About Us - The Scleroderma Research Foundation

Research is the key…

The Scleroderma Research Foundation (SRF) was established in 1987 by patient turned activist Sharon Monsky, when research on this potentially life threatening illness was nearly nonexistent. Since our founding, we’ve stood firm in our belief that the best way to help scleroderma patients is to fund medical research aimed at improved therapies and a cure. Today, we are the nation’s largest nonprofit investor in scleroderma research. Patients and their loved ones find hope in the fact the SRF is dedicated exclusively to funding medical research that will help them live longer, fuller lives. Thanks in large part to the SRF and its many generous donors, research and awareness is progressing at a faster pace than ever before.

The SRF funds research investigators at some of the top universities in the United States and abroad, including Dartmouth, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Royal Free and University College in the UK, Stanford University, Northwestern, Boston University, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington and others. Led by a Scientific Advisory Board comprised of some of the most highly-regarded scientists in the country, the SRF's research program brings together experts from the fields of immunology and vascular biology as well as cutting-edge technology for the benefit of scleroderma patients.

The SRF continues to lead the way in funding scleroderma research. It has maintained its position as the single largest nonprofit funding source for scleroderma research and devotes a greater percentage of its annual budget to scleroderma research, more than any other nonprofit organization. In the fiscal year ending 2013, the SRF funded more than $1,000,000 in direct research grants.

Medical research to find better treatments for scleroderma patients is both time-consuming and expensive. Thanks entirely to thousands of supporters and generous donors, the SRF is able to expedite research progress and bring top scientists into the field of scleroderma research. The SRF’s collaborative approach is enabling scientists from leading institutions across the nation—and around the world—to work together and develop an understanding of how the disease begins, how it progresses and what can be done to slow, halt or reverse the disease process.

As another core feature of its research program, the SRF continues to provide funding to establish and support Scleroderma Centers where clinical research can be advanced. At these Centers, clinicians with large numbers of patients can collaborate with researchers and new scleroderma doctors and specialists can be trained.

Knowing that future discovery will come from the next generation of scientists, the SRF continues to provide grants to young investigators. Postdoctoral fellowship grants allow researchers to enter the field of scleroderma research and work alongside established investigators. As an indicator of success, several SRF-funded fellows are now dedicating their early careers to the field of scleroderma research.

Each year, the SRF hosts a Scientific Workshop where SRF-funded researchers and other investigators engage in high level discussions about the state of scleroderma research. In addition, the SRF supports important educational initiatives such as the International Scleroderma Workshop. Collectively, these programs promote the sharing of ideas and new discoveries that further progress toward a cure.

Current IRS Form 990 and audited financial statements are available for review as Adobe PDF downloads in the Legal Notices and Privacy Information section of this website.

The continued success of the SRF research program is entirely dependent upon charitable gifts. These gifts come in many forms from generous people around the world who recognize that the SRF is dedicated to solving the mystery of scleroderma.

The SRF administrative lead staff are:

Alex Gonzalez
Director of Development

Amy Hewitt
Executive Director

Charles Spaulding
Vice President, Communications

 
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Research News

Emerging cellular and molecular targets in fibrosis: implications for scleroderma pathogenesis and targeted therapy.

Author: Castelino FV, Varga J.
Date Published: September-2014
Source: Current Opinion in Rheumatology

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To summarize the recent advances in understanding the novel cytokine pathways, intracellular signaling molecules, cell-fate decisions, cellular aging and senescence, and the cross-talk of effector cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) fibrosis. RECENT FINDINGS: Studies from the animal models and human beings implicate novel molecular pathways such as Wnts, the chemokines, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 4 and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2, and the lipid mediators lysophosphatidic acid and sphingosine-1-phosphate in the pathogenesis of SSc. These signals, coupled with the mesenchymal cell-fate decisions, contribute to aberrant fibroblast activation and myofibroblast accumulation.

Update on scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease.

Author: Fan MH, Feghali-Bostwick CA, Silver RM.
Date Published: September-2014
Source: Current Opinion in Rheumatology

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Systemic sclerosis (SSc), or scleroderma, is a heterogeneous and complex autoimmune disease characterized by varying degrees of skin and organ fibrosis and obliterative vasculopathy. The disease results in significant morbidity and mortality, and to date, available treatments are limited. Lung involvement is the leading cause of death of patients with SSc. Over the past year, significant advances have been made in our understanding of SSc-associated lung disease, and this review attempts to encapsulate these most recent findings and place them in context.

First-Line Combination of Ambrisentan and Tadalafil Reduces Risk of Clinical Failure Compared to Monotherapy in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Outcomes Study

Author: Bene MD, Pozzi MR, Rovati L, Mazzola I, Erba G, Bonomi S
Date Published: August-2014
Source: PubMed

Digital ulcers (DUs) occur in up to 50% of patients with Systemic Sclerosis (SSc). DUs are painful, recurring and lead to functional disability. Management of DUs includes pharmacologic and local therapy, the healing process is slow and the ulcer can become infected or evolve to gangrene. Autologous fat grafting (AFG) is a technique used to promote tissues repair. We used AFG to treat DUs refractory to conventional treatment to enhance healing process.

MicroRNAs in Pulmonary Hypertension

Author: Guofei Zhou, Tianji Chen, and J Usha Raj
Date Published: August-2014
Source: ATS Journals

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating disease without effective treatment. Despite decades of research and development of novel treatments, PAH remains a fatal disease, suggesting an urgent need for better understanding of the pathogenesis of PAH. Recent studies suggest that microRNAs (miRNAs) are dysregulated in patients with PAH and in experimental pulmonary hypertension. Furthermore, normalization of a few miRNAs is reported to inhibit experimental pulmonary hypertension.

Joint and tendon involvement predict disease progression in systemic sclerosis: a EUSTAR prospective study

Author: J. Avouac, U. Walker, E. Hachulla, G. Riemekasten, G. Cuomo, et al
Date Published: August-2014
Source: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

Objective To determine whether joint synovitis and tendon friction rubs (TFRs) can predict the progression of systemic sclerosis (SSc) over time. Patients and methods We performed a prospective cohort study that included 1301 patients with SSc from the EUSTAR database with disease duration ≤3 years at inclusion and with a follow-up of at least 2 years. Presence or absence at clinical examination of synovitis and TFRs was extracted at baseline. Outcomes were skin, cardiovascular, renal and lung progression. Overall disease progression was defined according to the occurrence of at least one organ progression.

News for Patients

Update on scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease.

Author: Fan MH, Feghali-Bostwick CA, Silver RM.
Date Published: September-2014
Source: Current Opinion in Rheumatology

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Systemic sclerosis (SSc), or scleroderma, is a heterogeneous and complex autoimmune disease characterized by varying degrees of skin and organ fibrosis and obliterative vasculopathy. The disease results in significant morbidity and mortality, and to date, available treatments are limited. Lung involvement is the leading cause of death of patients with SSc. Over the past year, significant advances have been made in our understanding of SSc-associated lung disease, and this review attempts to encapsulate these most recent findings and place them in context.

Emerging cellular and molecular targets in fibrosis: implications for scleroderma pathogenesis and targeted therapy.

Author: Castelino FV, Varga J.
Date Published: September-2014
Source: Current Opinion in Rheumatology

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To summarize the recent advances in understanding the novel cytokine pathways, intracellular signaling molecules, cell-fate decisions, cellular aging and senescence, and the cross-talk of effector cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) fibrosis. RECENT FINDINGS: Studies from the animal models and human beings implicate novel molecular pathways such as Wnts, the chemokines, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 4 and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2, and the lipid mediators lysophosphatidic acid and sphingosine-1-phosphate in the pathogenesis of SSc. These signals, coupled with the mesenchymal cell-fate decisions, contribute to aberrant fibroblast activation and myofibroblast accumulation.

Update in systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension

Author: Gashouta MA, Humbert M, Hassoun PM
Date Published: August-2014
Source: Press Medical

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is one of the leading causes of death in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Despite advances in treatment options for PAH, long-term prognosis remains poor for scleroderma-associated PAH (SSc-PAH). Although prompt diagnosis and treatment of PAH may have significant impact on survival rates, early detection of the syndrome continues to be challenging in SSc due to several factors ranging from limitations of the current screening tools and the complexities of the disease. In comparison with other PAH subgroups, SSc-PAH patients respond poorly to conventional forms of PAH therapy.

Kidney involvement in systemic sclerosis.

Author: Steen VD.
Date Published: August-2014
Source: Press Medical

Kidney involvement in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is primarily manifested by scleroderma renal crisis (SRC). Formerly, it was the most severe complication in scleroderma and was the most frequent cause of death in these patients. More than 30years ago, with the development of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, SRC became a very treatable complication of scleroderma. Although there are still many patients who do not survive and have poor outcomes, early diagnosis of renal crisis and prompt therapeutic intervention can achieve excellent outcomes. Renal abnormalities independent of renal crisis have been noted, but can usually be attributed to other problems.

FDA Grants Arena Pharmaceuticals’ PAH Investigational Drug Orphan Drug Status

Author: Leonor Mateus Ferreira
Date Published: September-2014
Source: Pulmonary Hypertension News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted APD811, an investigational drug candidate internally developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, orphan drug status. APD811 is an oral agonist of the prostacyclin (IP) receptor, which is designed for the treatment of vasospastic diseases, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). “The FDA Office of Orphan Products Development (OOPD) evaluates scientific and clinical data submissions from sponsors to identify and designate drug candidates that could potentially treat rare diseases to help advance the evaluation and development of such products,” explained Craig M. Audet, Ph.D., Arena’s senior vice president of operations and head of global regulatory affairs.

Ways to Give

There are many ways that you can support the work of the Scleroderma Research Foundation. We are grateful for your commitment to helping the SRF fund research that will result in improved therapies and, ultimately, a cure.

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