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My two areas of research interest include the neuropsychological sequellae of cancer and cancer treatment and the physiological mechanisms underlying these problems and adherence to cancer therapy. More specifically, my research focuses on the changes in cognitive function and mood that occur in patients with cancer. I also examine whether the changes in reproductive hormones that occur as a consequence of cancer therapy are related to changes in cognitive function experienced by women with cancer, and we are investigating candidate genes for correlations with cognitive function in patients with cancer. I also study adherence to therapy in patients with cancer and other chronic conditions and predictors of non-adherence to therapy.
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.
My expertise is in symptom management and the development and testing of theoretically-guided psycho-educational interventions to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and their family caregivers. I am the co-developer of the Representational Approach (RA) to patient education, an intervention theory designed to promote behavior change to improve self-management of complex health problems. I have had sustained funding to develop and test a web-based symptom management intervention (WRITE Symptoms) based on the RA with the aim of improving symptoms, patient-health care provider communication, and quality of life among women with recurrent ovarian cancer (NR010735). I am also a Co-PI with Dr. Paula Sherwood on a 3-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating the impact of a web-based caregiver intervention (SmartCare) on biobehavioral outcomes for caregivers of patients with a primary malignant brain tumor (NR013170).
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.
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. Low's research focuses on interactions between behavior, biology, and patient-centered outcomes in the context of cancer. She is particularly interested in the use of technology to assess and target health behaviors, psychological stress, and symptoms during cancer treatment.
Dr. Nilsen's research interests include: 1. Impact of communication and interaction behaviors on nursing care quality of acutely ill older adults; 2. Acceptance and adoption of alternative communication tools to improve symptom management for older adults recovering from surgery for head and neck cancer; and 3. Survivorship and late effects of treatment for head and neck cancer.
I have conducted behavioral research in a variety of cancer populations including breast, gynecologic, head and neck, and hematological malignancies. I currently hold an NCI K23 Career Development Award examining adherence to the medical regimen for hematological cancer patients who are post allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) and their family caregivers. Allogeneic HCT is a potentially curative therapy for hematologic disease, but is associated with multiple complications and significant stress to patients and family caregivers (CGs). To enhance outcomes and minimize risks, patients and CGs must work together as a team to carefully adhere to the multi-component post-HCT medical regimen, consisting of multiple daily medications, frequent clinic visits, strict catheter care, health monitoring, and dietary and lifestyle restrictions. Despite the clinical importance of adherence to the post-HCT regimen, particularly during the critical first 100 days post HCT, little research has examined rates or risk factors for nonadherence in this population, or how HCT patients and family caregivers manage each component of the post-HCT regimen together. Further, it is important to develop strategies to help patients and family caregivers better adhere to the regimen. Problem-Solving Therapy (PST), an evidenced-based clinical intervention to enhance coping strategies, will be the basis to build a novel patient-caregiver dyadic intervention for the HCT population.
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.
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.
My primary research interest is in the integration of palliative care services in oncology, with a particular focus on developing new models to improve provision of 'primary' palliative care within oncology practices. Secondary research interests include surrogate decision making, informed consent, and the impact of language and cultural barriers on patient-clinician communication.
My primary research focus is on biobehavioral interactions in persons with cancer and neurologic conditions. I am particularly interested in the area of neuro-oncology, working with both patients and family caregivers to improve outcomes and health care delivery.
Dr. van Londen is a medical oncologist and geriatrician whose research interests focus on a wide variety of topics relevant to cancer survivorship via multiple collaborations. However, her primary research focus relates to the assessment and management of adverse effects of adjuvant endocrine therapy in older cancer survivors.
The focus of my research is the genetics of postoperative symptoms. Specifically, I am studying the association of several genes and postoperative and post-discharge nausea and vomiting in women following surgery for breast and ovarian cancer. We would like to be able to understand why some women do not respond to antiemetic medications, and to predict who is at greatest risk.