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Pennsylvania Bio Patient Impact Award Goes to Fetal Surgery Pioneer

Published on March 15, 2016 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months 4 weeks ago


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Hats off to N. Scott Adzick, MD, surgeon-in-chief and the founder and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, on receiving Pennsylvania Bio’s Patient Impact Award at the organization’s annual dinner March 11. The award “recognizes a company or organization that has made a significant contribution to the quality of healthcare or length of life of patients in 2015.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Adzick for this well-deserved award,” said Bryan Wolf, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer and director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Research Institute. “He is relentless in his pursuit of perfection, passionate about treating our most fragile patients, visionary and innovative in the OR, a leader and builder of an exceptional multidisciplinary team, and a great colleague."

Dr. Adzick leads the world’s largest, most comprehensive fetal surgery program. In 2015, the unit evaluated more than 1,500 pregnant mothers and conducted 150 to 200 prenatal surgeries.

A true innovator in the field of fetal medicine since its inception, Dr. Adzick has dedicated his career to pursuing groundbreaking prenatal treatments to correct debilitating and life-threatening birth defects. He led a research team funded by the National Institutes of Health that demonstrated surgically repairing spina bifida before birth resulted in significantly better outcomes for children than repairing it after birth. These breakthrough results from the Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 were the culmination of decades of research by Dr. Adzick and colleagues.

As senior author of a paper published last year in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Dr. Adzick added to knowledge gained from the MOMS trial that will help families decide if fetal surgery is right for them. A major reason for performing fetal spina bifida surgery is to avoid placing a shunt later on to avoid a life-threatening buildup of cerebrospinal fluid and pressure in the brain called hydrocephalus. If untreated, hydrocephalus can cause irreversible brain damage.

The current analysis took a closer look at magnetic resonance imaging scans of the fetuses’ ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities inside their brains, which were performed in both the prenatal and postnatal surgery groups as part of the MOMS trial. The researchers found that larger ventricles at initial screening are associated with an increased risk for shunting in both groups. They determined that the ideal candidate for in utero intervention is a fetus with ventricles smaller than 10 mm.

“We’re driven by patient needs,” Dr. Adzick said. “We’re driven by trying to find solutions to those unsolved problems. It’s a miracle and a privilege to take care of patients, of babies. Babies are the future! What could be more compelling than a baby?”

This is the third year in a row that a CHOP investigator and innovator has received the Patient Impact Award from PA Bio. Last year, Robert M. Campbell, MD, received the award in recognition of his work as inventor of the vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib to treat thoracic insufficiency syndrome. And in 2014, CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania shared the award for their groundbreaking immune therapy work. Led at CHOP by Stephan A. Grupp, MD, PhD, and at Penn by Carl H. June, MD, the CHOP/Penn immune therapy partnership has been investigating using modified versions of patients’ own immune cells to attack — and destroy — tumors. Their latest findings showed that 93 percent of pediatric patients reached remission after receiving the therapy for relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

To learn more about Dr. Adzick and the inspirational families who come to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, see the PBS documentary series “Twice Born” that is streaming on Netflix.