Critical to workforce health is the safe and healthy work and home practices of the nation’s youth. An innovative program developed by the Oregon Healthy WorkForce Center, a NIOSH Center of Excellence, offers both safety and health training as well as healthful lifestyle information to summer workers in Portland (Oregon) Parks and Recreation pools that is subsequently reinforced by messaging on social media sites such as Facebook and Pintrest. Depicted are focus group and study presentation meetings in Portland the summer of 2012. Over 400 summer workers at several Portland pools participated in the training and messaging pilot study conducted by Dr. Diane Rohlman, project PI.
The Total Worker Health conference in Iowa began this morning with a presentation by Dr. John Howard, the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), on the critical importance of prevention in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The role of workforce health in the nation’s health, where prevention is the primary method for reducing health care costs, was the theme of Dr. Howard’s presentation.
Shown in the picture is a presentation by NIOSH’s Heidi Hudson speaking on the growing and now clearly powerful role of social media in messaging to stimulate and reinforce prevention. Dr. Leslie Hammer of the Oregon Healthy WorkForce Center speaks later this afternoon on reducing job stress, a demonstrated health problem and thus also a cost in the nation’s health care system. We worry about both the health cost from a personal perspective and the economic cost from a national perspective.
One prominent area of research in CROET explores how cancers arise and how we can effectively treat them. Since environmental and occupational factors can influence the timing of the onset and progression of cancers, our team has joined other investigators at OHSU as members of the Knight Cancer Institute. Together, we collaborate to study cancer, in which the scope of these investigations range from basic mechanistic research to cutting edge clinical therapies.
The Knight Scientific Retreat, held on November 9th 2012, gave us the opportunity to see what our colleagues were doing. Dr. Brian Druker, Director of the Institute and a developer of the molecular targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia, Gleevec, opened the retreat by sharing how teamwork between the basic science and the clinical research groups has contributed to the Institute’s recent successful grant renewal.
The following synopses highlight some of the scientific presentations that we found interesting.
Dr. Melissa Wong, of the Oregon Stem Cell Center, shared her group’s research on fusing bone marrow-derived macrophages with cancer cells to promote metastasis. The hybrid cancer cells expressed gene profiles different than the parent cells, and promoted tumors in mice. This suggests that cell fusion may create a way for tumors to better adapt to changing environments.
Dr. Daniel Marks, a pediatrician and researcher at the Pape Pediatric Research Institute, shared insights on the molecular mechanism triggering cachexia (disease-associated wasting) and how to treat it, in efforts to both prolong and enhance the quality of life for cancer patients.
Dr. Matthew Taylor gave an overview of phase I clinical trials at the Knight Cancer Institute. With the development of personalized medicine, targeted therapies that can be tailored to tumor profiles are the main focus of these trials. Based on trial results, we can return to the lab to better understand cancer biology and how to improve treatment efficacy.
The keynote talk by Dr. Patricia Ganz addressed the effects of inflammation in post-treatment breast cancer patients. According to Dr. Ganz, the most common post-treatment complaint from breast cancer survivors is persistent fatigue. Her group has found that those patients with chronic fatigue after chemotherapy have persistent low-level inflammation, perhaps coming from responses to psychological stress. Dr. Ganz’s studies suggest that a holistic approach of stress management, along with specific targeted immune-modulating pharmaceuticals may be effective in reducing both fatigue and cancer recurrence.
This was a great opportunity to learn about various basic and translational research done at our Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. We felt it was a very rewarding experience to participate in this event. Learn more about our lab at CROET!
Submitted by: Researchers from CROET’s Lloyd-McCullough Lab
Washington State’s Centers for Occupational Health and Education (COHEs) were described to Oregon’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) that provides advice to the state’s Worker’s Compensation Division (WCD) by Dr. Mike Buck of CROET. CROET had developed a review of the COHEs and proposed feasibility studies to determine if components of the COHEs might be useful if implemented in Oregon’s Workers’ Compensation system, at the request of the WCD and Oregon’s Management Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC) following interest expressed by the Oregon Legislature.
MLAC has accepted the COHE report and is reviewing it. The MAC was interested in learning more about the COHE’s and the feasibility studies proposed in the CROET report. The COHE report by Drs. Buck and Anger is available on the WCD site.
Pictured is Dr. Buck (right) speaking to the MAC. To Dr. Buck’s left is Ms. Cara Filsinger, new MAC Administrator for the WCD, and Dr. Ronald Bowman, Chair of the MAC, is to her left. Other members of the MAC and the WCD are also shown listening to the presentation.
Our fall symposium, jointly sponsored by Portland State University Occupational Health Psychology Program, provided a comprehensive and often eye-opening look at the impact of aggression in the workplace. Two of the presentations are available as recorded webinars, and we encourage you to check them out.
Kicking off the morning, Sandy Hershcovis, Ph.D., provided the keynote. In this presentation Dr. Hershcovis defines workplace aggression, identifies key predictors and examines consequences. Some of her key points illustrate how targets often become perpetrators. Of particular interest to those of us working in workplace safety and health is the evidence showing that seemingly minor forms of workplace aggression really can matter, and how it can lead to spillover to family. Dr. Herschcovis also examines how witnesses react to and intervene in workplace incivility. Dr. Hershcovis is Associate Professor and Department Head of Business Administration at the University of Manitoba. Watch this presentation. Contact Dr. Herschcovis.
Later in the day, Marilyn Schuster addresses Oregon OSHA’s involvement in workplace violence issues. In general, Oregon OSHA relies on the General Duty Clause in its expectation that employers will adopt and furnish safety guards and methods necessary to provide a safe place of employment. Ms. Schuster is the Deputy Administrator and Policy Manager for Oregon OSHA. Watch this presentation. Contact Ms. Schuster.
Two other speakers, Liu-Qin Yang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Portland State University Department of Psychology, and Ginger Hanson, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate at the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, shared a series of recent and ongoing research studies on workplace aggression. Specifically, Dr. Yang’s research is focused on supervisor aggression prevention practices and organizational climate, and Dr. Hanson and her team’s research is focused on the consequences of workplace aggression for employee and organizational outcome. Contact Dr. Yang or Dr. Hanson.
Human health and risk for disease ultimately depend on the integrity of our DNA, the genetic material that provides the body’s blueprint for manufacturing proteins that carry out the function of cells and organs. Changes in DNA during life are believed to trigger cancer and many other chronic diseases. Such changes can result from exposure to certain chemicals found in the workplace and others in the diet and medications, and to sunlight in outdoor workers. CROET research on DNA is focused on the mechanisms that can lead to prevention and therapeutic strategies for reversing DNA damage relevant to the workplace.
Scientists from the CROET laboratory of Stephen Lloyd, in collaboration with scientists from OHSU, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Arkansas and Vanderbilt University, have developed a high-throughput drug-screening assay to find a new class of novel anti-cancer drugs. The results of this work were detailed in a pilot study published in the October, 2012 issue of the open access journal, PLoS one. What is novel about the assay is that it is designed to look for drugs that inhibit a specific cellular process known to render cancer cells resistant to a commonly used class of chemotherapeutic agents.
Many chemotherapeutic agents, including drugs such as mitomycin C, cisplatin and nitrogen mustard, target tumor cells by virtue of their ability to chemically cross-link the double-stranded DNA that comprises chromosomes. DNA cross-linking interferes with DNA strand separation, which is vital to a variety of cellular functions, such as DNA replication and cell division. Because cancer cells are rapidly dividing cells, and cross-linked DNA inhibits DNA replication, the chemotherapeutic drugs induce affected cancer cells to die via a pre-programmed cell suicide mechanism known as apoptosis.
So, how do cancer cells become resistant to these chemotherapeutic drugs? It is a process known as translesion DNA synthesis (TLS), mediated by a DNA replication enzyme called pol κ, which is able to traverse cross-linked DNA and complete the replication cycle, allowing cells, including cancer cells, to survive and reproduce. Although TLS is an essential process for normal cells to survive limited genotoxic stress, the ability of pol κ to bypass DNA cross-links can limit the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents that act by the mechanism described here. Therefore, drugs that inhibit pol κ may reverse the resistance of cancer cells to these chemotherapeutic agents.
One type of cancer, gliomas, are the most common form of primary brain cancer and represent what is currently a generally incurable tumor in humans. These tumors are highly resistant to current treatment strategies, including chemotherapy with drugs that induce DNA cross-linking, leading to median survival of patients with high-grade gliomas of only one year post-diagnosis. Significantly, the amount of pol κ is increased in tumors from glioma patients, and its level is highly correlated with the grade of disease and the prognosis for cure. Thus, the identification of inhibitors that target pol κ may be crucial for improving the therapeutic efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents.
The assay developed by the Lloyd lab is actually quite simple. Moreover, it is conducted in a system comprised of 1536 tiny petri dishes, or wells, pictured here, which allows over a thousand prospective pol κ inhibitors to be tested per assay. In each well is a fluid medium holding a specialized length of double-stranded DNA containing a fluorescent marker. When pol κ is introduced, it begins to replicate the DNA molecule and consequently displaces another DNA strand that can be measured. Specifically, the DNA is designed so that, when pol κ reaches a certain spot in its replication run, another short segment of DNA containing the fluorescent marker is released from the original double strand. When released, the fluorescent marker is activated and the well glows. If a prospective pol κ inhibitor drug, also introduced into the test well, is active against pol κ, release of the fluorescent marker is prevented and the test well remains dark. Therefore, a positive test is one in which no fluorescence is detected.
Using this new assay, the scientists were able to test a library of almost 16,000 bioactive molecules at 7 different concentrations. From the original 16,000 molecules, they identified 60 prospective “hits” for further validation as pol κ inhibitors. Three of these 60 were selected as proof-of-principle compounds and further characterized for their specificity toward pol κ. Although the three compounds selected would, for a variety of reasons, not ultimately be candidates for new anti-cancer drugs, the strategy for finding such drugs was validated in this pilot study. This study has moved the research effort one step closer to the development of pol κ-targeted novel combination cancer therapeutics. The next step in the process is to expand testing to a larger molecular library of over 400,000 compounds.
Oregon’s Management-Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC) had requested, in 2011, that CROET review the State of Washington’s Centers of Occupational Health and Education (COHE) program and make recommendations about how a COHE program could be introduced in Oregon’s very different workers’ compensation program.
Dr. Mike Buck led the review for CROET and is shown here delivering the final report to MLAC, describing the changes made since the draft was commented on by MLAC members. The report recommends considering the most effective components of the COHE, rather than the whole program, and ways their effectiveness might be tested in Oregon. The entire 200-page report will be available on the MLAC website, where you will be able to obtain it by searching at: <http://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/Pages/search.aspx>.
MLAC took the report under consideration and expressed their appreciation to Drs. Mike Buck and Kent Anger, Associate Director for Applied Research at CROET, for the quality of the report.
Dr. Mike Buck is pictured in the foreground with his back to the camera. Also shown in the picture are MLAC members (from left) Bridget Quinn (NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center), Tami Cockeram (City of Hillsboro), Elana Guiney (AFL-CIO), Theresa Van Winkle (new MLAC Administrator for DCBS), Pat Allen (Director of Department of Consumer and Business Services [DCBS]), John Mohlis (Oregon Building Trades Council; Labor Co-chair), Carol Duncan (General Sheet Metal), and Paul Goldberg (Oregon Nurses Association). Kathy Nishimoto (Duckwall-Pooley; Management Co-chair), not shown, is on the conference phone.
As you may know, CROET provides two health and safety symposia every year. We try to be thoughtful as we select our topics for each of these, to provide a balance between sharing new research on emerging issues along with practical information that you can use in your workplace. What you may not know, is that for the last several years we have been recording and archiving these presentations and they are all available at no cost for you to watch as long as you have an internet connection. And you’ll see that you can select individual presentations so you aren’t committed to an entire daylong session at once.
We are eager for next week’s symposium on Workplace Aggression, co-sponsored by Portland State University Occupational Health Psychology Program. We have some top notch speakers and hope you are planning to join us here in Portland on Friday, Nov. 2. It is not too late to register, but do it today! Perhaps you can’t make it to Portland next week? Join us by webinar. Better yet, register for the webinar and set up a satellite viewing in your workplace, allowing others to join you for the day.
And what’s up for next spring, you may ask? Hint: it will relate to something that you and your workforce probably don’t get nearly enough of! Stay tuned.
The Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference was once a well kept secret. In recent years, including this week’s event with 318 registered attendees, it has proved itself to provide a wealth of top notch technical sessions and networking opportunities for health, safety, wellness and environmental professionals.
And – although not expecting it – it seems that references to Total Worker Health are popping up everywhere. Today it was in the keynote, provided by Fred Drennan of Team Safety, Inc., on Achieving Zero Harm. In the exhibit hall, Wellness at Work was presented by Jackson County Health and Human Services. Tomorrow the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center will collaborate with Oregon’s SHARP Employers to discuss wellness strategies and programs. The conversation seems to be maturing from “why integrate safety and wellness” to “how can we better do it?”
Above all it is clear that collaboration is the word of the week here in Medford. Thanks to ASSE’s Southern Oregon Chapter, Oregon OSHA, and other conference sponsors for doing such a great job pulling together this event, engaging people, and sharing top technical sessions. And if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by on Thursday to catch up!
If you’re a public health professional living in Oregon, you are likely aware of the annual Oregon Public Health Association conference. After all, the conference is the largest gathering of Public Health professionals in Oregon!
This year’s OPHA conference was held in Corvallis, Oregon on October 8th and 9th. The two-day conference kicked off with a keynote address from Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH of UCLA School of Public Health, who spoke about the impact of environment on health. The keynote was followed by sessions ranging in topic from ‘Climate Change and Green Solutions’ to ‘Workplace & Community Wellness.’
CROET staff contributed to this year’s conference through exhibits, presentations, and poster presentations. Meagan Shaw, Research Assistant at CROET, presented “Occupational Stress in Latino Agricultural Workers,” and Megan Parish, Research Associate at CROET, presented a poster titled “Characterizing a Young Working Population: Setting the Groundwork for Health and Safety Interventions.”
On a personal note, OPHA is one of my favorite conferences to attend as it not only gives me an opportunity to reconnect with fellow colleagues in public health, but also allows me to stay informed on the latest public health research and community health programs throughout Oregon. This year’s conference even shed light on a project in my very own neighborhood of Cully in Portland, OR. The ‘Story of Cully Park’ highlighted the ongoing restoration of a former landfill into a viable neighborhood park and community asset through organizational and resident partnerships.
We, at CROET, would like to thank OPHA for allowing us the opportunity to be a part of this year’s conference.
Submitted by Kendra Evans, Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Manager