INVOLVED IN A BIG WAY—Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark stands on the sidelines late the fourth quarter of a Steelers’ 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh in 2012. Clark has never been afraid to speak his mind. That blunt honesty—and a work ethic forged from a decade in the NFL—is one of the reasons his teammates made the veteran a captain for the first time in his career. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Physicians and scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are developing better treatments for children and adults with sickle cell disease (SCD). Their ultimate goal is to find a cure.

Pittsburgh Steelers captain Ryan Clark, who has personally been affected by SCD, supports their work. As a sickle cell trait carrier, he experienced a life-threatening crisis—brought on by altitude—while playing a game in Denver. Sadly, he also lost his sister-in-law to complications from SCD. She was only 27.

“After my ordeal in Denver, and following Kim’s death, my wife and I prayed daily for guidance about what to do next. I didn’t just want to lend my name to a cause; I wanted to get involved in a big way. That’s when we approached the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC about our idea of creating Ryan Clark’s Cure League,” Clark says.

“We feel so fortunate to have these amazing doctors and scientists working with us. It takes immense strength to withstand the constant pain and unpredictable attacks associated with SCD. I want people to know that they are not fighting the disease alone. The Cure League and its members will stand by them and this initiative until we eliminate the stigma people face as sickle cell patients and until researchers develop new Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments and scientific insights that lead to a cure.”

Because the scientific community now knows more about how SCD works, Pitt research efforts are focused on developing better medicines to help patients now as well as finding a cure for the disease.

Participating in a clinical research trial is one of the best ways to help this important research.

Clinical trials play a critical role in helping researchers know more about the disease. The trials show how new treatments work in people and which treatments work better than others. These trials also lead to discoveries of better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the complications of SCD.

There are more than a dozen clinical trials underway, focused on many parts of SCD, including:

•better control of pain

•prevention of blood clots

•treatment of high blood pressure

•other complications of the disease

To learn more about these and other research programs, call Pitt’s Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute at 412-648-9031.


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