Kiron M. Das, MD, PhD, Honored
for Mentoring Junior Physician-Scientists --Noted for Translational Research in Inflammatory
Bowel Disease and Gastrointestinal Cancers --
NEW BRUNSWICK — The American Gastroenterological Association Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (AGA) announced that Kiron M. Das, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology and director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center of New Jersey at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was honored for his exemplary contributions to gastroenterology through mentoring. The 2007 Mentors Research Scholar Award (RSA) will be permanently endowed in his name and the names of his fellow honorees.
The AGA Foundation mentor honorees are a select group of individuals who have performed meritorious service as mentors to the world’s gastroenterology trainees. Dr. Das has trained more than 70 clinical and research students during his career.
“This honor is indicative of the respect Dr. Das has earned from his students and colleagues during his career,” said Eric H. Shen, MD, assistant professor of medicine and a former student of Dr. Das at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “I am very proud to be one of the many doctors trained by such a dynamic physician who exhibits the highest integrity in both the clinic and the laboratory.”
The honor also recognizes Dr. Das’ contributions to the scientific community. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Das worked to understand the cause of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon. He discovered two novel biomarkers for the early diagnosis of esophageal, gastric and colon cancer. A biomarker can be used to measure the progress of disease or the effects of treatment. Dr. Das has two projects funded by the National Institutes of Health; the first is a study to understand the pathogenesis and novel treatment for the autoimmune disease mechanism for inflammatory bowel disease. The research is translated into improved diagnosis and treatment for patients through the Crohn’s and Colitis Center of New Jersey, for which he is the founding director.
Dr. Das is researching the effectiveness of a novel biomarker that has been shown to be highly responsive in the early detection of Barrett’s epithelium, a precancerous condition of the esophagus. Esophageal adenocarcinoma had the highest rate of cancer in the United States and western Europe during the last decade. The monoclonal antibody, or single clone of cells, has been named for Dr. Das as mAb Das-1 and can be used as a diagnostic tool to detect cancer in the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. Working with faculty members in the urology and pathology departments, Dr. Das also is studying whether mAb Das-1 is a means to detect cancer of the urinary tract and bladder.
Most recently, Dr. Das and his colleagues discovered a second biomarker protein, named TC22, that is expressed in cancerous and precancerous cells in the colon but not in normal cells. He is researching how to utilize this marker at molecular levels for early detection of colon cancer, and possibly other cancers, in addition to possible therapeutic use.
“Biomedical research produces complex discoveries that demand clinical applications,” said Peter S. Amenta, MD, PhD, interim dean of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who, as chair of pathology, has worked with Dr. Das on several research studies. “As a highly-regarded physician-scientist, Dr. Das’ commitment to translational research not only serves as a model to our students and faculty, but improves the quality of care to our patients.”
According to Dr. Das, “Serving as a mentor is a privilege, challenge and an honor. One of the greatest rewards of my career has been to train and intellectually stimulate trainees, junior faculty, residents and students. I am also fortunate to have a number of outstanding research fellows, both from the U.S. and abroad who taught me as much as I taught them. It is a great pleasure to see former students and fellows advance their knowledge and skills and to become mentors themselves. I am honored to be recognized by the Foundation.”
The 2007 Mentors RSA is a three-year grant that enables promising young scientists to establish independent careers in digestive disease research. As there is a significant decline in the number of gastroenterologists entering academic research careers, the program addresses insufficient funding for entry-level researchers, a critical problem in gastroenterology.
About Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school’s principal affiliate, they comprise New Jersey’s premier academic medical center. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.
As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,500 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs.
About The Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition
The Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (FDHN) is the foundation of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). The AGA is dedicated to the mission of advancing the science and practice of gastroenterology. Founded in 1897, the AGA is one of the oldest medical-specialty societies in the United States. The AGA’s more than 16,000 members include physicians and scientists who research, diagnose and treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. For more information, visit http://www.gastro.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=2.
The Foundation raises funds for research and public education. Donors to the Foundation include a significant number of AGA physicians, patients and family members of those who suffer from digestive diseases, and the pharmaceutical industry.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.