Washington University joins national heart failure network

A Missouri-wide consortium led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has joined a national heart failure research network, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The consortium is one of only nine regional centers across the country.

The Washington University Heart Failure Network regional clinical center includes Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis University, the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

With a $3.5 million, seven-year grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Washington University regional clinical center is responsible for coordinating clinical trials within its own region and among the eight other regional centers to investigate innovative treatments for heart failure. In addition, Washington University will lead training efforts of young investigators in clinical heart failure research.

At Washington University, the consortium is led by Victor G. Davila-Roman, MD, professor of medicine, and Douglas L. Mann, MD, the Tobias and Hortense Lewin Professor of Medicine.

“We are excited to be a part of the NIH heart failure network because it will allow us to test hypotheses for trials that we develop in a much larger venue,” says Mann, also chief of the cardiovascular division at Washington University.

In addition to the Washington University regional center, the other U.S. regional centers are Duke University; Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Mayo Clinic; University of Vermont and Tufts University; Cleveland Clinic; Emory University; Thomas Jefferson University Hospital; and the University of Pennsylvania.

Mann emphasizes that one advantage of the network is its ability to conduct trials that would not necessarily be funded by industry. Most pharmaceutical companies support trials intended to gain approval for new therapies from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The trials conducted within the network are designed to change the way that physicians practice medicine.

“In many of the proposed studies for the network, we will be investigating the best use of drugs that may have been off-patent for decades,” Mann says. “No company would fund trials to tell you what dose to give or how to use these medicines. But these are questions clinicians face every day. We’re now able to do these studies using inexpensive drugs that may change the way we practice medicine.”

The Missouri regional center’s collaborators include Lisa de las Fuentes, MD, and Gregory A. Ewald, MD, from Washington University; Paul J. Hauptman, MD, from Saint Louis University; Wade Martin, MD, from Washington University, who is leading the program at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Keith Mankowitz, MD, from Washington University, who is leading the program at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital; and Greg Flaker, MD, from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.