Published September 21, 2015 This content is archived.
The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA) has awarded Gil I. Wolfe, MD, professor and Irvin and Rosemary chair of neurology, with the 2015 Doctor of the Year Award.
“I am grateful and honored to receive the Doctor of the Year award from the MGFA, an organization I have worked closely with over the years,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe is an expert on neuromuscular disorders with a special focus on myasthenia gravis (MG), the most common disease of neuromuscular transmission.
Currently clinical chair of a worldwide National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded trial, Wolfe is continuing research on a surgical procedure he helped develop called thymectomy.
Thymectomies are routinely performed on MG patients with and without thymoma, a chest tumor.
The study is assessing the benefit of thymectomy beyond conventional medications in helping MG patients who do not have a chest tumor.
In the 1990s Wolfe received planning support from the Muscular Dystrophy Association to develop the trial of thymectomy.
Under the leadership of professor John Newsom-Davis and other colleagues, including Gary D. Cutter, PhD and Henry Kaminski, MD, he successfully obtained funding from the NIH to support the trial, which will complete final outcome assessments in November.
It is the longest, and one of the largest, randomized studies in the history of MG.
Since the 1990's Wolfe has focused on treatment trials and outcome measurements for MG. This includes the randomized, controlled, multicenter clinical trial of intravenous immunoglobulin in MG, co-directed with Richard Barohn, now of the University of Kansas.
In 2011 Wolfe was awarded a seven-year, $1.5 million Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials: NeuroNEXT grant from the NIH while at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
After being appointed chair at UB, Wolfe continued in a principal investigator role for the NeuroNEXT grant at the University at Buffalo.
MG is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the voluntary muscles.
Though it manifests itself uniquely in each patient, it typically involves symptoms such as the inability to keep eyelids open; crossed eyes; and weakness in hands and arms, feet and legs.
Patients can also have trouble smiling, making other facial expressions and, at worst, have difficulty swallowing and breathing, which can lead to myasthenic crisis.
MG is a rare disease affecting 70,000 people or more in the United States. It cannot be cured but can be treated in most patients.
In addition to serving on the MGFA’s Medical Scientific Advisory Board since 2001, Wolfe was also the foundation’s immediate past president.
“The foundation does a fabulous job promoting awareness of MG across numerous audiences as well as providing easy-to-understand information for patients, families and health care providers,” said Wolfe, who treats patients at UBMD Neurology at Buffalo General Medical Center.
He co-organized the MGFA-New York Academy of Sciences 12th International Conference on Myasthenia Gravis and Related Disorders in 2012 and organized yearly scientific sessions for the MGFA.
Currently, Wolfe co-authors a regular column, “What's Hot Off the Press in Neuromuscular Junction Disorders?” for the MGFA’s newsmagazine Foundation Focus with Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology.