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Molecular Cardiology Research Institute Celebrates 25 Years of Milestones

February 20, 2024

Enormous congratulations are due to the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute (MCRI) at Tufts Medical Center which recently celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Founded in 1998, the MCRI studies the molecular mechanisms of common cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure and high blood pressure, and translates these discoveries into new clinical strategies for diagnosis and therapy. Central to the MCRI's mission of scientific advancement is training the next generation of cardiovascular researchers. Over the past 25 years, MCRI investigators have published more than 900 manuscripts and secured over $165 million in external funding, with research advances resulting in 22 patents and six start-up companies. Investigators have trained more than 130 cardiovascular scientists at the graduate and post-graduate level, as well as provided a home for hundreds of short-term research experiences for medical, college and high school students.

2023 was an exceptional year for the MCRI

Investigators, trainees and staff published 50 manuscripts in high-impact cardiovascular journals and made over 34 research presentations across the country and world. Research was funded by over $10.5 million in external funding. In an exciting expansion, the MCRI launched its Wound Healing Multidisciplinary research group, bringing together scientists in the MCRI, Vascular Surgery, Tufts Dental School and Tufts Veterinary school. The group has already been awarded two large, prestigious grants from the Department of Defense.

Currently, the MCRI is pursuing discoveries on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, the impact of cancer treatment on the cardiovascular system; determining causes and new treatments and devices to help patients with heart failure, and studying how aging, obesity and diabetes lead to cardiovascular disease and why they do so differently in men compared to women. The goal of each of the MCRI's research initiatives is to improve outcomes for patients at the bedside.

Protecting the hearts of patients undergoing cancer treatment

About ten percent of patients who have been treated for cancer experience treatment-induced heart and blood vessel damage, known as cardiotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity from cancer treatment can cause or exacerbate high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms. It poses a major problem for patients predisposed to cardiovascular health problems and can become a lifelong issue for younger cancer survivors. When a patient's cancer has been effectively treated, cardiotoxicity has generally been accepted as a negative aspect of an overall positive health outcome.

Researchers at the MCRI strongly believe, however, that they can disrupt the status quo and develop new approaches that may help protect the long-term cardiovascular health of patients who have undergone treatment for cancer. Investigators are working to understand how damage to the heart and blood vessels occurs, who is most susceptible and how to protect cancer patients from this potentially devastating side effect.

The research team is also investigating the use of molecular imaging techniques to detect in real-time any damage that may be occurring in a patient during cancer treatment.

With current scanning techniques, it may not be known that a patient has been affected by cardiotoxicity until many months after treatment has been started. At that point, it is often too late to stop or reverse damage, leaving cancer survivors to suffer with heart disease. A molecular scan that immediately identifies heart damage as it happens could allow patients and clinicians to make decisions about changing the cancer treatment regimen to one with less cardiotoxicity, if possible, and could heal with development and testing of new drugs to protect heart and blood vessel cells during treatment for cancer.

The outstanding research being done within the MCRI continues to improve lives at Tufts MC and will positively impact lives of patients globally. The MCRI is led by Executive Director Iris Jaffe MD, PhD, and Assistant Director Robert Blanton, MD.

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