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The research programs of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery are focused on diverse aspects of heart disease and chest disease, from molecular science to better understand them to the development of new therapies and surgical technique. All of these programs aim ultimately to advance patient care.

Our physicians lead national research, serve on editorial boards of prestigious publications, and publish their findings in the top peer-reviewed journals. They also train medical students and surgical residents to do research.

Our 2011-13 Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) grant, awarded the Division by New York State’s Department of Health, supports the training fellowship of a physician for cardiac research, and further attests to the strengths of our cardiac surgery lab. This is one of only four ECRIP-funded fellowships awarded to Stony Brook University.

The faculty’s current areas of research interest include:

  • Angiogenesis for "biologic bypass"
  • Gene therapy
  • Induced stem cell technology
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Development of devices to enhance minimally-invasive mitral valve repair surgery
  • Robotically-assisted bypass surgery
  • Optimization of the intensive care unit and total length of stay after adult cardiac surgery

Funding in support of the Division’s basic/translational research is currently provided by the NIH, New York’s ECRIP program, the Lisa and James Cohen Family Endowment (five-year grant for angiogenesis), and the Stony Brook University Department of Surgery and School of Medicine. In addition, major pharmaceutical companies provide support for clinical trials of newly developed drug therapies.

The faculty’s publications demonstrate their high level of accomplishment and productivity as physician-scientists committed to advancing scientific knowledge to improve patient care and population health.

Basic/Translational Research

The Division is a leader in taking research from “bench to bedside” to benefit our patients. We are currently operating an NIH-funded laboratory for angiogenesis — aiming to develop gene therapy that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, for a "biologic bypass" procedure to treat coronary artery disease.

Our angiogenesis lab is currently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it is one of only 25 NIH-funded cardiac surgery labs in the country.

We are also conducting basic/translational research aimed at the development of stem cell therapy for the rescue of wounded heart tissue resulting from heart attack. Our cardiac lab is currently at work identifying the role of the Egr-1 gene in vessel formation using knockout models and rescue of infarct scar (wounded tissue resulting from heart attack) using injection of induced pluripotent stem cells.

In addition, Thomas V. Bilfinger, MD, ScD, is conducting studies to better understand the molecular effects of surgery and lung cancer on the physiology of the brain. This research involves the study of small molecules in the brain with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.

Other studies are now being conducted by Dr. Bilfinger in the areas of thoracic aortic disease and spinal cord ischemia, with the aim of developing a monitoring device to detect direct blood flow to the spinal cord.

Clinical Trials

The Division’s faculty is actively exploring the causes, treatments, and prevention of both heart disease and lung/chest disease not only to further the science of medicine, but also to see that our patients truly receive the most advanced care. One of the ways that patients may access emerging therapies and advanced technology is through clinical research.

Our clinical trials related to heart disease include a range of new strategies to improve the outcomes of heart surgery and also the technology used by surgeons. Evaluations of newly developed drug therapies to improve surgical outcomes are conducted, as well.

Our clinical trials related to lung cancer lung cancer and other cancers in the chest offer patients the only available access to these trials in Suffolk County. Since 1999, the Division has been a member of the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG) in order to participate in multi-center clinical trials of thoracic surgery for the treatment of these cancers.

For information about our current clinical trials, please click here. To speak with our research coordinator Leah Smith-McAllister, call 631-444-7230.