SIU Hearing Loss Researcher Named Inventor of the Year

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November 6, 2012

SIU Hearing Loss Researcher Named Inventor of the Year

Studies of protective agent advancing

A faculty researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has received the Inventor of the Year Award from Southern Illinois University. Kathleen Campbell, Ph.D., was honored for her work with agents that can protect against noise- and drug-induced hearing loss and other side effects of cancer therapies. Campbell is professor and director of audiology research in the Division of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery at SIU School of Medicine. The award was given on October 19, 2012, during the SIU Technology and Innovation Expo in Carbondale.

Campbell was recognized for her decades of research in protective agents, particularly an amino acid called D-Methionine, which has shown enormous potential in four areas:  noise-induced hearing loss, drug-induced hearing loss from platinum-based chemotherapy, aminoglycoside antibiotics used for moderate to severe infections and for treating radiation-induced oral mucositis, a condition that occurs following radiation treatment for head and neck cancers. It also has shown to reduce other side effects of chemotherapy and radiation cancer treatments, including weight loss, loss of sensitivity in hands and feet, and oral soreness and swallowing disorders. “D-Methionine is proving to be one of the most promising therapies that could be available to patients as an oral medication within just a few years,” Campbell said.

D-Methionine, or “D-Met,” is a component of fermented protein. It is a potent antioxidant present in many foods, including cheese and yogurt. “But you would have to eat pounds and pounds of these foods every day to receive any benefit,” Campbell said. “D-Met can be a Trojan Horse in that it can protect against hearing loss but can also provide other benefits once it is in a person’s system. It acts both directly and indirectly on the free radicals caused by oxidative stress.”

She has received federal funding for basic science studies in her laboratory and advanced-level clinical trials for D-Met. She has five U.S. patents covering four areas of invention and nearly $6 million in active research funding. Her research has generated more than $8.2 million in national, international and patent revenue for SIU School of Medicine.

All of her studies are advancing, but the one with the most imminent potential is to prevent noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is the most common cause of hearing loss worldwide.   

With two patents and a current total of $3.8 million in current NIHL research funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, Campbell is close to finalizing Phase 3 clinical studies that will move D-Met closer to becoming the first clinical therapy to treat and prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

“D-Met may hold the key to improve the quality of life for individuals exposed to high noise levels, such as our troops in the military. It also may improve the quality of life for patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer or receiving IV antibiotics for moderate to severe infections. By controlling the side effects of these treatments, more patients may be able to complete the treatments with good quality of life, perhaps even with higher treatment doses,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s background in chemistry, combined with 26 years treating patient as an audiologist makes her a uniquely skilled scientist to translate her research from bench to bedside. Her textbook, Pharmacology and Ototoxicity for Audiologists, is widely used in academia. “It’s so exciting to be close to helping the patients with hearing loss like I used to see in clinic,” she said. Her lab team includes Robert Meech, Daniel Fox, Tim Hargrove, Ph.D. and Jill Anderson, Ph.D. She also works closely with the SIU Center for Clinical Research, directed by Sandra Puczynski, Ph.D., and with the SIU Office of Technology Transfer, directed by Rob Patino.

She has served as principal investigator on more than 20 research grants and contracts funded by agencies such as the Veterans Administration, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging and National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders. 

She joined SIU’s faculty in 1989. Previously, Campbell was in charge of electrophysiologic measures for the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Iowa (UI) in Iowa City (1982-88), and a clinician in British Columbia, starting the first audiology clinic in the Canadian Rockies for BC Public Health (1977-82). She earned her doctorate degree in auditory science at UI (1989), her master’s in clinical audiology at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion (1977) and her bachelor’s at South Dakota State University in Brookings (1973). 

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