Wactawski-Wende accepts top national honor on behalf of Women’s Health Initiative

Landmark NIH-funded study included nearly 4,000 WNY women

By Michael Andrei

Release Date: April 17, 2015

Jean Wactawski-Wende

“We are fortunate to have these partnerships with those in our community that help realize these important discoveries.”
Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean, School of Public Health and Health Professions
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions Dean Jean Wactawski-Wende has accepted the 2015 Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) Team Science Award on behalf of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), one of the largest clinical trials ever undertaken in the U.S.

Wactawski-Wende, chair of the WHI steering committee, accepted the award April 16 at the ACTS annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The award acknowledges and recognizes the growing importance of interdisciplinary teams to the translation of research discoveries into clinical applications and eventually widespread clinical practice.

UB, a national and global leader in epidemiology and women’s health research, has played a key role in the groundbreaking National Institutes of Health-funded WHI for more than two decades.

The primary goal of the WHI was to reduce coronary heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer and fractures linked to osteoporosis among postmenopausal women through prevention strategies and identification of risk factors.

The initiative has brought far-reaching new insights into health care practice for women. Originally involving more than 162,000 women across the nation, including nearly 4,000 women from Western New York, WHI researchers sought to gather essential clinical data on the major diseases affecting women, on whom remarkably few studies had ever been done.

“In addition to the Women's Health Initiative, UB is home to a range of high-profile national research programs, including the world's longest running COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) trial, cutting-edge cardiovascular research and development of innovative devices for treating vascular disease,” said Michael E. Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“With five health sciences schools, rare among academic health centers, UB is in a very strong position to best leverage research collaborations both inside the university and with external partners.”

Perhaps the most important piece of WHI research at UB was the development of a comprehensive biospecimen bank, containing hundreds of thousands of biological samples provided by the Western New York women who participated in the initiative.

“The WHI focused on many of the inequities in women's health research,” said Wactawski-Wende, who is also principal investigator of UB’s WHI Center. “UB researchers contributed to the creation of a deep data bank that has had a profound impact on health care practice for women in the U.S. and around the world.

“We could not do any of this work without the study participants. We are fortunate to have these partnerships with those in our community that help realize these important discoveries.

“The WHI will continue to provide practical information to women and their physicians about hormone therapy, dietary patterns, calcium/vitamin D supplementation, and their effects on the prevention of heart disease, cancer and osteoporotic fracture.”

Additionally, data collected by UB’s WHI researchers have been used by UB faculty studying everything from connections between periodontal disease and cancer, genome-wide associations with disease, metabolic syndrome and what role vitamin D plays in chronic disease.

Wactawski-Wende said that being a multicenter study has allowed UB to collaborate with many research powerhouses around the country and some of the best investigators in the field.

“In addition to the initial WHI contract and extension studies of more than $21 million, UB has attracted another $12 million in funding to the WHI center,” she said. “Moreover, the opening of UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center a little less than three years ago continued the development of the university’s critical infrastructure, strengthening our researchers’ ability to make discoveries in the laboratory that will have an impact on human health.”

 

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