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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.
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.
Pathological changes in sensory neurons is thought to contribute to chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pancreatitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and cancer. In addition to producing debilitating pain sensations, hyperactive sensory neurons can release bioactive peptides that further exacerbate disease. Research in the Davis laboratory focuses on the role of growth factors in the development and adult plasticity of the central and peripheral nervous system. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Albers (Department of Medicine), who has created lines of transgenic mice overexpressing specific growth factors; and Dr. H. Richard Koerber (Department of Neurobiology), who is examining plasticity of second-order spinal cord neurons. Currently, Dr. Davis's research is focused on somatic and visceral pain and growth factors of the NGF and GDNF families. Specifically, he has found that these growth factors (that are required for embryonic development of primary afferents) are upregulated in models of chronic pain. The lab also has strong evidence that this upregulation directly contributes to the development of persistent pain states. The goal of this research is to determine how these changes contribute to the development of chronic pain, with an emphasis on the transcriptional events and downstream signaling that controls the response properties of sensory neurons. This information may lead to identification of new targets that could be the basis of novel therapies for chronic somatic and visceral pain.
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.
Dr. Perkins is author or co-author of over 200 publications, primarily on behavioral aspects of nicotine or tobacco smoking. Among his ongoing projects, one focuses on nicotine's effects in enhancing reinforcement from various non-drug rewards that are independent of nicotine intake, which has been demonstrated by others in animal models, but only recently shown in humans by Dr. Perkins. This reinforcement enhancing effect is separate from nicotine's well-known primary and secondary reinforcing effects. In another recent project, an efficient procedure for screening novel medications to treat tobacco dependence was developed and validated (i.e., FDA early phase 2). This project continues, as the procedure is now being used for its ultimate purpose, to evaluate efficacy for cessation in new compounds, and it may be applicable to screening novel medications to treat other drug dependence problems. A third, newer project aims to determine the lowest dose of nicotine via cigarettes that can be discriminated (i.e., perceived) from placebo, which could help inform public policy on tobacco regulation. Other ongoing research interests include individual differences in the pharmacological and non-pharmacological factors that promote smoking, and environmental factors that moderate responses to nicotine or cigarette smoking.
My research interests include health care equity/disparities and decision making, primarily focused on cancer prevention and early detection. I also have a strong interest in vaccine uptake as it relates to the individual decision-making process, as well as outreach efforts. My efforts are largely focused in working with underserved individuals and communities, using a community-based participatory research approach. I received the University Center for Social and Urban Research Steven Manners Faculty Development Award for a pilot study, 'Social Stressors, Air Pollution, and Cancer in Allegheny County' and am the local PI on a funded R01, 'Accountability for Cancer Care through Undoing Racism and Equity (ACCURE).'
My program of research seeks to better understand cancer illness to inform interventions directed towards educating and supporting patients with breast cancer, in order to empower them in obtaining optimal health care. My research career first included exploration of metastatic breast cancer experience according to race and income. I then received six additional extramural grant awards as principal investigator, which supported preliminary descriptive studies that culminated in the development of a psycho-educational intervention for the unique educational and supportive needs of African American women diagnosed with cancer and for women with newly diagnosed metastatic breast cancer. Specifically, each of these studies explores the impact that biobehavioral and psychosocial factors have on the cancer patient and how approaches and interventions can be tailored to improve the illness experience.
Dr. Sabik is a health economist and health services researcher focused on investigating the role of state and federal policies in affecting healthcare access, utilization, and health outcomes among low-income populations, with a particular focus on cancer care for underserved populations. She is currently principal investigator on a project funded by the National Cancer Institute investigating the role of Medicaid policy in breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income women and disparities in screening and outcomes. In addition, she is PI on a Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society to study the impact of state health reform on breast and colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment. 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.
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.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) causes severe pain, increased stress, and reduced quality of life, which exceeds the levels seen in other cancers. Development of improved non-opioid therapies will likely be hastened with an increased understanding of underlying mechanisms driving cancer pain. 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 in order to fully appreciate neural-immune-cancer communication. The goal of our research is to understand plasticity in peripheral neurons associated with cancer and to investigate whether therapy targeted to neurons in the cancer microenvironment can alleviate pain and slow carcinogenesis. 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.
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.
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.
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.