By GREGORY ZELLER //
The Feinstein Institute flexed its investigative muscle Nov. 10, highlighting the awesome breadth of its clinical research programs in a day-long symposium at its Manhasset headquarters.
Covering everything from cutting-edge neurosurgical techniques to shifting paradigms in thromboembolic-disease research to new mental illness-related technologies, Centricity Series Symposia: Clinical Research 2016 was designed specifically to show how the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the R&D arm of the Northwell Health system, is improving current treatment protocols – and might change how medicine is practiced altogether.
Setting that tone were opening remarks by Feinstein Institute President and CEO Kevin Tracey, a global pioneer in the emerging field of bioelectronic medicine. In addition to overseeing Feinstein operations, Tracey’s busy 2016 schedule has included co-publishing new studies about potential bioelectronic breakthroughs in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and blood pressure-related conditions, as well as keynote duties at an international bioelectronics summit hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences.
Fellow presenters at the Nov. 10 Centricity Symposium included John Boockvar, co-director of the Feinstein Institute’s Brain Tumor Biotech Center, who traced “the arc of neurosurgery research,” and Feinstein Chief of Staff Cynthia Hahn, who discussed clinical research opportunities throughout the Northwell Health system.
Other seminars covered clinical advances in liver disease-, lupus- and Alzheimer’s disease-related research, along with “New Discoveries of the Anatomy, Physiology and Neurophysiology of the Esophagus,” as presented by Larry Miller, chief of Northwell Health’s gastroenterology division.
While showcasing the varied nature of the Feinstein Institute’s clinical programs, the Centricity Symposium focused heavily on the role of new technologies in modern healthcare. A presentation by John Kane, Northwell Health’s senior vice president for behavioral health services and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, dove deep into the influence of the Internet and social media on “reducing the duration of untreated mental illness.”
Another seminar previewed a software application designed to guide prostate cancer patients through their challenging treatment options. Such patients often face difficult decisions, with treatment options including surgery, radiation therapies and more wait-and-see approaches – and potential side effects ranging from incontinence to impotence.
Michael Diefenbach, a behavioral research director in Northwell Health’s Department of Medicine and Urology, demonstrated the app, which was programmed by Scarsdale-based software company Sourcetop with interface design by New York City graphic designers Infinia Group.
Loaded into a mobile device or PC, the application leads patients through the initial decision-making process to determine if immediate treatment or ongoing observation is the best option. It then provides additional data about treatments and outcomes.
Applying user responses to a unique algorithm, the app helps patients plot their preferred treatment approach – and prompts them to discuss their findings with their healthcare provider.
Diefenbach put the app through a usability study that showed it to be user-friendly, and is planning a larger controlled trial to determine its actual clinical viability.
While the tool “has the potential to successfully guide patients through their cancer treatment,” according to the researcher, its ultimate efficacy is not yet known. But Diefenbach said was happy to showcase the software at the annual Centricity event, specifically to show the importance of medical advances both directly and indirectly related to patient treatment.
“Making treatment decisions can be daunting with any type of cancer, but it can be particularly difficult for men dealing with prostate cancer, as it has a big impact on very basic everyday physical functions,” Diefenbach said. “My goal in previewing the app at the Centricity Symposium was to show the benefit of incorporating modern technology into research and treatment options.”