The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is involved in research projects in various subspecialties of women's health, and includes both basic research and participation in multi-center clinical trials.
Research is an integral part of the residency program, with each resident acting as principal investigator of a study beginning in PGY-1 of the program, and culminating in presentation in the third year and publication in PGY-4. Projects focus on evidence-based medicine as well as novel interventions and basic science and are mentored by departmental faculty and facilitated by the department research staff. Generous support for research projects in Ob/Gyn comes from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Services Foundation, the Women's Cancer Research Foundation and the Wallace C. Nunley, Jr. Endowment for Women's Health.
Department faculty participates in a number of multi-center sponsored clinical trials in the subspecialties of Gynecologic Oncology, Reproductive Endocrinology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Urogynecology.
The OB/GYN Research Laboratory is located at Sonya Hanko Wyatt Molecular Biology Laboratory, on the second floor of Cannon Research Center. The research focus is mainly on Gynecologic Oncology, and in particular on genetic profiling of ovarian cancer under the direction of gynecological oncologists at Levine Cancer Institute.
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Faculty Research Highlights
Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
Oocyte Cryopreservation by Vitrification
The division of Reproductive Endocrinology has further advanced its oocyte vitrification program through studies that expand options to patients in a number of ways. Oocyte vitrification is an investigational process of rapid cryopreservation of oocytes to a "glass-like state" that produces eggs of superior viability compared to traditional oocyte cryopreservation.
Vitrification holds the potential to revolutionize fertility care for women in a number of ways. Vitrification enables couples to reduce the number of excess embryos cryopreserved following in-vitro fertilization (IVF), thus limiting the need for long-term embryo storage. It also holds the potential to preserve fertility for young women starting cancer therapy, and for women who wish to delay childbearing for personal or professional reasons.
Clinical Trials for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Ovulation Induction
In 2010, the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Principal Investigator Rebecca Usadi, MD were invited to be an ancillary site for the Reproductive Medicine Network. The RMN is a multicenter network of clinical sites that, through a cooperative agreement with the NIH and NICHD's Reproductive Sciences Branch, conduct clinical studies to investigate problems in reproductive medicine, including infertility, reproductive disorders and diseases in men and women that affect fertility, and endocrinological disorders affecting reproduction.
The first study initiated at CMC with the RMN is a trial of the safety and efficacy of letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, compared to clomiphene citrate in achieving live births in infertile women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. A second trial, AMIGOS, examined whether treatment of infertile women with an aromatase inhibitor results in a lower rate of multiple gestations than the current standard ovulation induction medications of clomiphene citrate (CC) or gonadotropin. The Pregnancy Registry followed pregnancies and newborns through the first year of life to collect data regarding pregnancy course, fetal and newborn health as well as limited genetic markers. A second 5-year RMN grant cycle has been awarded by the NICHD with CHS site funding beginning in year three.
Novel Therapies for Endometriosis and Infertility
Brad Hurst, MD has completed preclinical trials and is currently developing a technique for non-invasive treatment of endometriosis. He and CHS hold a patent on an instrument being developed for this therapy. The REI division is also conducting studies of fertiloscopy, a minimally invasive gynecologic surgery technique developed in Europe but used in only a few centers in the United States.
Additional areas of research include oncofertility, traumatic brain injury and fertility, ovarian drilling and other novel therapies for poor IVF responders. The group is also investigating male factor infertility and sperm quality with focus on DNA damage and oxidative stress.
Division of Gynecologic Oncology
The division of gynecologic oncology is highly involved in clinical research focusing on chemotherapeutic and surgical interventions for such gynecologic malignancies as cervical, ovarian, endometrial, and vulvar cancers. The group also focuses on basic science and translational research.
Collaborative efforts with the BioInformatics Department at UNCC, which provides a model for the institution, and Levine Cancer Institute, have been further integrated by virtue of the work done by faculty physician David Tait. Their work has resulted in the recent submission by Dr. Tait and his colleagues to the NCI for funding for their project entitled Stratification of Transcriptomes in Ovarian Carcinoma by Histologic Subtype. In addition, Dr. Tait continues his work through the Cannon research facilities on the Hox gene, which has resulted in a recent submission to our journal of "Paired-box 8 gene and protein expression is increased in malignant ovarian tissue." This collaboration has produced nine abstracts, two manuscripts and an intellectual property submission.
This year the Gyn Oncology built on LCI collaboration by partnering in a new lab with Ram Ganapathi, PhD and Mahrukh Ganapathi, PhD on genetic profiling of ovarian tissue for multi-drug resistance.
The Division also remains involved in clinical research through LCI as a primary site for the Gynecologic Oncology Group. This national group runs Gynecologic Oncology clinical trials within the NCI. Additionally, the faculty continues to avail patients’ access to the latest and most innovative drugs by participating in multiple sponsored clinical trials. As a part of these efforts, the Division has begun participating in Phase 1 studies that are in the first stage of drug development. These are studies that give hope to our most difficult patients who have already failed all the regimens/options that we have available.