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Clockwise from top left: Kelli Allen, Ian Davis, Pengda Liu, and Christine Kistler.

In October 2019, PPMH matched funds from the NC TraCS $5-$50K Pilot Program for four principal investigators in the UNC School of Medicine who proposed projects that would generate evidence for implementation of precision medicine approaches in the UNC Health Care System and beyond.

Kelli Allen, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology, will lead the “Precision Medicine to Inform Rehabilitation and Exercise Therapies for Knee Osteoarthritis” project. Knee OA is one of the most common chronic conditions treated in primary care at UNC, and treatment often consists of physical therapy or internet-based exercise program interventions. Previous research has shown both of these treatments to be effective, but patient characteristics such as body mass index and symptom duration predict differential improvement in the two interventions. This project will use machine learning analyses to identify subgroups of patients who experience greater improvement with either physical therapy or internet-based exercise training. Results from this study will contribute towards standardizing treatments for knee OA.

Christine Kistler, MD, MASc, Associate Professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine, will lead a study, “The Feasibility of Using a Pharmacogenetic Assay in Nursing Home Residents to Reduce Adverse Events (FOGI-NH)” that will focus on reducing adverse events due to inappropriate medication prescriptions in nursing home residents. The PGx1 assay, developed by the Wiltshire lab in the UNC School of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy, evaluates 30 genes to determine how a patient will respond to 100+ drugs. Results from the PGx1 assay can be used to determine the drugs that older patients should avoid or use with caution. Dr. Kistler will evaluate the effectiveness of the PGx1 assay with nursing home residents and determine how the assay can be most effectively utilized in the nursing home setting.

Pengda Liu, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Ian Davis, MD, PhD, Professor in the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, will lead the study, “MERTK Inhibition Sensitizes Ewing Sarcoma to Chemotherapy”. Many Ewing sarcoma tumors are resistant to chemotherapy, but preliminary data in cell culture and mouse models suggests that MERTK inhibition combined with chemotherapy might be an effective treatment for Ewing sarcoma patients. This pilot study will further evaluate the effectiveness of this combined therapy and search for a biomarker that could indicate which patients would benefit from this therapy. If successful, results from this pilot study will be used to support an application for a new clinical trial.