Stanford Scleroderma Center of Excellence

Lorinda Chung, MD, MS

Stanford University School of Medicine

Project Overview

Dr. Chung: The primary goal of the Stanford Scleroderma Center of Excellence is to provide outstanding multi-specialty care for patients with scleroderma, with experts from Rheumatology, Dermatology, Pulmonology, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Immunology, and Hand/Vascular Medicine working together to take care of each patient as a whole. At our Scleroderma Clinic, each patient is examined by a team, including physicians from Rheumatology, Dermatology, and Internal Medicine. We are also actively carrying out state-of-the-art research using tissue samples from patients with scleroderma and working with basic scientists to better understand what causes scleroderma, and to find markers in the skin or blood that can tell us which patients will go on to develop serious complications, like pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In particular, we hope to develop a simple blood test to identify scleroderma patients who will ultimately develop PAH.

Research Update

We have collected a large number of blood samples from scleroderma patients who have developed PAH over time from Scleroderma Centers throughout the U.S. In collaboration with the Stanford Human Immune Monitoring Core, we are evaluating these blood samples for 62 different markers of immune dysfunction. Over the course of the year, we hope to identify the most promising blood markers of PAH in scleroderma patients. We will then confirm our results in a completely separate group of scleroderma patients.

How this work will impact patients PAH affects about 10% of patients with scleroderma. Luckily, over the past two decades, multiple treatments have been developed that are effective for the treatment of PAH. However, scleroderma patients tend to do worse than other patients with PAH, in part, because once the patients are found to have PAH, their disease is already very advanced. We hope to develop a simple blood test to identify, at the time of their initial clinic visit, scleroderma patients who will ultimately develop PAH. This will enable doctors to start effective treatments as early as possible to prevent the onset and progression of this potentially deadly complication.

Role of the Scleroderma Research Foundation

Without the support of the Scleroderma Research Foundation, we would not have been able to develop our large group of scleroderma patients who serve as the core of our translational and clinical research studies. In addition, the SRF has been instrumental in connecting us with other top scleroderma researchers both within our own institution as well as throughout the country. The annual SRF Workshop provides a perfect environment to share scientific ideas and brainstorm with new and old collaborators.

The SRF is a unique funding agency in that they support the development and growth of Centers of Excellence, as well as collaborative research groups such as our Northern California Scleroderma Research Consortium (Stanford and UCSF). They work hard to develop and sustain a close-knit community of researchers with a common goal to cure scleroderma.

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