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Robert                         Plunkett

Robert J. Plunkett MD

Department of Neurosurgery

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

Specialty/Research Focus

Neurological Surgery; Neurology

Professional Summary:

I have two major research interests: trophic factors as novel treatments for Parkinson‘s disease and CNS neoplasms. My lab has been characterizing the response to trauma in the caudate nucleus of parkinsonian animals. This work grew out of the observation that tissue grafts for parkinsonism lead to modest behavioral improvement, even when the graft did not survive. We have shown that several trophic factors are present in the caudate of rats after trauma which simulates graft placement. Both brain derived neurotrophic factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor are found in the caudate predictably at intervals after the surgical trauma. Further, there is at least one other, as yet unidentified factor present after trauma in the caudate. We have moved beyond identification to use of BDNF in parkinsonian models. Infusion of BDNF into the dopamine deficient caudate of a hemiparkinsonian rat leads to behavioral improvement and increased tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) staining, the rate limiting enzyme for dopamine synthesis. We are currently working on a delivery system to distribute BDNF, or other macromolecules like trophic factors, in the striatum of primates.

The second area of active interest is in two forms of CNS neoplasia: leukemic meningitis and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). We have created an animal model of leukemic meningitis in the athynic (nude) rat, using a human leukemic cell line. In collaboration with Dr. Steve Greenberg, we are working on a gene therapy approach using a white cell specific promoter and the viral thymidine kinase "suicide" enzyme. We are testing the constructs in vitro and in the nude rat model. In addition, we are working withDr. Greenberg to study the biology of GBM by transfecting human GBM cell lines with genes for vascular growth factors. Basic fibroblast growth factor, transforming growth factor beta, and endothelin-1 are currently being studied. The behavior of the transfected GBM cell lines are characterized in vitro, and after implantation into the frontal lobe of nude rats. By understanding how the transfected genes affect tumor growth, we hope to devise novel treatment strategies, potentially utilizing gene therapy.

Education and Training:
  • Fellowship, National Institutes of Health (1990)
  • Residency, Vanderbilt University Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery (1986)
  • Fellowship, Vanderbilt University Hospital, Surgical Research Laboratory (1981)
  • Residency, Vanderbilt University Hospital, Department of Surgery (1980)
  • MD, Indiana University School of Medicine (1978)
  • BA, Indiana University (1974)
  • Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, University at Buffalo (1998-present)
  • Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, University at Buffalo (1996–1998)
  • Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, University at Buffalo (1990–1996)
  • Clinical Chief of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, Buffalo General Hospital (1991–1995)
  • Tenured Medical Officer, Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institutes of Health (1990)
  • Part-time Staff, Department of Neurological Surgery, Walter Reed Army Medical Center (1988–1990)

Journal Articles:
See all (31 more)
Evaluative Studies and Case Reports:

Professional Memberships:
  • American Medical Association
  • Research Society of Neurological Surgeons
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Meacham Neurosurgical Society
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • Erie County Medical Society
  • American Neuromodulation Society
  • American Pain Society
  • AANS Joint Section on Tumors
  • American Society for Neural Transplantation
  • AANS Joint Section on Pain
See all (2 more)
Service Activities:
  • Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Faculty Council; Member (1990–1994)
  • OR Committee Member, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (2002–present)
  • Parkinson’s Wellness Group of Western New York, Inc.; Support group for and promotes awareness for those living with Parkinson’s Disease; Advisor (2000–present)
  • Blood Products Committee, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Member (1998–2005)
  • Medical Administrative Committee, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (1991–1995)
  • Medical Executive Committee, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (1991–1995)
  • Staff Executive Committee, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (1991–1995)
  • Animal Care Committee, VA Medical Center; Member (1991–1994)
  • Surgery Search Committee for the Chief of Surgery, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (1991–1993)
  • "Think First" of Western New York; Support group for head injury prevention and awareness; Advisory Board (1991–present)
  • Corporate Special Care Units Committee, Buffalo General Hospital; Member (1990–present)

School News:
In the Media:

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Contact Information

5959 Big Tree Road
Suite 103
Orchard Park, NY 14127
Phone: 716-218-1000

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