Rubenstein Winners Study Cancer, Pain Drugs

Marissa Srour, MD, gave a presentation about gene expression in cancer genes. She was one of two winners of the Rubenstein Award.

The winners were chosen by a panel of judges who heard presentations from four finalists May 22 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

"I remember this moment as if it were yesterday and feel the excitement of our four finalists," said Brennan Spiegel, MD, who received a Rubenstein award in 2001 and chaired this year's Rubenstein Award Committee. "It is a real pleasure to emcee this event." Spiegel, a professor of Medicine, directs health services research at Cedars-Sinai.

In her presentation, Srour discussed gene expression in treatment-resistant triple negative breast cancer and the differences between gene expression in primary triple negative breast cancer versus axillary lymph node metastases.

Srour and researchers analyzed gene expression among 2,567 known cancer-associated genes. The study explored how changes in gene expression in axillary lymph node metastases could help cancer cells evade regulation and avoid normal cell death cycles.

Adam Truong, MD, also received the Rubenstein Award. He spoke about his ongoing trial about the effectiveness of pain medications.

Srour said the research is important "because we know that triple negative breast cancer cells must undergo changes to survive and spread. There is a pressing need to better understand these changes to understand the metastatic process."

Srour was first author of the study. She was mentored by Armando E. Giuliano, MD, the Linda and Jim Lippman Chair in Surgical Oncology and co-director of the Saul and Joyce Brandman Breast Center—A Project of Women's Guild at Cedars-Sinai.

Truong presented his work in an ongoing trial investigating the efficacy of pain medications delivered during minimally invasive colorectal surgery.

Truong and other researchers are exploring whether a longer-acting medication called liposomal bupivacaine would prove more effective than a standard combination of bupivacaine and dexamethasone. The medications, injected during surgery into the transversus abdominis muscle plane, are designed to provide a regional nerve block to the abdominal wall and decrease postoperative incisional pain.

Patients enrolled in the trial who undergo minimally invasive colorectal surgery are randomized to receive liposomal bupivacaine or bupivacaine with epinephrine and dexamethasone.

The researchers are comparing ongoing results, looking at postoperative use of opioids, pain scores as provided by patients, length of hospital stay and any adverse events reported between the two patient groups. The trial is expected to complete recruitment later this year.

Truong was mentored by Karen Zaghiyan, MD, principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of Surgery. Zaghiyan has been a pioneer in the field of perioperative pain control after colorectal surgery.

Finalists Summit Pandat, MD, and Hanson Zhao, MD, also presented their work. Pandat discussed associations between right ventricle dysfunction and sudden cardiac death, and Zhao discussed priapism associated with recreational use of intracavernosal injections.

The Rubenstein Award is sponsored by the Burns and Allen Research Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Clinical and Translational Research Center. It honors Paul Rubenstein, MD, the first director of the research institute and vice president of professional services,  who helped transform Cedars-Sinai from its origins as a community hospital into a major academic medical system.