Keck School of Medicine News and Notes
For faculty and staff of the Keck School of Medicine of USC

August 17, 2016


Cancer in context: USC's latest cancer report card charts 37 years of painstakingly collected data
Prostate and lung cancer have been the No. 1 and 2 cancers among men. Stomach cancer, the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, has been on a steady decline among Koreans and Japanese. Black men had the highest overall rates of cancer. Thyroid cancer — which is relatively treatable — has been on the rise, and women are about three times more likely to contract it than men. These are a few of the notable nuggets in USC's Cancer in Los Angeles County: Trends by Race/Ethnicity 1976-2012, a book released Aug. 15. The report card includes every cancer diagnosis in the region over the past 37 years — more than 1.3 million. With easy-to-read charts, the book divides L.A.’s population into 11 ethnic and racial groups to highlight the fact that cancer risk is a result of genetics, environment and behavior. “Not only are we telling people what has happened to others in the past, but we are also helping them understand their own future cancer risk,” said Dennis Deapen, DPH, the report’s senior author and a professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Read more

Keck School researchers identify two Zika proteins responsible for microcephaly
Researchers have tracked down two Zika proteins potentially responsible for thousands of microcephaly cases in Brazil and elsewhere — taking one small step toward preventing Zika-infected mothers from birthing babies with abnormally small heads. The Zika virus contains 10 proteins, but only NS4A and NS4B matter when it comes to microcephaly, according to a USC-led study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell on Aug. 11. These miscreant proteins, researchers discovered, have two shared life goals: to handicap fetal brain formation and to mobilize their malevolent forces. The USC-led study, a collaborative effort between the virology and neurobiology disciplines, is also the first to examine Zika virus on the molecular level, said Jae Jung, PhD, senior corresponding author and distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We now know the molecular pathway, so we made the first big step toward target therapy for Zika-induced microcephaly,” Jung said. “Years from now, one shot or a series of shots could target the proteins NS4A and NS4B or their collaborators.” Read more

Revisions made to 2016 US News & World Report Rankings
The 2016 U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospital” rankings have been updated. Based on the Keck School's affiliation with LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Medical Center of USC has been recognized as a designated high-level trauma center. In the original scoring results reported, this designation was overlooked by U.S. News & World Report, but has since been corrected. This designation resulted in improved rankings for many Keck Medical Center service lines. The medical center has now secured a Top 50 placement in seven specialties.
The USC Roski Eye Institute remained the institution’s top-performing service line for the 23rd consecutive year (No. 11). The USC Institute of Urology had the largest increase since 2015 out of the hospital’s specialties and received its highest-ever ranking (No. 15). The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center also moved up considerably for its highest ranking ever (No. 18). Keck Medical Center also increased its ranking in geriatrics (No. 21), and is newly ranked in orthopaedics (No. 22), nephrology (No. 37) and cardiology (No. 48). Four additional service lines were ranked as High Performing: gastroenterology & GI surgery; neurology & neurosurgery; pulmonology; diabetes & endocrinology. Read more

Arthritis originated in primordial fish
We all know someone affected by arthritis — as well as that old dog down the block. But according to a new study in eLife, arthritis is much more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously suspected. In the study, Amjad Askary and Joanna Smeeton, PhD, from the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Gage Crump, PhD, took a close look at the evolutionary origin of the type of lubricated joint, known as “synovial,” that provides mobility yet is highly susceptible to osteoarthritis. “Zebrafish are becoming a popular system for human disease research, yet it had been thought that they lacked lubricated joints and could not be used to study arthritis,” said Crump, associate professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. “Creating the first genetic osteoarthritis model in a fish is exciting. Going forward, it will be fascinating to explore whether the zebrafish, which is well known for its regenerative abilities, can also naturally repair its damaged joints. If so, the fish could teach us fundamentally new lessons in how to reverse arthritis in patients.” Read more

Welcome new clinical faculty
Please welcome the following new clinical faculty member to the Keck School of Medicine:
Amit Kochhar, MD, assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology–head and neck surgery, has joined the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, and will be working specifically in the areas of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. He provides consultation for surgical management of the aging face and nasal airway, hair transplantation and minimally invasive procedures for facial rejuvenation using laser, pulsed light, ultrasound, and radiofrequency energy.


Friday, Aug. 19

8:30 a.m. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Grand Rounds. “Practice Improvement: What’s Trending,” Yoko Takashima, MD, and Brian Gordon, MD. LAC+USC Medical Center Inpatient Tower Conference Room A.

Tuesday, Aug. 23

Noon. Department of Psychiatry Grand Rounds. “Understanding the Military Culture for Improving the Care of Veterans and Military Families,” Carl A. Castro, PhD. Herklotz Seminar Room, ZNI 112.

5:30 p.m. Department of Ophthalmology Grand Rounds. Kelly Rue, MD. HCC4 Conference Room, 6th Floor. Info: Tyaisha Christopher, (323) 409-5233,,

Media Mentions

The August issue of Pasadena Magazine featured Leslie Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, and Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine and director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, in an article about the Virtual Care Clinic. “What I think we’re building is a whole virtual global health care system that will be 90 percent digital, and going to a bricks and mortar facility will be just 10 percent of the activity. It’s really a very interesting time and place we are in right now,” Saxon said. Varma was also quoted in the article, stating, “In order to extend our reach, we have to find innovative ways of getting highly specialized individuals out into disparate communities.”

An August 10 story in the Press-Enterprise quoted Sandrah Eckel, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine, on her research about poor air quality having a detrimental effect on lung cancer patients. Eckel stated that air pollution appeared to “promote the progression of their disease through the same biological pathways that caused the disease in the first place.” The story was later also covered by Reuters and The Guardian.

Another August 10 story in the Press-Enterprise quoted Ahmet Baydur, MD, professor of clinical medicine, regarding studies that claimed Los Angeles had the deadliest air quality in the nation. The story also ran in the Daily Bulletin and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Baydur was also interviewed about the same topic for Fox News.

An August 12 story on KPCC featured research from Jae Jung, PhD, chair of the department of molecular microbiology and immunology, that identified two proteins in the Zika virus that may cause microcephaly. “So we have now [a] target for treatment, so we could actually develop the drug that ultimately can cure microcephaly,” Jung said. The study was also highlighted on KTTV, The Daily Mail and Globo Brazil.

An August 15 story on CBS Los Angeles quoted Lihua Liu, PhD, assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine, about the Cancer Surveillance Program, that gathered 37 years of data about cancer in Los Angeles. Liu commented on the evidence stating that many cases of cancer were preventable, stating “You do have the power yourself through making healthy choices.” The research was also featured in the World Journal (in Mandarin).

Keck School of Medicine News and Notes is produced weekly by the Keck Medicine Marketing and Communications office. To contribute calendar items, click here. To submit ideas for consideration or for more information, visit