Bettie M. Steinberg, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Dean, Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine
Main Area of Research
Battling a predator virus and letting patients breathe again.
Letting Patients Breathe Again
People with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis may one day thank Bettie Steinberg, PhD, for her hard work at the lab bench that led her to try COX-2 inhibitors (like Celebrex) to treat the benign tumors that grow and threaten to block the airway in patients.
Dr. Steinberg, collaborating with Allan Abramson, MD, chairman of the Otolaryngology Department at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center, discovered that COX-2 was expressed in these benign airway tumors and there was a small literature showing that these potent anti-inflammatory drugs were effective in certain cancers. They tested those drugs as a treatment for benign tumors and figured out how they worked. Now, the only approved treatment for these recurrent benign warts is surgery and for some it’s a monthly trip to the operating room.
They did a preliminary treatment study on three patients with recurrent respiratory papillomas and the results were striking. So striking, in fact, that Dr. Steinberg and her colleagues received millions of dollars in federal research money to expand the studies to include more patients. She’s also trying to understand how the ubiquitous human papillomavirus can remain dormant in most people but cause genital infections, respiratory infections, warts, papillomas or cervical cancer in others. There is now a vaccine against the human papillomavirus that could go a long way in preventing this virus from taking hold in the body.
Funding Future Research
The goal of the research in the Steinberg laboratory is to develop better ways to treat human papillomavirus, known simply as HPV.
While most people are exposed to the virus by adulthood, it is still not clear why some people’s immune systems keep the virus at bay and others suffer the consequences of the virus. “We don’t know why some people have a problem and others don’t,” said Steinberg. “We do know that it has to do with the immune system.”