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Welcome to Johns Hopkins Leader — the magazine that connects leaders of the world to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a global leader in medical care and innovation.
5 BIG BIOMEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
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Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers continually advance the science of medicine. Here, we celebrate some recent biomedical breakthroughs, in which our dedicated health professionals are pushing the boundaries of diagnosis and treatment, leading to better lives for all.
BREAKTHROUGH: Uncovering evidence that random cell mutations are a significant contributor to the development of cancer
According to research by Bert Vogelstein, M.D., co-director of the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology, and his colleague Cristian Tomasetti, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, two-thirds of genetic mutations that lead to cancer happen at random—“bad luck,” as Vogelstein puts it.
Vogelstein’s and Tomasetti’s research helps explain how “people who have led very healthy lifestyles, never smoked a cigarette in their lives, exercised four times a week still get cancer,” Vogelstein says. Significantly, the pair’s research also found that most childhood cancers are the result of spontaneous uncontrollable genetic mistakes.
BREAKTHROUGH: A multidisciplinary approach to pancreatic cancer
“One of the things we know about pancreatic cancer is that cancer is not just one disease,” says Christopher Wolfgang, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., director of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s HepatoPancreato-Biliary Program. “It’s multiple diseases, and no two tumors are alike.” This perspective drives Johns Hopkins’ Pancreatic Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic’s personalized approach to treating pancreatic cancer.
Founded in 2007, the first-of-its- kind program integrates specialists from surgery, medical oncology and radiation oncology. Multidisciplinary teams discuss each cancer patient to determine the best course of care. Today, the clinic is the most experienced and busiest program of its kind in the United States.
Wolfgang wants people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to know that “to win the war, we fight two battles.” Surgery fights the local battle, while the systemic one targets cells that circulate throughout the body—the seeds of metastatic disease. “So, as surgeons, we’re trying to collect these circulating tumor cells and understand them so that we can target and treat each person as an individual,” says Wolfgang.
BREAKTHROUGH: Transplanting kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis C into recipients who don’t have the virus
Kidney patients can wait years for a life-saving transplant, but a pilot study underway at Johns Hopkins’ Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program aims to speed up the process—by transplanting kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis C into recipients that are hepatitis C negative. The results so far offer hope for the hundreds of thousands of patients in need of an organ transplant worldwide.
Niraj M. Desai, M.D., is director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is also co-Principal Investigator of the pilot study along with Christine Durand, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In the pilot study, a small number of patients received a kidney infected with hepatitis C while being treated with medications that cure the disease known as direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). Oral DAAs only became available three years ago, and can be administered to patients even while they’re on dialysis, says Durand. The team’s research so far has shown promising results.
BREAKTHROUGH: Advances in endoscopic and other noninvasive therapies provide gastroenterologists with new tools in their arsenal against excess weight
Patients at Johns Hopkins Concierge Weight Loss Program can now choose from five new minimally invasive procedures as an alternative to, or a step toward, bariatric surgery.
“For a long time, there was no in-between option for weight loss for the more than 600 million people worldwide who are obese,” says Vivek Kumbhari, M.B.Ch.B., director of Bariatric Endoscopy at Johns Hopkins. “It was a choice of either lifestyle changes and medica-tion or bariatric surgery. Now, because of newly approved devices, we can offer minimally invasive therapies with excellent efficacy.
“We’ve been doing these surgeries for nearly two years, and we’ve had a lot of successes,” Kumbhari adds. After the procedures, patients feel fuller longer and thus eat less. While overall weight loss is less than from bariatric surgery, these endoscopic surgeries are less painful, have a shorter recovery time, and fewer risks and complications.
BREAKTHROUGH: New techniques in brain tumor surgery, even for tumors located deep inside the skull
Neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine are using a new camera-assisted tube that gently moves through brain tissue to reach tumors. The device, called a tubular retractor, involves less cutting and allows improved access to difficult-to-reach tumors located in what Johns Hopkins Medicine neurosurgeon Gary Gallia, M.D., Ph.D., refers to as “the most dangerous areas of the brain.”
For certain patients, for example those whose cancers are in deep regions of the brain, the minimally invasive procedure is gradually replacing traditional open neurosurgery, which, Galia says, “can involve more brain dissection, more brain loss and longer hospital stays.”
Alternately, the tubular retractor is less likely to damage delicate fibers of the brain, and for patients undergoing the specialized technique that means less pain and faster recovery.
Advancements in minimally invasive surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine brought Eduardo Estima and his family from Brazil to Baltimore, Maryland, USA, to treat his kidney tumor.
After learning that their baby boy would never hear, Stéphane and Karla traveled from Mexico to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the United States for a life-changing second opinion.
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Johns Hopkins Medicine, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, is an $8 billion integrated global health enterprise and one of the leading health care systems in the United States.
Johns Hopkins Medicine unites physicians and scientists of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with the organizations, health professionals and facilities of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Health System. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, opened in 1889, has been ranked #1 in the United States byU.S. News & World Report for 22 years of the survey’s 26-year history.