Otolaryngology research at MUSC has its roots within the Department of Otolaryngology, and has developed into a collaborative research program involving interdisciplinary researchers with faculty appointments in multiple clinical and basic science departments. An essential ingredient to a successful research program is an administrative structure and incentives provided by the Department and the University. For example, through a competitive process, MUSC Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost John Raymond, M.D. had designated the Hearing Research Program as a University Center and provided $100,000/year for three years to support recruitment of new faculty. The recruitment of Mark A. Eckert, Ph.D. (from Stanford; neuroimaging) into a tenure-track position was made possible with this support.

Another significant example of institutional support is the University’s $1.2 million match to the $1 million Extramural Research Facilities Construction Project (C06) awarded to the Departments of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources. The renovation project provided centralized research facilities and additional laboratories to support recruitment of new faculty. With this renovation, the personnel and laboratories of the Hearing Research Program are now located on four floors of the Walton Research Building and directly across the street from the clinical facilities of the Departments of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. This new proximity further enhances the already strong interactions between investigators from many disciplines.

With the recruitment of Terry Day, M.D. as Director of the Head and Neck Tumor Program, Deanne Lathers, Ph.D. (tumor immunology; tumor induced immune suppression), and M. Rita Young, Ph.D. (tumor immunology and immunotherapy; tumor vascularization), a significant research effort was launched in tumor biology and immunology, with a focus on basic, translational, and clinical research in head and neck cancer. This program is significantly enhanced by collaborations with Steve Rosenzweig, Ph.D. from Pharmacology (insulin-like growth factor binding proteins), Stanley Hoffman, Ph.D. from Medicine/Rheumatology and Immunology (extracellular matrix proteins), James Norris, Ph.D. from Microbiology and Immunology (anti-tumor therapies), Besim Ogretmen, Ph.D. from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (regulation of tumor growth), and Bryan Toole, Ph.D. (cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions).

Basic science laboratories were established in the Strom Thurmond Building and clinical research facilities were made available at the Hollings Cancer Center. An application for a PPG focused on treatment targets to prevent progression of premalignant oral lesions to cancer is planned for submission to NIH/NCI on June 1, 2006. In addition to the program in tumor biology, Bonnie Martin-Harris, Ph.D. added a research focus in swallowing physiology and founded the MUSC Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing.

Rodney Schlosser, M.D. began a new research initiative in rhinology and sinus, including studies of inflammation in chronic sinusitis, especially in patients with cystic fibrosis, and non-surgical treatment of benign sinus tumors. The Rhinology Division has received nearly $1 million in funding to study various aspects of the immunologic response in chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. We are actively conducting trials to investigate novel therapeutic modalities for sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. Basic science research involves collaborators from the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, Pulmonary Medicine and Pediatrics. In addition, the Rhinology division works with several medical equipment companies to design and develop new cutting-edge equipment in order to better treat our patients.

Faculty members, David White, M.D. and Ted Meyer, M.D., Ph.D., are developing research programs in pediatric otolaryngology and cochlear implants, respectively.

Researchers in the Department include outstanding senior investigators and junior investigators who are at various stages in the development of independent research careers. This balance is reflected in the nature of current NIH support. In addition to the P50 and R01s from three NIH institutes (NIDCD, NIA, NCI) led by senior investigators, there have been several K-awards from NIH  (Amy R. Horwitz, Ph.D. and Bonnie-Martin Harris, Ph.D.) and additional applications are in the planning stages (Kelly C. Harris, Ph.D. and Ted A. Meyer, M.D., Ph.D.). This personnel mixture brings economic balance to the program as well as fostering collaborative independence and interdependence among junior and senior investigators. Balance is also achieved through the expansion of research from the initial focus on hearing and deafness to include current efforts in head and neck oncology, laryngology, otology, and rhinology. The availability of several sources of external support (including the VA) as well as intramural support helps smooth inherent fluctuations in funding from the NIH and the institutional budget, enabling longer-term commitments to personnel and longer-range scientific planning. Support from private foundations has allowed junior investigators to commence independent research projects. Although all these sources of support are important, the NIH P50 is the foundation of the hearing research program, and an additional PPG will be a significant enhancement to the tumor biology program. This type of funding allows a level of research, especially, collaborative research, well beyond the means of any other grant mechanism. As evidence of the success of the research program, the department currently ranks tenth in NIH dollars awarded to Departments of Otolaryngology and first in the Southeast Research awards to department faculty from all sources now exceed $5.0 million per year.