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Cancer Risk Reduction investigators

Jaime Booth

Jaime Booth

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-8216 jmbooth@pitt.edu Cathedral of Learning , 2229
4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh PA
Read More about Jaime Booth
Dana Bovbjerg

Dana Bovbjerg

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-623-7771 bovbjergdh@upmc.edu University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Hillman Cancer Center 5115 Centre Avenue, Suite 140
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Interdisciplinary studies of: biobehavioral factors in cancer; the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biological consequences of breast cancer risk; the contribution of biobehavioral factors to side effects of medical treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) and interventions that may ameliorate those effects; interactions between psychological and genetic factors in persistent smoking behavior; and, psychological influences on cancer screening decisions.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Biobehavioral factors in cancer,cancer diagnosis,cancer risk,cancer screening,psychological factors in cancer,smoking behavior
Read More about Dana Bovbjerg
Kar-Hai Chu

Kar-Hai Chu

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

My long-term goal is to develop a program of research focused on preventing tobacco-related cancer mortalities. I have a diverse background in computer science, social network analysis, online social media, and cancer prevention. The focus of my research has been leveraging innovative technologies to study tobacco control. My recent projects include exploring the presence of tobacco companies on social media and analyzing their behavior and strategies in marketing; studying the diffusion of anti-vaccination topics online; interventions for electronic cigarette use by adolescents; modeling new tobacco trends to inform regulatory agencies.

Read More about Kar-Hai Chu
Cynthia Conklin

Cynthia Conklin

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

In her research, Dr. Conklin is applying a translational perspective to the investigation of subjective, physiological, and behavioral reactivity to drug-related cues in adult smokers, and on identifying the types of cues and other environmental contexts that have the greatest impact on smoking maintenance and cessation. She has served as the Principal Investigator for five federally funded grants, including a current project that examines tDCS brain stimulation + an Approach / Avoidance Task to reduce the impact of personalized smoking cues on smoking behavior and relapse. The long-term goal of this research is not only to understand underlying mechanisms of drug addiction, but to develop novel behavioral techniques to enhance the efficacy of drug dependence treatments.

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Yvette Conley

Yvette Conley

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Dr. Conley’s research interests are in the field of molecular genetics. She has a fully equipped molecular genomics laboratory located within the School of Nursing, and her lab is involved with several research projects. Her current research focuses on genomic and epigenomic studies of patient outcomes after traumatic brain injury, stroke, and therapeutic interventions for cancer, as well as genomic studies of age-related macular degeneration.

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Brian Davis

Brian Davis

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-648-9745 davisb@dom.pitt.edu Biomedical Science Tower
E1457
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Davis is a Professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.  During his 35 years of running his own laboratory he as developed three main research programs. The first research program explores normal function of visceral afferents primarily in the colon, bladder and pancreas and how afferent function changes with disease. The second project uses optogenetics to study communication between colon sensory neurons, enteric neurons, interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), colon epithelium and postganglionic sympathetic neurons with the goal of developing a comprehensive connectome. The third program employs a genetic mouse model of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) to study the role of the nervous system in pancreatic cancer (Cancer Res. 2014, 74:1718) and was the first to show that sensory denervation of the pancreas can slow or halt development of tumors (PNAS 2016, 113:3078).  Dr. Jami Saloman, his collaborator, went on to show that depletion NGF could prevent metastasis in PDAC (Pancreas, 2018, 47:856). In separate studies his lab reported that sensory neurons express immune checkpoint proteins (J. Neurosci, 2020, 40:7216), and Dr. Salomon has shown that PDL1 signaling is present in sensory neurons and modulates responses to nociceptive stimuli (Brain, Behav and Immun. 2022, 106:233). The unifying theme of all of three projects is that studying any one cell system (e.g., neural, immune, vasculature) in isolation is unlikely to produce robust findings because these systems evolved together, in an integrated manner. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • growth factors,Pain Management,Signal Transduction
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Natacha DeGenna

Natacha DeGenna

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

I investigate longitudinal patterns of drug use and reproductive health in pregnant and parenting people. I take a developmental approach, meaning that I am interested in the timing of behavior within the context of important life events such as puberty, adolescence, young adulthood, pregnancy, and menopause. I am also interested in better understanding health-risk behaviors within the context of families, systems, and communities, including the impact of pervasive structural racism and discrimination, sexism, and heterosexism. 

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Frank Jenkins

Frank Jenkins

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-623-3233 fjenkins@pitt.edu G.17 Hillman Cancer Center
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), or HHV-8, is a member of the human herpesvirus family whose DNA sequences have been found in samples of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). A number of projects in our laboratory are focused on the prevalence of KSHV infection in various cohorts and populations. We are particularly interested in the serological association of KSHV with human prostate cancer and are investigating at a molecular level, potential roles for KSHV in progression and maintenance of this cancer. We are also exploring the events during primary KSHV infection, including interactions between the virus and cell membrane, modulation of host gene synthesis, and establishment of viral infection. My lab has also been involved for several years in biobehavioral medicine. Specifically, we are interested in the role of stress and stress hormones in disease pathogenesis. Our current studies involve how stress hormones affect individual cells, the types of damage they may inflict on these cells and the outcomes of these interactions.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • biobehavioral stress,herpesviruses,HHV-8,Human herpesvirus 8,Kaposi's sarcoma,KSHV,Prostate cancer
Read More about Frank Jenkins
Michele Levine

Michele Levine

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Michele D. Levine, PhD, a licensed clinical and health psychologist, is Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Levine’s program of research focuses on relationships among health behaviors and mental health during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Dr. Levine also directs a T32 postdoctoral training grant and an affiliated clinical psychology internship training program at Western Psychiatric Hospital, both of which support clinical research training.

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Kenneth Perkins

Kenneth Perkins

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-246-5397 perkinska@upmc.edu WPIC
3811 O'Hara Street
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Perkins has been continually funded by NIH since 1986 to conduct research focused largely on two broad “themes”. One emphasizes translational studies, drawing on preclinical findings to examine acute effects of nicotine (and cigarette smoking) that may explain persistence of tobacco dependence in humans. That work was recognized in 2020 by American Psychological Assoc’s (APA) Med-Associates Brady-Schuster Award for outstanding behavioral research in psychopharmacology or substance abuse. The second theme aims to improve clinical treatments for smoking cessation. His recent focus has been on development, validation, and extension of an efficient crossover study design procedure to evaluate whether new medications are, or are not, efficacious for helping smokers quit, thereby informing subsequent large and formal randomized trials to confirm such efficacy. Relatedly, he co-authored a smoking cessation treatment guide for health care providers, “Cognitive-behavioral therapy for smoking cessation: a practical guide to the most effective treatments.”  For this work, he was named by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) as 2022 recipient of the triennial Ove Ferno award for groundbreaking advances in clinical research on nicotine and tobacco use. Today, Dr. Perkins is author of nearly 300 publications, with a citation index (h) above 75 and nearly 20,000 total citations.  He was also elected SRNT president in 2001 and a Fellow of APA, SRNT, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM).  Finally, he has contributed to the missions of the Univ of Pittsburgh medical school and Psychology department by teaching and mentoring graduate students and medical students. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Nicotine dependence,Smoking Cessation,Tobacco use
Read More about Kenneth Perkins
Margaret Rosenzweig

Margaret Rosenzweig

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

mros@pitt.edu School of Nursing
336 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria Street
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Our team’s research is focused on the factors that ensure that all women with breast cancer receive timely diagnoses, treatment, and support. Our research, education, and outreach initiatives are directed toward Black women with breast cancer, women with metastatic breast cancer, and community engagement to address racial and economic breast cancer survival disparity.  Our team is well-published, with over 130 publications and multiple national and international presentations disseminating the results of our research. The Symptom Experience, Management, and Outcomes According to Race and Social Determinants of Health during Breast Cancer Chemotherapy (SEMOARS) study is a multi-site R01-funded study comparing the symptom incidence and distress, symptom reporting methods and outcomes, including the ability to receive the full dose of prescribed chemotherapy between Black and White women as they proceed through chemotherapy. Genetics, epigenetics, and pharmacogenomics are areas of further exploration..Our Ubuntu Pittsburgh Project (UPP) (Pittsburgh Foundation)  for Black women with metastatic breast cancer living in the Pittsburgh Area has offered support, legacy building, and family support to women and their families. We are currently pilot-testing this program in the Pittsburgh area. 

With the support of the Genentech Health Equity Grant (2020-2022), we led an initiative in cancer as a canvas for all researchers to collaborate in basic and behavioral research to better understand the influence of neighborhood deprivation, discrimination, and lifetime allostasis, measured through telomere length, allostatic load, and immune markers on cancer outcomes. This initiative, Exploring Allostasis, Cellular Aging, and Cancer Outcomes, was renewed for an additional three years (2023- 2025) and is now incorporating all regional patients with cancers in which survival disparities are present.

In collaboration with Magee Womens Hospital, our team leads the Support, Education, and Advocacy Program for Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC/SEA Program). We developed and maintained a database of 2,000 women with metastatic breast cancer. These findings informed the development of a successful nurse-led primary palliative care intervention for all patients with metastatic breast cancer seen at Magee Women's Hospital. We are partners and leaders in the  Allegheny County Breast Cancer Equity Project, a community outreach program that seeks to assist women in underserved communities to access existing breast cancer resources. In response to local data, plans are to utilize students from the School of Public Health and senior-level student nurses to offer education and support in a structured Community Health clinical.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Allostatic Load,Cancer Treatment Equity,Lifetime Stress,metastatic breast cancer
Read More about Margaret Rosenzweig
Lindsay Sabik

Lindsay Sabik

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-0273 lsabik@pitt.edu A613 Crabtree Hall
130 De Soto St.
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Sabik is a health economist and health services researcher focused on investigating how state and federal policies affect healthcare access, utilization, and health outcomes among low-income and underserved populations, with a particular focus on cancer care. Recent and ongoing projects she leads examining the role of state health policy in access to cancer screening, timely diagnosis, and treatment for underserved groups have been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the American Cancer Society. She has also served as an investigator on a number of foundation-funded projects evaluating Medicaid policies and programs at the state and national levels and investigating issues related to the role of the healthcare safety net.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • cancer care,cancer screening,health economics,health outcomes,Healthcare access,underserved populations
Read More about Lindsay Sabik
Jami Saloman

Jami Saloman

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 383-5120 jls354@pitt.edu University of Pittsburgh, E1457 Biomedical Science Tower
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

The Saloman lab focuses on how peripheral nerves shape the incipient tumor microenvironment. Current studies are designed to understand how sensory and sympathetic nerves regulate anti-tumor immunity and cancer pain. Several immune checkpoint proteins are expressed by the neurons that innervate the pancreas and ongoing experiments are investigating the role of these signaling molecules in regulation of the tumor microenvironment. Our overall goal is to understand the role of neural circuits to cancer biology and to harness this knowledge to improve early detection as well as identify targets for novel therapeutic approaches. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Cancer pain,neural regulation of tumorigenesis,neuro-immune interactions,pancreatic cancer
Read More about Jami Saloman
Michael Sayette

Michael Sayette

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

sayette@pitt.edu 4303 Sennott Square
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Sayette's research focuses on psychological theories of alcohol use and abuse, cigarette smoking, and drug craving, and on cognitive, affective, and social processes in addiction.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • alcohol use and abuse,cigarette smoking,drug craving,Psychology of addiction
Read More about Michael Sayette
Nicole Scheff

Nicole Scheff

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-623-7871 nns18@pitt.edu UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Research Pavilion
5117 Centre Ave, Suite 1.19E
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) causes severe pain and stress, which exceeds the levels seen in other cancers. Beyond sensory/pain signaling, the peripheral nervous system has been identified as a component of the cancer microenvironment and may be involved in modulating tumor progression and tumor-associated immunity. The cancer microenvironment is comprised of stromal cells, glial cells, immune cells, neurons (e.g., motor, sensory, sympathetic) and proliferating tumor cells. The Scheff lab seeks to integrate the neurobiology, cancer biology, and immunology fields to fully appreciate neural-immune-cancer communication. The goal of our research is to understand plasticity in peripheral neurons associated with head and neck cancer and to investigate whether therapy targeted to neurons in the cancer microenvironment can alleviate pain and improve anti-tumor immunity. The lab executes translational research through collection of patient-reported outcomes and clinical specimens as well as implementation of molecular, electrophysiological and behavioral studies in preclinical mouse models.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • cancer neuroscience,Cancer pain,head and neck cancer,neuroimmune,sympathetic
Read More about Nicole Scheff
William Shadel

William Shadel

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

wgs1@pitt.edu RAND Corporation
4570 Fifth Ave. Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Shadel's research ranges from basic human laboratory work designed to understand the biopsychosocial mechanisms that contribute to smoking initiation and cessation, to the evaluation of cognitive-behavioral and pharmacological smoking cessation interventions in the clinic and public health settings. He has been continuously funded as a principal investigator by the National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Drug Abuse since 1999. Dr. Shadel's current grants examine how tobacco advertising contributes to adolescent smoking behavior, and the psychosocial mechanisms that underlie relapse in adult smokers.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • cognitive-behavioral and pharmacological smoking cessation interventions
Read More about William Shadel
Saul Shiffman

Saul Shiffman

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-383-2051 shiffman@pitt.edu 510 BELPB
130 N. Bellefield Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Shiffman's research focuses on tobacco use and nicotine dependence and their development, the nicotine withdrawal syndrome, smoking relapse, behavioral and pharmacological treatment for smoking, and tobacco control. Dr. Shiffman is currently conducting two trials, both focused on non-daily smokers, who are a substantial and growing fraction of adult smokers. The first study focuses on assessing the effects of switching to very low nicotine content cigarettes (VLNCCs) among intermittent smokers (ITS). This is a two-arm randomized study with an own-cigarette baseline control. After a 2-week baseline period smoking their own cigarettes, ITS will be randomized for 10 weeks to smoke experimental cigarettes, either (a) normal nicotine content cigarettes, or VLNCCs. Change in cigarette consumption is the primary end-point, and biomarkers of smoke exposure and measures of smoking intensity are also assessed. The second study focuses on the effect of as-needed oral Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for smoking cessation in ITS, and to study the process of relapse in ITS, using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Reviews of ITS have called for research on ITS' relapse process, and for evaluation of cessation methods, including medications, among ITS. This will be a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of oral NRT for smoking cessation in ITS. EMA data collection includes two weeks of baseline data on ad lib smoking patterns and 6 weeks of post-quit data, using methods we successfully fielded in our previous research. This will capture data on craving, withdrawal, and relapse among ITS, and relate relapse contexts to baseline smoking patterns.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • dependence,Smoking,Smoking Cessation,Tobacco,Tobacco Harm Reduction
Read More about Saul Shiffman
Alan Sved

Alan Sved

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Read More about Alan Sved
Elizabeth Venditti

Elizabeth Venditti

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-647-5200 vendittiem@upmc.edu 100 N. Bellefield Ave., Suite 830
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

My obesity management and disease prevention experiences encompass several clinical (university-based and private psychology practice), research (NIH clinical trials and translational studies) and training (developing/mentoring diverse practitioners and programs in the community) roles. Most of my work involves the design and pragmatic application of evidence-based lifestyle behavior change interventions as a roadmap for more widespread dissemination of disease prevention programs to benefit public health. I serve as Principal Investigator (PI) in the multi-site longitudinal follow-up of the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (DPPOS) cohort to examine: 1) the effectiveness of early metformin treatment (initiated during pre-diabetes) on the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer; 2) the longer term impact of the intensive lifestyle treatment, continued (in less intensive form) during DPPOS; and 3) the clinical course of dysglycemia, associated metabolic abnormalities, and the development of long term disease outcomes among all randomized treatment groups.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Behavioral medicine,health psychology,lifestyle intervention,Obesity
Read More about Elizabeth Venditti

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