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January 4, 2018

Gerstner Awardees explore individualized treatments for obesity, rare form of leukemia

By Susan Buckles

By Sharon Rosen

Precision medicine research has shown that one size does not fit all when it comes to medical care. Early career investigators can bring new ideas and perspectives to the search for treatments tailored to a patient’s unique needs. These are the goals of Andres Acosta, M.D., Ph.D., and Mrinal Patnaik, M.B.B.S. – this year’s recipients of the Gerstner Family Career Development Awards in Individualized Medicine.

Each year, Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine selects Gerstner Award recipients to promote a specialized workforce capable of moving individualized medicine from discovery into patient care. This initiative provides important seed money for early-stage investigators to conduct research to predict, prevent, treat and even cure disease through individualized therapies.

An individualized approach to fighting obesity  

Andres Acosta, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Acosta has identified different types of obesity, based on a person’s gut-brain function, genetics and lifestyle. The Gerstner Award will allow Dr. Acosta to advance his research to:

  • Identify factors that can predict how patients within the different types of obesity respond to weight loss therapies.
  • Uncover genetic differences among obese patients that can be used to develop targeted treatments.

“Thanks to the Gerstner Award, we hope to move from a one-treatment-fits-all approach to the right treatment for each patient. We want to develop individualized strategies that lead to successful weight loss and long term weight control, allowing patients to live a healthier life. ” says Dr. Acosta.

Searching for treatment for a rare, aggressive blood cancer  

Mrinal Patnaik, M.B.B.S.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia is a rare, aggressive blood cancer that affects patients who are in their 70s. With no effective treatment to date, most patients die within two years of being diagnosed.

With the Gerstner Award, Dr. Patnaik aims to:

  • Define how the NRAS gene, a gene known to affect the disease, actually causes this fatal condition.
  • Use patient tumor samples grown in both mouse models and petri dishes to evaluate the effectiveness of different therapies.

“While this rare, aggressive blood cancer only affects four out of 100,000 people, we see many of these patients at Mayo Clinic. With the support provided by the Gerstner Award, we will be able to address the urgent need to develop an effective treatment for this deadly disease,” says Dr. Patnaik.

Learn more about previous Gerstner Award recipients.

This article originally appeared on the Center for individual Medicine blog.

Tags: Awards, Center for Individualized Medicine, obesity, People

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