In recent months, I have had the pleasure of talking with Kathleen Campbell about her groundbreaking research. What comes through in every conversation is her boundless enthusiasm. She knows that the discovery she has made may affect millions of people. It’s not about ego; her goal is improving quality of life, and that’s what has her so excited.
Kathy is a professor and director of audiology research in the Division of Otolaryngology in our School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery in Springfield. Her focus is the amino acid D-Methionine, or D-met. If you eat cheese or yogurt, you are consuming this potent antioxidant. But, you would have to eat pounds of those foods every day to realize the benefit.
Kathy’s laboratory tests show that D-met can prevent hearing loss for people exposed to excessive noise, platinum-based chemotherapy, or certain antibiotics used for moderate to severe infections.
It reduces other side effects from chemotherapy and radiation cancer treatments, including weight loss, loss of sensitivity in hands and feet, and oral soreness and swallowing disorders.
“This won’t cure cancer, but if we can give patients good quality of life while going through treatments, that will make a big difference,” Kathy says.
She soon will take D-met into FDA-approved clinical trials. The U.S. Department of Defense is so enthusiastic about D-met’s potential for troops that Kathy has received $4 million to support her efforts.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss worldwide,” Kathy says. “It costs our military and the Veterans Affairs system more than $1.9 billion every year. It’s also about survivability. If you have a four-member tank crew and one is hearing impaired, survivability decreases by 50 percent. The military wants this problem fixed.”
D-met can be given up to seven hours after exposure to noise to prevent hearing loss from becoming permanent.
This is intensely personal for Kathy. Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law are disabled Army veterans.
“To have a chance to test this in clinical trials with the Army is near and dear to me,” Kathy says. “I’ve been working on this for about two decades.”
She also has experienced cancer in her family.
“My dad died from lung cancer. Mom remarried a great guy, and he developed brain cancer. He couldn’t eat or swallow, and he refused a feeding tube. To see them go through that, I thought we needed to do something,” Kathy recalls. “I went back to my lab and tried D-met. It worked.”
We are extremely proud of Kathy. She is one of the many researchers and scientists at SIU dedicated to improving quality of life for all.
RITA CHENG is chancellor of SIU Carbondale. Her column appears weekly in Southern Plus.