March 3, 2009

CONTACT: Kim Guenther
(215) 662-6183

Penn Medicine Dermatologist Receives $3.9 Million NIH Grant to Further Understanding of Heart Attack Psoriasis Link
Dr. Joel Gelfand to Present at 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 6-8

Over the next five years, Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Associate Scholar in the Center of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will receive funding from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to study the relationship between psoriasis, cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular outcomes. This research will build a deeper understanding of the relationship between inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and myocardial infarction (heart attack), potentially paving the way for improved disease management strategies for the over 7 million Americans with psoriasis.

Dr. Gelfand will be speaking at 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in San Francisco in a briefing on Friday, March 6 from 12:15pm – 1:30pm. He will discuss his ongoing psoriasis research, which has identified an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, particularly when psoriasis is severe. For more information, please visit

As with other major chronic illnesses, psoriasis can take a toll on patients’ quality of life. The disease is characterized by thick, red, scaly skin plaques which can be localized or widespread and appears as an inflammatory joint disease in some patients.

Affecting over two percent of the adult population in the United States, psoriasis is the most common inflammatory disease categorized as T helper cell type 1 (Th-1). Increasing evidence has linked this Th-1 inflammation to the development of atherosclerosis and ultimately, myocardial infarction, suggesting that the underlying physiological mechanism that results in psoriasis may also be a risk factor for myocardial infarction. Other Th-1 diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have been shown to be independent risk factors for myocardial infarction.

For over 30 years, investigators have suggested that psoriasis may be associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. To date, however, there have been no large, broadly representative studies evaluating the impact of psoriasis severity on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes such as heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death. Severity is determined by the extent of body surface area affected by the disease. Previously, Dr. Gelfand’s research has indicated that severe psoriasis patients, as defined by treatment history, may have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death, which is independent of traditional risk factors for these outcomes.

A series of population-based cohort studies will help Gelfand and his colleagues determine if patients with mild, moderate and severe psoriasis have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, poorer control of cardiovascular risk factors, and an increased risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiovascular mortality compared to patients without psoriasis.


PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #4 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s top ten “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

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