A Publication of WTVP

Medical research yields new knowledge that allows us to cure disease and prolong healthy lives. For instance, diphtheria once killed more people than cancer, but now, thanks to a vaccine discovered through research, almost no one in the U.S. acquires the disease. Hodgkin’s disease, a lymph node cancer, was once usually fatal—now many individuals are cured.

Such examples have led to a nearly universal understanding of the value of medical research. Still, occasionally someone says to me, “I know research is important, but why should we do it in Peoria?” Research in Peoria falls within three broad categories—I’ll discuss each and its value to our community.

Basic Science Research and its Translation to Individual Patients
Basic science research occurs in the laboratory. Some of our scientists at the College of Medicine are studying cancer cells to see if we can understand how they make new blood vessels so the cancer can keep growing. Others are studying how brain cells behave in Alzheimer’s. This laboratory research adds to our knowledge and stimulates innovative approaches to curing or treating human disease. These innovative approaches are then tested in individual patients, thus “translating” the treatment to the patient. Peoria is fortunate to have Dr. Jasti Rao leading our basic science research and recruiting other nationally recognized researchers to Peoria. The University is focusing its basic science research in cancer and neuroscience, allowing it to develop programs that are nationally competitive. As a result, we have brought about 22 million research dollars into the community in the last seven years. In order to further expand our research, we have raised $9.4 million toward construction of a new $13 million cancer research facility.

Clinical Trials
Once basic science research discovers a treatment and has tested it in an individual patient, it must be tested in larger numbers of patients in what are called clinical trials. The physician faculty participate in this type of research. Patients who participate in clinical trials must be educated about their specific trial and give their informed consent. Most of the clinical trials in Peoria are reviewed by the medical school’s Institutional Review Board to be sure they meet the highest scientific and ethical standards. Patients in our community benefit because they are able to receive treatment that is at the cutting edge of today’s science. This means that they can receive their treatment here at home.

Health Systems Research
This is a relatively new area of research that focuses on studying how to provide healthcare. For example, we know that everyone with diabetes should control their blood sugar, eat right and exercise. We know everyone with high blood pressure should routinely take their medications. But we don’t know how doctors, nurses, the community, patients and insurers should work together to make this happen. Redesigning our healthcare system is a high priority, and we must research how to do it correctly. Our community is uniquely capable of this type of research because of our size, stable population and the collaboration among community agencies.

Medical research is extremely valuable to central Illinois. It generates important, new knowledge which is shared in scientific journals and improves the health of those in our community. It builds the strength of our position as a regional referral center, and it is a force for economic development. iBi