excited about the progress we’re making so far.” –Dr. Lena Brundin the United States. 13 GIVE TODAY AT VAI.ORG/GIVE

key discoveries Exciting discoveries in translational medicine, made possible through institutional collaborations, may provide more effective treatments for millions of mental health patients. Malignant Melanoma Using melanoma-based avatar models that mirror human tumor progression, Van Andel Institute scientists identified several acquired drug resistance mechanisms for targeted cancer therapies. The group also identified a combination drug approach that led to sustained remissions in a validated pre-clinical system. Pancreatic Cancer Van Andel Institute scientists have developed a new method that will aid in the diagnosis of precancerous cysts in the pancreas, which can develop into an aggressive form of cancer. In two studies, the new method demonstrated 93% and 91% accuracy, making the test more reliable than current diagnostic methods. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and can spread quickly, making early diagnosis vital for treatment. Dr. Lena Brundin Center for Translational Medicine van andel research institute 14

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