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Letter from the Director of Research

Welcome to research in the Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center / Case Western Reserve University. Our mission is to create a premier center for otolaryngology head and neck surgery science by fostering the highest quality research in the field and encouraging innovation through collaboration. While the department's research program encompasses all studies associated with conditions affecting the head and neck, the two primary areas of research include hearing/balance research and head and neck cancer research.

Key avenues of research in our department include molecular otology, otitis media and hair cell biology. We continually work to determine how these mechanisms relate to human hearing and deafness. Translational projects include small molecule and gene therapy approaches to mitigate hearing loss associated genetic defects or environmental causes such as noise exposure. Efforts to establish a high-throughput screening platform using the fish model to identify active oto-protective compounds is also underway in our department. Hearing research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and private foundations.

Our head and neck cancer research group is a collaboration between the Department of Otolaryngology and the Department of Biological Sciences in the School of Dental Medicine. This group has two main focuses. The first is evaluating the role of head and neck cancer-derived molecules, such as human beta-defensins, in tumor progression. This research is currently funded through the NIH. The second area of interest involves international work studying virally induced head and neck cancer in Kampala Uganda. This project is being done with the Uganda Cancer Institute and has resulted in two IRB-recognized projects and internal grant funding.

The head and neck research program also includes investigation of phthalocyanin based photodynamic therapy (Pc 4-PDT). The purpose of this research is to evaluate photodynamic therapy (PDT) and a drug called phthalocyanine 4 (Pc 4) for the treatment of laryngeal papillomatosis. Preclinical studies in our department demonstrated efficacy of Pc 4-PDT to eliminate papillomas in an animal model. Efforts are underway to carry out a Phase I trial and the project is awaiting FDA approval.

Clinical research opportunities also abound. All faculty members provide opportunities for students and residents, depending on their areas of interest. We encourage residents to write a clinically centered research paper yearly as a way to foster attendance at national meetings and to consistently build their CVs. Quality metrics are also increasing important drivers of clinical medicine. We are fortunate to be able to offer a partnership with our nationally recognized Quality Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center for resources and access to quality driven projects that allow for direct resident involvement.

The strength of our program is enhanced by an excellent interdisciplinary and collaborative intellectual environment at Case Western Reserve University and by the proximity to world-class facilities and institutions, including the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Metrohealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and the like. The greatest and most constant source of inspiration comes from a long tradition of excellence at Case Western Reserve University.

Best Regards,

Kumar Alagramam, PhD
Director of Research
Anthony J. Maniglia Chair for Research and Education