Grateful patient gives back to Stepping Strong

Grateful patient gives back to Stepping Strong

[From left] Stepping Strong Center co-founder and Advisory Board Chair Audrey Epstein Reny, 2019 Innovator Award winner Marc Wein, MD, PhD, Advisory Board member Tara Ciongoli, and Medical Co-director Ali Salim, MD

Tara Ciongoli, Stepping Strong Advisory Board member, is also a grateful Brigham patient.

Born with a rare brittle bone disease called osteopetrosis, also known as marble or petrified bone disease, Tara has been a patient at the Brigham for nearly 20 years. Diagnosed when she was only a year old, Tara began having major fractures by the time she was 6 years old.

“Many of my most significant fractures happened during the last seven years, so I have been an active patient of [Chief, Orthopaedic Trauma] Dr. Michael Weaver and [Stepping Strong Medical Co-director] Dr. Mitch Harris. Dr. Harris introduced my husband, Greg, and me to The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation. When we learned about the opportunity to sponsor Dr. Marc Wein’s transformative work in bone healing, we were happy to be able to help.”

Wein and his team received the Stepping Strong Innovator Award for their project, “Using SIK Inhibitors to Stimulate Bone Regeneration and Repair Fractures.” Until now, there have been no FDA-approved medical therapies to stimulate fracture healing. The team recently identified a new, orally available small molecule drug that stimulates bone regeneration and promotes healing of noncritical fractures in mice. With funding from the Stepping Strong Center, a multidisciplinary team will test the new drug to understand its effects in traumatic fracture repair.

“I met Tara for the first time at the Stepping Strong Symposium, and I was overwhelmed by her story,” says Wein. “She has faced so many challenges in her lifetime, yet she remains so positive and eager to help others. The fact that Tara is enabling the Stepping Strong Center to move research forward in this critical area demonstrates a bold vision. Not only does her support fit perfectly with the mission of the center, it also has the potential to improve outcomes for all types of patients suffering from bone injuries.”

For Tara and Greg, it makes perfect sense that the Stepping Strong Center at the Brigham would have the interest and capability of moving innovation forward. “It is truly an honor to help push forward new ideas that may be able to help others who face traumatic bone breaks,” says Tara.

Learn more about Wein’s winning project.

Learn more about the Stepping Strong Center.