Posts Tagged 'Dan Rizzuto'

SNI Communication Tools

John W. Henson, MD, Swedish Neuroscience Institute     


SNI is leveraging communication tools that deliver information to patients, referring physicians and the public as a crucial part of providing care at the advancing edge of neu­rological knowledge. The goals of these tools are two-fold. One goal is to update established patients and their doctors regarding the latest developments in our programs and centers. The other is to lower the barrier for patients and physicians who are facing a new neuro­logical problem to discover tertiary subspe­cialty care.

A new SNI communication tool

Dan Rizzuto, Ph.D., director of SNI research, and John Henson, M.D., recently launched to complement other commu­nication efforts and to provide a communication outlet for the staff of SNI. offers brief notes about advances in neurological care provided in SNI’s centers, as well as news items about the institute that are of interest to our patients and referring physicians.

Blog content is more dynamic than Web content. Search engines are able to detect targeted key words within each entry, which helps direct highly relevant Web traffic to the blog. This aids in the dissemination of infor­mation to patients and physicians. Viewers also can subscribe to an e-mail notification system that will alert them to newly posted material.

As is the case with any communication tool, however, blogs also have limitations. For example, blogs are not able to incorpo­rate the interactive features of social media that exponentiate information transfer to a selected audience. Therefore, SNI will build upon its existing menu of communication tools by launching social media outlets in the near future.

Other SNI communication tools

At SNI we provide print and electronic options to meet the needs of various audi­ences.

BrainWaves. This print news letter is de­signed to be an educa­tional resource about neurological topics for physicians in thePacific Northwest. Each issue focuses on conditions treated at SNI. Staff members au­thor the articles.

Physicians Practice. Swedish has the exclu­sive contract with this practice management journal to customize content in six issues annually. Although the journal is not exclu­sively used for SNI in­formation, many neu­rological topics have been covered in recent issues. Swedish maintains an online library of past content in the Health Professionals sec­tion of its website at

Swedish Neuroscience Institute website. Earlier this year the SNI website took on a new look as part of a project to redesign the entireSwedishMedicalCenter website. SNI members are now able to directly update information about their programs, and are actively developing online patient resources for each of SNI’s programs. The SNI website is a repository of information about our neurological services, research, clin­ical trials and professional expertise.

Our goal is to continuously improve ac­cess to neurological information and the de­livery of that information to interested groups of patients and referring physicians.


Creating the future through research at SNI

Dan Rizzuto, PhD, Research Manager, Swedish Neuroscience Institute

Clinical research is an essential component of Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI). It provides our patients therapeutic options that would otherwise be unavailable to them and places our staff at the forefront of medical knowledge as they evaluate leading-edge drugs and medical devices. The majority of SNI investigations assess the safety and efficacy of new drugs and devices. These studies are typically sponsored by the federal government, or pharmaceutical and medical device companies, with oversight provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Investigator-initiated trials at SNI answer questions about current standard-of-care therapies. These trials play an important role in supporting evidence-based medicine and advancing patient care.

Initiating a research study at SNI begins with a physician identifying a research question or a sponsor asking a physician to investigate a new therapy. After the physician defines the study protocol, he or she presents an overview to the SNI Research Committee to ensure sufficient patient access, financial support and staffing resources are available. After the committee has approved the protocol, the Swedish Institutional Review Board performs its federally-required review, which is designed to protect the welfare of research participants.

As research manager, I oversee the financial and regulatory aspects of clinical research at SNI, including budget, contract negotiations with study sponsors and the assignment of study coordinators to assist with IRB submissions and patient visits. This allows the investigator to focus on providing patient care, overseeing patient safety and collecting efficacy data.

Research at SNI currently includes 54 active investigations across nine programs, and is supported by more than $2 million dollars in annual funding. Thirty-seven of these studies are sponsored and financially supported by pharmaceutical and device companies, eight are investigator-initiated and nine are funded by the federal government or other non-profit organizations.

Research at SNI has a very bright future with many new and exciting trials on the horizon. The movement disorders program has ramped up its first clinical trial of a Parkinson’s disease treatment, and the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment is at the forefront of developing personalized medicine for brain cancer patients. One of the most exciting developments involves the bridging of two disciplines: deep brain stimulation (DBS) and psychiatry. The DBS program and the Swedish psychiatry program are evaluating clinical trials that use DBS for treatment resistant obsessive compulsive disorder and major depression. DBS offers hope for the most severely affected of these patients who continue to exhibit severe symptoms even after adequate trials of currently available therapies.

As a neuroscience center of excellence, SNI is uniquely designed to meet the healthcare challenges of the 21st century and beyond. We pursue evidence-based medicine by combining an academic focus on learning and research with high-quality clinical programs. The power to meet these challenges resides within each of us, and I encourage you to think about how you can be a pioneer in the advancement of medicine through clinical research.

If you would like to participate in clinical research activities at SNI, please contact:

Dan Rizzuto, Ph.D.

Desmoteplase may hold the key for stroke patients

Dan Rizzuto, PhD, Research Manager, Swedish Neuroscience Institute

Acute stroke is the third leading cause of mortality and the major cause of long-term disability in the developed world. Ischemic strokes account for about 85 percent of all acute strokes and are caused by clots that block blood vessels in the brain, stopping the flow of blood to crucial brain areas.

The main approach to treating acute ischemic stroke is thrombolysis, which degrades the clot causing the stroke and provides significant clinical improvements. The only thrombolytic intervention for acute ischemic stroke that is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alteplase. However, alteplase must be administered within three hours after symptom onset to avoid the risk of inducing a hemorrhage in the brain. (More recent evidence supports delivering alteplase up to 4.5 hours.) Because of this time limitation, it is estimated that alteplase is currently administered to less than five percent of acute stroke patients. While this time limitation is a large factor, a high proportion of patients arriving within the appropriate time window still do not receive alteplase due to contraindications (e.g. age, severity, hypertension etc.) or due to the unfavorable risk-benefit ratio.

Recently a new thrombolytic agent, desmoteplase, has been developed that is based upon a protein found in the saliva of the Desmodus rotundus, better known as the common vampire bat. Studies conducted so far suggest desmoteplase breaks down clots efficiently and elicits few side effects, indicating the potential for better clinical outcomes. Importantly, it is possible to administer desmoteplase up to nine hours after symptom onset. Swedish Medical Center is participating in DIAS-4, a new study to assess the safety and effectiveness of desmoteplase.

“This new agent holds great promise,” said William Likosky, M.D., principle investigator for the clinical trial and medical director of the Swedish Acute Telestroke Program. “Currently, we are fortunate to have a network of emergency departments in which alteplase can be administered within an early window. If stroke patients have an initial treatment window up to nine hours, however, we can consider transferring them to medical centers that can provide thrombolysis beyond that available for alteplase.”

This clinical research study to test desmoteplase is being carried out under strict oversight by the FDA. By participating in this study, Swedish continues its tradition of offering the most advanced therapies available to patients who have few other options. In addition, the Swedish Acute Telestroke Program is able to offer this trial to patients outside the Seattle area who are brought emergently to Swedish for treatment.

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