NIH grant funds $23 million study of diseases affecting people living with HIV

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Credit: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

June 7, 2019–(BRONX, NY) –The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a seven-year, $23 million grant to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System to study HIV and the chronic illnesses that often accompany HIV infection, including cardiovascular and lung disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The new grant builds on previous scientific and clinical research from the 26-year-old Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), a multi-center study of women who are either living with HIV or at risk for HIV infection. The NIH has merged the WIHS study with a comparable parallel study in men known as the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, or MACS, which began in 1984. Together, those studies enrolled thousands of participants and spurred more than 2,300 publications on HIV-related topics.

The new study, called the MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study, will continue using information from participants in the earlier studies and will enroll an additional 2,500 men and women, including people without HIV. It also will focus on the chronic conditions that now affect people living with HIV, rather than the HIV infection itself.

New Research Targets

“This change in emphasis makes our research much broader and more focused on the leading causes of illness and death among people living with HIV,” said co-principal investigator Kathryn Anastos, M.D., professor of medicine, of epidemiology & population health, and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and a general internist at Montefiore. “People are living longer with HIV because of the miraculous success of antiretroviral treatment. As a result, the immune complications of HIV rarely kill people now – rather, it’s the advance of those other diseases, which often occur much earlier than expected in people living with HIV.”

Dr. Anastos has led scientific and clinical research at the Einstein and Montefiore Bronx WIHS site, one of nine in the nation, since 1993. Anjali Sharma, M.D., M.S., co-principal investigator, associate professor of medicine at Einstein, and an internist and infectious disease physician at Montefiore, joined the Bronx WIHS in 2013.

“We’ve been among the leading investigators into several specific areas, including cardiovascular disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), female genital tract immunology, and emerging studies of the microbiome,” said Dr. Anastos, who also is co-director emeritus of Einstein’s Global Health Center and director of the clinical, translational, and implementation science core of the Einstein-Rockefeller-CUNY Center for AIDS Research.

Tracking Aging and Social Impacts on Health

The new study will allow researchers to investigate the impact of age, race, ethnicity, and health disparities on HIV-related comorbidities and HIV disease progression. The Bronx site will enroll between 150 and 200 participants.
“Enrolling both men and women will help us look into how HIV and chronic illnesses affect the genders differently, particularly as people age,” said Dr. Sharma. “That knowledge can inform our understanding of gender differences in health and disease across the lifespan far beyond HIV.”

Study participants will undergo comprehensive annual exams and tests. Researchers also will study disease-related outcomes such as heart attacks and strokes, conduct neuropsychiatric testing to assess cognition, and administer detailed psychiatric evaluations.
The grant, titled, “Clinical research sites for the MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study (MACS/WIHS-CCS),” was awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the NIH (1U01HL146204-01).

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About Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is one of the nation’s premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2018-2019 academic year, Einstein is home to 711 M.D. students, 160 Ph.D. students, 107 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 265 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has more than 1,800 full-time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2018, Einstein received more than $172 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in aging, intellectual development disorders, diabetes, cancer, clinical and translational research, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Its partnership with Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, advances clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries become the treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Einstein runs one of the largest residency and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in the United States through Montefiore and an affiliation network involving hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Long Island. For more information, please visit http://www.einstein.yu.edu, read our blog, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and view us on YouTube.

Media Contact
Elaine Iandoli
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