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First results from MURDOCK Study revealed at San Francisco conference

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó The first research results to emerge from the MURDOCK Study were presented last week at an international conference in San Francisco, giving hope to people who suffer from hepatitis C.
Duke University scientists and physicians working for the study, which is named for N.C. Research Campus founder David Murdock, have discovered an important genetic clue that may help unlock the mystery of hepatitis C infection.
“I’m incredibly excited about it,” said Dr. John McHutchison, a lead investigator for the MURDOCK Study and associate director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute.
McHutchison’s team has identified a set of proteins that may be able to predict who will most likely respond to standard therapy for hepatitis C infection.
Only about 50 percent of patients who undergo the grueling regimen are cured, but doctors have not been able to predict which patients will benefit and which will just suffer side effects.
This development could prevent patients from undergoing the regimen if they probably would not respond anyway.
Without support from the MURDOCK Study, “I would not have thought I would have the ability to do such a thing,” McHutchison said. “I have tried for 10 years without success.”
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease. More than 7,000 researchers from 55 countries attended.
Murdock, owner of Dole Food Co., gave Duke $35 million last year to launch the study, which will try to better understand hepatitis C, heart disease, obesity and arthritis using genomic technologies.
Now that the Core Laboratory at the Research Campus has opened, the MURDOCK Study will move much of its work to Kannapolis. The initial research into hepatitis C was conducted using blood and tissue samples that have been stored for years at Duke.
Murdock provided the money to hire people to conduct the initial research.
The study wants to enroll 50,000 volunteers from Kannapolis and Cabarrus County for future research phases.
McHutchison cautioned that the results announced in San Francisco are just a first step. His team hopes to conduct a clinical trial in about a year.
Dr. Keyur Patel presented the findings. Additional Duke scientists on the team include Laura Dubois, Will Thompson, Joe Lucas, Art Moseley Diane Uzarski, Hans Tillman, Robert Califf and Jeanette McCarthy.

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