I n n o v a t i o n s in women s health research
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I N N O V A T I O N S IN WOMEN’S HEALTH RESEARCH. What is the Women’s Research Program at the La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine?. How did the “Innovations” program come about?. Why is “Innovations in Women’s Health Research” different?. Who is behind the “Innovations” Program?

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I N N O V A T I O N S IN WOMEN’S HEALTH RESEARCH

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I n n o v a t i o n s in women s health research

I N N O V A T I O N SIN WOMEN’S HEALTH RESEARCH

What is the Women’s Research Program at the La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine?

How did the “Innovations” program come about?

Why is “Innovations in Women’s Health Research” different?

Who is behind the “Innovations” Program?

How can I help?


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  • The Women’s Health Research Program integrates cancer and vascular disease research to address fundamental issues in women’s health.

  • The La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine is one of few institutions that place major emphasis on Women’s Health research.

  • It is founded on the fact that disease processes and therefore, diagnosis and treatment, differ in men and women.

  • The program’s research has resulted in the discovery of key molecular links between obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hormone regulation and cancer.

The Women’s Health Research Program at

La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine


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The Women’s Health Research Program at

La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine


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  • Innovations is an outreach program designed to inform audiences about the health care concerns of women and the current biomedical research that will influence the way in which women’s health issues are currently addressed.

  • The program is focused on communicating the benefits of informed health care consumers through seminars, a network of resources and updates on ‘hot topics’ in women’s health research.

  • The program features leading experts from across the country including Dr. Carole Banka, Director of Women’s Health Research, and other faculty from LJIMM.

What is the

Innovations in Women’s Health Research program?


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  • This program consists of lectures, workshops, and seminars on a wide range of women’s health topics, including research that has recently been translated to patient care.

  • This concept of “Research to Relief” will be presented by internationally known speakers from institutions throughout the country.

  • Topics include:

    • Obesity and diabetes

    • Heart disease

    • Stroke

    • Breast cancer

    • Peri-menopause and menopause

    • Ovarian cycle and birth control

    • Fertility and fetal development

    • Post-partum depression

    • Autoimmune diseases

    • Ovarian cancer

What is the

Innovations in Women’s Health Research program?


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  • Collaboration: The Woman’s Health Division constantly seeks collaborative relationships with experts in Women’s Health research, both at an Institute level and other research institutes as well.

  • Dedication: For the past decade, Dr. Carole Banka has assisted the women of San Diego County in understanding health issues specific to women, helping them become better advocates for their own health.

  • Science: The program’s objective is to educate women in specific women health related issues; providing an scientific overview in lay terms that can eventually help them make and informed decision on their health

  • Resource: The Innovations program provides additional references of organizations that can eventually provide extensive knowledge on specific women health issues.

What Makes Innovations different from other programs?


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Innovations in Women’s Health Research Leadership

Carole Banka, Ph.D.

Director, Woman’s Health Research Program, Associate Professor,

La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine

Dr. Banka is Associate Professor of Vascular Biology and Cancer and Director of Women’s Health Research at La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine (LJIMM).

Her research focuses on:

  • modeling menopause for investigating the roles of estrogen and other sex steroids in heart disease and obesity; and

  • modeling breast cancer for investigating the role of estrogen on healthy host tissues.

    She has authored more than 25 publications and has been quoted in editorials in the journal, Science, and in The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Banka has served on peer review committees for the American Heart Association (AHA) and the NIH.


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Innovations in Women’s Health Research Leadership

Her research has been supported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the NIH, the DOD and the State of California.

Dr. Banka’s passion for women’s issues in science resulted in her receipt of the 2002 Special Recognition Award from the AHA and the 2005 Mentoring Award from AHA. For her outreach work related to women’s health, she received the Woman of Accomplishment Award from Soroptomist International in 2005. Dr. Banka was the keynote speaker for the AHA Women’s Legacy Luncheon (Go Red for Women) in February 2006 and was just awarded and the Bravo Advocate of the Year Award from NAWBO May in 2006

Dr. Banka received her Ph.D. from the University of California San Francisco, School of Medicine. She did postdoctoral training in ovarian physiology and cholesterol metabolism at UCSD and The Scripps Research Institute, respectively. Dr. Banka joined the La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine in 2000.


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Program Summary


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February, 2006

Dr. Mario Bourdon, LJIMM President and CEO, with two of our biggest supporters: Michelle Candland and our Friend Doug Dawson

February, 2006

Dr. Carole Banka presenting the first seminar of the series “innovations in women’s health: Why Women’s health Research?”

February, 2006

More than 150 Friends and Supporters enjoying a night of

Information and fun

Our friends from the American Lung Association and supporters among the audience

February, 2006.

San Diego, CA.- Feb. 2006

Among the topics covered by our Dr. Carole Banka during the program, “Why Women’s Health Research?”: heart disease in women, the obesity epidemic, the future of “personalized medicine”.

Bottom line, “we are not just small men”. Our symptoms are different, and therefore, health issues need to be treated differently. The greatest need: information on gender differences and their translation to medical care for women.

Only in the past 15 years have gender differences in disease risk, disease symptoms,, drug reactions and/

or effectiveness, and socio-economic constraints governing health care issues come to light. The differences have profound consequences for women’s health and quality of life.

The impact of gender-specific illnesses is so profound that the National Institutes of Health have created the Office on Women’s Health. Yet, few women have real-time access to cutting-edge research that will become the “evidence-based” standards for the next decade.

The mission of the “Innovations” program is to create awareness of women’s health issues, and the research related to them.


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May, 2006

San Diego, CA.- May, 2006 -The La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine celebrated the second presentation of its series: “Innovations is Women’s Health Research” program: “Obesity: Every Woman’s Concern”.

Why should women be concerned about their weight? What are the findings behind research in Obesity? We all know that overweight women have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.

Now, new research suggests that, in addition to these health problems, adipose tissue (fat cells) is a major endocrine organ that produces significant levels of estrogen and inflammatory proteins that in turn, cascade a parade of organ reactions leading to cancer and vascular disease.

Prior to research conducted at the institute, adipose tissue was not thought to produce hormones to cause a significant reaction in obese women patients.

  • Significant findings emerging from research focusing on the relationship between adipose tissues and its effect on women’s health are:

  • Obesity is now a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

  • Men tend to loose more weight by dieting, whereas women loose the weight through exercise.

  • A 30% reduction in women’s excess weight significantly reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

  • Even though there have been significant breakthroughs in the study of adipose tissue and its relationship to health risk factors for women, the precise role of the inflammatory signals of adipose tissue remains to be explored.

Dr. Carole Banka and our guest panelists. From left to right: Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, Dr. Carol Yates, Dr. Mitchel Goldman, and Dr. Fahumiya Samaad.

May, 2006.

Our guest Panelists in Action: providing additional information on obesity and its relationship to gender and age.

May, 2006.

Friends and Supporters at our event in May, 2006.


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September, 2006

Third “Innovations in Women’s Health Research” Seminar “Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer” Provides Wealth of Information on Latest Research and Medical Treatment.

San Diego, CA.- May, 2006 -San Diego, CA.—September, 2006. The La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine (LJIMM) and its “Innovations in Women’s Health Research” program teamed with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) in heightening awareness of the hidden symptoms of ovarian cancer. Keynote Speaker, Dr. Barbara Goff from the University of Washington, School of Medicine joined Naomi Whitacre, NOCC Vice President and ovarian cancer survivor; Dr. Barbara Mueller, Associate Professor at the Cancer Division of LJIMM, and Dr. Carole Banka, Director of Women’s Health Research at LJIMM in presenting the latest research and findings in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

Because ovarian cancer symptoms are often confused, the alliance of women researchers and survivors was passionate in getting the message across - … it whispers, so listen ... a tagline created by the NOCC. Listen to your body and take a proactive approach in being the best advocate for your health.

  • Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:

  • Vague but persistent and unexplained gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, nausea, and indigestion

  • Abdominal bloating, pelvic and/or

  • abdominal pain, and/or feeling of fullness

  • Unexplained change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss

  • Frequency and/or urgency of urination

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Unexplained postmenopausal vaginal bleeding

“Of course I was bloated sometimes, went to the bathroom all the time,  watched my tummy get bigger no matter how much I exercised - I  thought it was because I was getting older but little did I realize  it was because of ovarian cancer “ comments Naomi Whitacre, panelist and ovarian cancer survivor.


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January, 2007

San Diego, CA - Jan. 27, 2007. After successfully presenting issues concerning women’s health—obesity, ovarian cancer and general medical differences between man and woman— the La Jolla Foundation for Molecular Medicine Research through the “Innovations” program presented its latest seminar “Stress in Women: It’s Not ‘Fight or Flight’ but ‘Tend and Befriend”. Our program director, Dr. Carole Banka, hosted Drs. Hillary Stokes and Kimbery Ward to present gender differences in dealing with stress, and invited Mrs. Theresa Amos-Smullen to give testimony on how stress factors in her life ended in severe heart complications.

  • Dr. Banka summarized new research findings:

  • Women participate in “Fight or Flight” behavior when necessary; however, “Tend and Befriend” behavior reduces chronic stress in women, most likely through oxytocyn release.

  • Stress increases ovarian cancer tumor burden and metastasis in female mice.


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What our partners say about the program:

Our Sponsors and Committee Members

“Innovations in Women’s Health” Founding Sponsors:

Brent & Joan Jacobs

Steering Committee:

Carole Bankla, Ph.D

Brad BenterMario Bourdon, Ph.D.

Michelle Candland Geri Danzig

Maryam Davodi-Far

Jane Howell

Katie Klinger, Ph.D.

Skaiderite Krisans, Ph. D.

Len LafebreKaren MendezCarolyn Northrup

Kelly Poirier

Ann Siemens, Ph.D

Deborah Wulff

Bronze Circle Members:

Ann Siemens, Ph.D.

Bink Cook

Carole Banka, Ph. D.

Katie Klinger, Ph.D.

Susana Leon-Krieger

Kelly Poirier

Joan Smardan

Maria C. Sendra de Ortega

Skaiderite Krisans, Ph.D.


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Membership Programs:


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