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Alicia Di Rado

Alicia Di Rado is USC's editorial director. As editor-in-chief of USC Trojan Family Magazine, she combines her previous life as a writer with the Los Angeles Times and Oregonian and years as an editor and writing coach together with her training in design. Interests include sports, health, medical research, history and pop culture.

Stories by Alicia Di Rado:

What’s needed for a safer Internet?

The Internet is an interconnected system, yet most users (and even some companies) only see the Internet through the keyboard, hard drive and monitor they use to access it, said Provost Fellow Ranjan Pal, a doctoral student in computer science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. That’s risky because all the members of the Internet ecosystem, as Pal called it, have a stake in the Internet’s stability. Here’s what each of the players can do to protect cybersecurity: • Consumers — When buying a computer or portable device, they should also get a basic understanding of its operating system. The operating system is the main gateway to the Internet — all applications, settings and plug-ins work through it. Checking off the proper security settings (including installing anti-virus and other protective software) can prevent problems. • Government or other organizations — These groups should help users gain the knowledge they […]

Success in the pool is a family business

Nikola and Jovan Vavic
Photo: USC men's water polo's Nikola and Jovan Vavic shared honors from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches. (Photo/Dan Avila)

USC men’s water polo father-son duo Jovan and Nikola Vavic swept the 2012 National Coach and Player of the Year honors, announced on Jan. 29. Given out by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches, the awards capped off a season in which USC men’s water polo won its fifth straight national championship. Jovan Vavic is now an 11-time National Coach of the Year after winning his 11th NCAA title (eight men’s and three women’s). With his son by his side, he’s currently in Canada preparing the U.S. National Team for the World Championship qualification tournament. Nikola Vavic set the USC single-season scoring record, netting 83 goals as a junior. He’s joined on the All-American first team by goalie James Clark and Final Four MVP Michael Rosenthal. Kostas Genidounias, who scored the winning goal in the NCAA Championship, was named a second team All-American, while Mace Rapsey made the third […]

Keck School researchers seek to improve outcomes for head and neck cancers

Keck School of Medicine of USC researchers are trying to take away some of head and neck cancer’s malevolent bite. When caught early, most head and neck cancers are highly curable. Once they spread, the chance of survival drops precipitously. So Keck School researchers are studying what makes the cancers spread—and how to stop them. They also have launched projects to understand why some cancers recur and how to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. At the same time, they are testing ways to protect the muscles from the damaging side effects of radiotherapy. Uttam Sinha, associate professor, chief and program director of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, oversees the translational research efforts and works closely with Rizwan Masood, assistant professor of otolaryngology and pathology and laboratory medicine at the Keck School, on lab research. In addition, they are working with Brenda Villegas, speech pathologist […]

Keck School researchers help to advance survival from ovarian cancer

Keck School of Medicine gynecologic oncologists have helped propel a significant advance in the battle against ovarian cancer. Lynda Roman, associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the Keck School, and colleagues at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and LAC+USC Medical Center participated in a study showing that a high-powered chemotherapy regimen can dramatically improve survival in women with advanced ovarian cancer. The study was published in the Jan. 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Roman and her USC colleagues provided the chemotherapy regimen to ovarian cancer patients as members of the Gynecologic Oncology Group, a research network supported by the National Cancer Institute. Oncologist Deborah K. Armstrong of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center was lead author on the study. Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal cancers in women: Fewer than half of the women found to have the cancer remain alive five years after diagnosis. […]

Melanoma study finds Latinos at rising risk

Latinos in California are increasingly being diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, according to a study by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The study will appear in the March 1 issue of the journal Cancer but was published early online on Jan. 23. Since 1988, rates of invasive melanoma have been growing among Latino men, according to Keck School researchers. And more alarmingly, rates of thick tumors in particular�those with a poorer prognosis�have been rising among both Latino men and women. “When a tumor is thick, that usually means it has been developing for a while,” said lead author Myles Cockburn, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School. “This is a disease that has a great chance of cure when found early, and routine screening can catch early cases. But in this population, the cancer is becoming more common, and […]

Support group focuses on head and neck cancer recovery

For those with head and neck cancers, the obvious scars and facial and oral reconstruction that accompany cancer treatment stand as visible reminders of the cancer experience. And they often deter survivors from seeing friends or even going out in public. But at the Keck School of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery clinic at Healthcare Consultation Center II, a new support group has drawn head and neck cancer survivors in droves. The support group offers a much-needed outlet for those with a cancer once hidden in shadows. Faced with disfigurement or difficulty speaking, some head and neck cancer patients may become isolated and depressed. But the group reminds survivors they are not alone. Only a few centers across the country offer support groups for those with head and neck cancer; most are at academic medical centers such as USC. Although these cancers garner less attention than major cancers […]

Keck smoking study links genetics to school absences

Children with a certain genetic makeup are at heightened risk of chest infections and other respiratory illnesses due to exposure to second-hand smoke, according to researchers from the Keck School of Medicine. Writing in the Dec. 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the scientists report that children who have a variation in a key gene and who live in a home with smokers are four times more likely to miss school days because of lower-respiratory illness than children who are free from the variation and live in smoke-free homes. The study points to a clear public health message, said Frank D. Gilliland, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School and senior author of the study. “Parents or others who choose to smoke around children are causing illness and school absences, potentially affecting how well the children do in school.” In the study, researchers […]

Study explains why key diabetes drug fails in some patients

Patients face frustration when a medication that helps many other diabetes sufferers does not work for them; but now researchers at the Keck School of Medicine have taken a major step toward understanding that mystery. Writing in the November issue of Diabetes, the USC researchers reported that women who did not respond to common diabetes drugs called thiazolidinediones had certain variations in a key gene. Thiazolidinediones include drugs such as pioglitazone, known by the trade name Actos. Thiazolidinediones are a valuable part of physicians’ life-saving arsenal against type 2 diabetes because they help the body to better use insulin to pull sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells that need sugar for energy. But 30 percent or more of patients who try the drugs do not see any improvement. By identifying genetic variations that are linked to this resistance to the medications, the researchers may have opened the […]

Relaxation, stress reduction may help teen-agers avoid obesity and its health effects

Marc Weigensberg Marc Weigensberg is using the power of the mind to help kids battle obesity. Weigensberg, director of pediatric endocrinology at LAC+USC Medical Center’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, sees firsthand the effects of childhood obesity, especially among minorities. Physicians used to diagnose type 2 diabetes almost exclusively among adults; but today, greater numbers of children tip the scales far above a healthy weight, and their obesity is sending childhood type 2 diabetes rates skyrocketing. “It’s alarming—very alarming,” said Weigensberg, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine. “If children have this disease at this age and knowing what we know about diabetes complications, they are likely to face major mortality and morbidity at ages when they should be in the prime of life.” So Weigensberg is testing the value of relaxation techniques as a way to help teen-agers deal with stress and the weight gain it may […]

USC researchers open trial testing use of stem cells to repair knees

C. Thomas Vangsness Jr. USC orthopedic surgeons are beginning the first human clinical trial using stem cells to treat injured knee tissue. Researchers hope the therapy, called Chondrogen, will help the body repair damaged tissue of the meniscus, a cartilage pad that sits between the main bones of the knee and acts as a shock absorber. Chondrogen contains what are called adult mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, which are harvested from the bone marrow of healthy adult volunteers, then isolated and prepared for insertion into the knee. These MSCs are universally compatible—similar to the “O” blood type. In animal tests, these mesenchymal stem cells successfully helped regenerate surgically removed meniscal tissue. The trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the therapy to enhance recovery and protect joint surfaces from further damage after meniscal tissue is removed. The United States Food and Drug Administration granted clearance for the trial in […]