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Biobehavioral Analysis of Cancer Risk Behaviors investigators

Dana Bovbjerg, PhD
Contact:
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Hillman Cancer Center 5115 Centre Avenue, Suite 140
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-7771
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Biobehavioral factors in cancer
  • cancer risk
  • cancer screening
  • cancer diagnosis
  • psychological factors in cancer
  • smoking behavior
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.
Cynthia Conklin, PhD
Contact:
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC
3811 O'Hara Street, Office 1620
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Addiction
  • smoking cessation
  • cue-reactivity
  • translational research
  • psychophysiology
  • exercise
Summary
Dr. Conklin's research focuses on 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. Current studies include examining the roles of negative mood, personalized cues, classical conditioning, and operant responding in the perpetuation of smoking behavior and relapse; and, examining the efficacy of exercise to aid smoking cessation. 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.
Patricia Documet, MD, DrPH
Contact:
130 De Soto St
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cancer screening
  • health disparities
  • public health
Michele Levine
Kenneth Perkins, PhD
Contact:
WPIC
3811 O'Hara Street
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-246-5397
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Nicotine dependence
  • smoking cessation
  • tobacco use
Summary
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.
Linda Robertson, RN, MSN, DrPH
Contact:
5150 Centre Avenue
POB2 Cancer Pavillion, Room 438
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Community-based research
  • decision making
  • health equity
  • cancer care disparities
  • cancer vaccines
  • HPV knowledge and vaccine uptake
  • underserved communities
  • cancer prevention
  • early detection
Summary
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).'
Michael Sayette, PhD
Contact:
4303 Sennott Square
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Psychology of addiction
  • alcohol use and abuse
  • cigarette smoking
  • drug craving
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.
Saul Shiffman, PhD
Contact:
510 BELPB
130 N. Bellefield Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-383-2051
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Tobacco
  • smoking
  • dependence
  • smoking cessation
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.
Elizabeth Venditti, PhD
Contact:
100 N. Bellefield Ave., Suite 830
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-647-5200
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Behavioral medicine
  • health psychology
  • obesity
  • lifestyle intervention
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.
Lora Burke, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Contact:
School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-624-2305
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Dietary adherence
  • vegetarian diet in weight loss
  • binge-eating
  • obesity
Summary
My research examines the efficacy of behavioral interventions to improve adherence to obesity treatment modalities using diet and exercise, e.g., adherence to a cholesterol-lowering eating plan. My interests also include self-efficacy theory, as it is used as a theoretical basis for interventions as well as measurement of the construct.
Brian Davis, PhD
Contact:
Biomedical Science Tower
E1457
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-648-9745
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Pain management
  • signal transduction
  • growth factors
Summary
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.
Charles Horn, PhD
Contact:
Hillman Cancer Center - Research Pavilion, G.17b
5117 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-1417
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Chemotherapy side effects
  • nausea and vomiting
  • quality of life
  • neurobiology
Summary
Neural interactions between the alimentary tract and brain are essential to good health, but cancer patients often experience disrupted gastrointestinal (GI) function, reduced nutrition, and the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. My research focuses on determining the biological mechanisms that control gut-brain communication and contribute to nutritional homeostasis. Current interests include studies on the neurobiological mechanisms of nausea and vomiting. This research program has the long-term goal of developing novel therapies to decrease GI symptom burden and improve quality of life for cancer patients.
Frank Jenkins, PhD
Contact:
G.17 Hillman Cancer Center
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-623-3233
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Human herpesvirus 8
  • HHV-8
  • KSHV
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • prostate cancer
  • herpesviruses
  • biobehavioral stress
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.
Faina Linkov, PhD, MPH
Contact:
Magee-Womens Research Institute
3380 Blvd of Allies, Suite 323
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-641-2501
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Gynecologic cancers
  • endometrial cancer
  • obesity
  • behavioral lifestyle interventions
  • early detection
  • cancer biomarkers
Summary
Dr. Linkov's primary area of interest is gynecologic malignancies. Concentrating on obesity and weight loss studies, current research focuses on the use of biological tumor markers to monitor interventions intended to reduce the risk of cancer. The overarching idea of this research is that endometrial cancer, as well as some other malignancies that are sensitive to obesity, can potentially be prevented with weight loss.

Dr. Linkov has participated in multiple studies on the use of biologic markers for the early detection of malignancies, as well as in a large project investigating temporal reliability of biologic markers in healthy people. She conducted a study investigating biomarker levels in healthy people involved in different types of exercise activities.

Brian Primack, MD, PhD
Contact:
230 McKee Place
Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-586-9789
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Tobacco
  • smoking
  • waterpipe
  • hookah
  • youth
  • adolescent
  • alcohol
  • mass media
  • media literacy
  • technology
  • health outcomes
  • education
  • health disparities
Summary
An important theme of my published work involves elucidating the detrimental effects of certain media and technology exposures on health outcomes. While the majority of my work in this area has focused on tobacco, I also study effects of media and technology on alcohol use, mental health outcomes, and sexual behavior. In addition to studying potential negative influences, I am interested in how media and technology can be used to improve health. As media exposure is likely to remain ubiquitous, investigations into both benefits as well as harms are important. For example, I study the potential use of innovative media- and technology-based educational programming to improve outcomes. A third major thread of my work is research on waterpipe (hookah) tobacco smoking. My work in this area has related to the epidemiology of this phenomenon in children, adolescents, and young adults, policy issues, and anthropological and cultural perspectives. I am also deeply involved in and committed to education, and I have also conducted research on development and testing of innovative educational programming for both clinician and researcher trainees.
Lindsay Sabik, PhD
Contact:
A613 Crabtree Hall
130 De Soto St.
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-624-0273
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Healthcare access
  • health outcomes
  • cancer care
  • underserved populations
  • health economics
  • cancer screening
Summary
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.
William Shadel, PhD
Contact:
RAND Corporation
4570 Fifth Ave. Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Biopsychosocial mechanisms that contribute to smoking initiation and cessation
  • cognitive-behavioral and pharmacological smoking cessation interventions
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.
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