Western Pennsylvania's Smaller Hospitals Make Mark in Medical Research

Article excerpt

The University of Pittsburgh and affiliated UPMC hospitals are the biggest names in town when it comes to medical research, but the region's smaller community hospitals are helping to test treatments, measure the effectiveness of drugs and track the health of patients.

By participating in national studies and trials -- and pioneering a few -- doctors at smaller hospitals are making their mark on medicine as they keep up regular practices.

"What it really does, in my mind, is give the patients an opportunity to contribute to mankind," said Dr. Dean Matanin, director of pharmacy and chairman of the Institutional Review Board at Westmoreland County's Excela Health System. "It brings high-end research down to the community level."

Since the late 1980s, Excela's hospitals have recruited patients for the nationwide Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which aims to determine whether certain screenings are likely to catch cancers early and reduce the rate of deaths, Matanin said. Though recruitment into that study has closed, the hospitals continue to follow the patients and share information with the National Cancer Institute.

Another study at Excela involves a few patients trying an implantable pump that can inject small amounts of painkillers directly into their spinal columns. Such portable, wearable devices could provide relief to end-stage cancer patients or others in extreme pain who would otherwise take pills constantly or The Heritage Valley Health System's Heart & Vascular Center has been a major recruiter of patients for trials, said Dr. …