Program Members

Co-Leaders

Catherine Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN
Contact:
School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cognitive function of cancer patients
  • reproductive hormones
  • breast cancer
  • adherence to cancer therapy
Summary
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.
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.

Members

Jaime Booth
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Lora Burke, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Grace Campbell
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Kar-Hai Chu
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Cynthia Conklin
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Yvette Conley
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Brian Davis, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Esa Davis
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Natacha De Genna
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Symptom management
  • quality of life
  • oncology caregivers
Summary
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).
Michael Dunbar
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Kirk Erickson
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Robert Ferguson
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Charles Horn, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
John Jakicic
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Frank Jenkins, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Young Ji Lee
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Michele Levine
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Faina Linkov, PhD, MPH
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.

Carissa Low, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
Hillman Cancer Center
William Cooper Pavilion, Suite 140 5115 Centre Ave.
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Mobile health
  • sickness behavior
  • depression
  • physical activity and sedentary behavior
Summary
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.
Marci Nilsen, PhD, RN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
415 Victoria Buiding
3500 Victoria Street
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-648-3027
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Symptom management
  • head and neck cancer
  • survivorship
Summary
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.
Robert Noll
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Kyle Orwig
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Kenneth Perkins, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Donna Posluszny, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
Hillman Cancer Center
5115 Centre Ave., Suite 140
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Adherence to medical regimens
  • psychosocial adaptation
  • family caregivers
  • patient-caregiver dyadic coping
  • hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)
  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • quality of life
Summary
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.
Linda Robertson, RN, MSN, DrPH
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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).'
Margaret Rosenzweig, PhD, CRNP-C, AOCN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
336 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria Street
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Women's cancer
  • cancer education
  • cancer survivorship
  • metastatic breast cancer
  • electronic symptom assessment
  • minority cancer
Summary
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.
Lindsay Sabik, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Jami Saloman, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
University of Pittsburgh, E1457 Biomedical Science Tower
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: (412) 383-5120
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Contribution of nerves to tumorigenesis
  • Cancer-related neuropathy
  • Neuro-immune interactions in cancer
  • Pancreas Cancer
Michael Sayette, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Yael Schenker, MD, MS
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
230 McKee Place, Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Palliative care
  • supportive oncology care
  • informed consent
  • surrogate decision making
  • clinician-patient communication
  • language barriers
Summary
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.
William Shadel, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Paula Sherwood, PhD, RN, CNRN, FAAN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
336 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St.
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-624-4802
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Brain tumors
  • biobehavioral oncology
  • quality of life
  • neuro-oncology
  • neurological surgery
  • caregiver
Summary
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.
Saul Shiffman, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Jennifer Steel, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
Falkc 4
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Collaborative care interventions to manage cancer-related symptoms and improve quality of life for cancer patients
Alan Sved
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Galen Switzer
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Jean Tersak
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Teresa Hagan Thomas
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Gijsberta van Londen, MD, MS
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
300 Halket Street, Room 3526
Pittsburgh PA
Phone: 412-692-2382
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Cancer survivorship
  • breast cancer
  • adherence to self-administered cancer therapies
  • self-care
  • post-cancer treatment symptom management
  • health information technology
Summary
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.
Elizabeth Venditti, PhD
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
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.
Susan Wesmiller, PhD, RN
Program(s): Biobehavior Cancer Control
Contact:
School of Nursing
440 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords:
  • Postoperative symptoms
  • genetics
  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
Summary
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.