Program Members

Co-Leaders

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
Kathryn Schmitz

Kathryn Schmitz

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 623-6216 schmitzk@upmc.edu 5150 Centre Ave
Suite 549B
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am an exercise oncology researcher. My work focuses on large clinical trials related to physical activity and cancer, across the cancer control continuum, from primary prevention to addressing the needs of advanced cancer patients. The central mission of my work is to make exercise standard of care in oncology. Therefore, in addition to the efficacy trials my lab conducts, I am also actively involved in national and international efforts related to implementation of exercise for people living with and beyond cancer. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is a vibrant community of science with an enormous network, which forms a tremendous platform from which to conduct both efficacy and implementation trials. The spirit of entrepreneurism at HCC allows innovation in keeping with my central mission. I currently lead 3 large NIH funded trials ranging from primary prevention to advanced cancer patients, all with an exercise oncology focus. In my role as leader of the exercise oncology initiative, my goal is to partner with the clinicians of HCC to discern the best ways to ensure that all cancer patients are informed about the benefits of exercise, supported to become active, and referred to appropriate resources (to include outpatient rehabilitation).  

My work has appeared in JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Oncology, JNCI, and JCO, among other prestigious journals. I am the lead author on the first exercise guidelines for cancer patients and survivors from 2010, and senior author on the update from 2019.  I have won numerous prestigious scientific awards, among them the Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Exercise,Implementation Science,Survivorship
Read More about Kathryn Schmitz

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Members

Monica Baskin

Monica Baskin

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 623-3421 baskinml@upmc.edu 5150 Centre Ave
Room 549A
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am a behavioral scientist with a research focus on understanding and addressing cancer health disparities. My clinical training as a psychologist and extensive NIH-funded research history includes the design, evaluation and dissemination of behavioral and environmental interventions to address cancer and other chronic conditions. My approach relies heavily on community-based participatory research (CBPR) to identify sociocultural and environmental determinants of health among populations at greater risk of disease (e.g., African Americans, lower income populations, rural residents). For example, I served as PI for the Full Research Project on a community network partnership center grant (U54CA153719) that involved a cluster-randomized trial of a multi-level weight loss intervention for African American women at higher risk of cancer who live in the rural Deep South (Alabama and Mississippi) and a cluster-randomized trial testing the efficacy of a weight loss intervention for African American cancer survivors in the Black Belt of Alabama (R01CA160313). My collective work has cemented my expertise in outreach and engagement, the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups into biobehavioral research, recruitment of family and non-family support, community-engaged research, mixed-method designs, and dissemination of research findings to multiple audiences (including participants and community partners). I believe membership in the HCC research program will afford me greater access to collaborations and resources to expand my work and adapt research originally conducted in the Deep South to populations in Pennsylvania.

Read More about Monica Baskin
Todd Bear

Todd Bear

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 624-3126 tobst2@pitt.edu University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
130 DeSoto Street
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Currently I work in cancer surveillance via survey methods to investigate factors related to disparities in cancer prevention, access to treatment, quality of life, and cancer-related protective and risk factors across the lifespan. As the Director of the HCC’s Population Survey Facility, I envision collaborations with HCC members that will ultimately result in interdisciplinary work through a population health lens focusing specifically on reducing cancer related health disparities in the HCC catchment area.

Read More about Todd Bear
Sarah Belcher

Sarah Belcher

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Dr. Belcher’s research focuses on understanding and improving health outcomes among patients with cancer, particularly among patients with high cost and advanced cancers and among socioeconomically disadvantaged and historically excluded populations.
 
Her career development award is investigating how adherence to oral anticancer medication affects pain and quality of life and how financial hardship influences these relationships over time among patients with multiple myeloma. Her prior research identified predictors of poor health outcomes among adults with multiple primary cancers and relationships between financial hardship and quality of life among patients with advanced and high symptom burden cancers. 

Read More about Sarah Belcher
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
Hailey Bulls

Hailey Bulls

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 692-2666 hailey.bulls@pitt.edu 230 McKee Place
Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

The mission of my research is to improve pain management and quality of life for patients with cancer. am currently funded by the Pitt CTSI KL2 to explore stigma around prescription opioids in adults with advanced cancer, who often have high rates of moderate-to-severe pain and prescription opioid exposure. The second aim of my work is to identify patients at risk for cancer-related pain and neuropathy as early as possible in order to improve access to effective pain management resources. In addition to my own research, I collaborate closely with my mentors Dr. Yael Schenker and Dr. Jessica Merlin, as well as other collaborators across the university, on other relevant projects. For example, I serve as co-I and site PI for a recently funded R01 (PI: Merlin) to understand risks, benefits, and stakeholder perspectives of opioid prescribing for patients with advanced cancer who are expected to live for years with their diagnosis.

Read More about Hailey Bulls
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.

Read More about Cynthia Conklin
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.

Read More about Yvette Conley
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
Read More about Brian Davis
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. 

Read More about Natacha DeGenna
Heidi Donovan

Heidi Donovan

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-2699 donovanh@pitt.edu School of Nursing
415 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Donovan’s research interests are in the development and testing of  interventions to improve symptoms and quality of life among individuals with cancer and their family caregivers (NINR R01NR010735; NR01370; 90RTGE0002). She has specific expertise in the integration of theory and evidence to design and test e-health interventions to improve self-management for families facing chronic and life threatening illnesses and disabilities. Her work has been grounded in the Representational Approach (RA) to patient education, an intervention theory that she co-developed. The RA has been used to guide a wide range of interventions in cancer symptom management, family caregiving, heart failure, end stage renal disease and palliative care. Currently, she is the corresponding PI and co-Director of the National Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support (NCFS; 90RTGE0002; www.caregiving.pitt.edu). NCFS’ mission is to partner with government, academia, and the broad family support stakeholder community to translate state-of-the-art research and training into services and support programs to improve the care, health, and quality of life of all persons with disabilities and the families who support them. Her current research within NCFS is focused on integrating family caregiver assessments and interventions into an established platform to be relevant to caregivers across a wide range of care recipient illnesses and disabilities.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • oncology caregivers
  • Quality of Life
  • Symptom management
Read More about Heidi Donovan
Kirk Erickson

Kirk Erickson

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-4533 kiericks@pitt.edu 3107 Sennott Square
210 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh PA
Research Interests and Keywords
  • Cognitive Aging Methods
  • Exercise
  • Improving Cognition
Read More about Kirk Erickson
Robert Ferguson

Robert Ferguson

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Dr. Ferguson is a licensed clinician psychologist and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. His clinical and research interests are in cancer survivorship and cognitive-behavioral treatment of cancer-related cognitive impairment. 

Read More about Robert Ferguson
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
Young Ji Lee

Young Ji Lee

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

My research interests are centered on structuring and delivering health information through an informatics-based approach to diverse demographic groups, with a particular focus on minority populations. I have actively involved community residents in my research, conducting assessments to understand their needs and contexts. This approach aims to empower individuals to manage their own health through targeted health communication interventions. Methodologically, my work is grounded in extensive experience with mining big data, allowing me to uncover hidden relationships between various agents. 

Currently, I am at the forefront of the NIH-funded study HELPeR (Health E-Librarian with Personalized Recommendations, R01 LM013038). This project is committed to assisting ovarian cancer patients as they navigate online information resources.

Read More about Young Ji Lee
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.

Read More about Michele Levine
Carissa Low

Carissa Low

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

lowca@upmc.edu Hillman Cancer Center
William Cooper Pavilion, Suite 140 5115 Centre Ave.
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Low is a clinical health psychologist focused on using consumer mobile technology including wearable devices and smartphones for remote monitoring of symptoms and functioning during cancer treatment. Her team is interested in using these real-world data to predict clinical outcomes, to support patient self-management and patient-provider communication, and to personalize behavioral interventions aimed at optimizing quality of life.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Depression
  • Mobile health
  • physical activity and sedentary behavior
  • sickness behavior
Read More about Carissa Low
Jessica Merlin

Jessica Merlin

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(215) 806-1888 merlinjs@upmc.edu 4012 Ewing Street
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am a Tenured Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, the director of Pitt's CHAllenges in Management and Prevention of Pain (CHAMPP) center, and the PI of a NIDA-funded research center, Tailored Retention and Engagement for Equitable Treatment of OUD and Pain (TREETOP), the goal of which is to improve treatment for comorbid opioid use disorder (OUD) and chronic pain. I am a PhD-trained behavioral scientist and an addiction medicine and palliative care physician who treats individuals with opioid misuse/OUD and chronic pain, including chronic cancer-related chronic pain. I have expertise in medical cannabis and have published 5 peer-reviewed paper related to cannabis policy and the use of cannabis among patients with cancer. I and my team recently published a paper in JAMA Oncology on developing consensus among palliative care and addiction specialists on the appropriateness of various opioid management strategies in individuals with advanced cancer-related pain and opioid misuse or OUD. I have also received an NIH-funded K24 grant, entitled "Mentoring the next generation of researchers at the intersection of opioid use disorder and chronic pain," which will not only assist in the mentorship of a new cadre of professionals, but proposes a new research project that leverages existing Delphi-based preliminary data to develop an implementation strategy bundle to promote the adoption and equitable application of evidence-based approaches for managing opioid misuse/OUD and metastatic cancer-related pain.

Read More about Jessica Merlin
Marci Nilsen

Marci Nilsen

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-648-3027 mlf981@pitt.edu 336 Victoria Building
3500 Victoria Street
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Marci Lee Nilsen is a nurse scientist dedicated to advancing research in the realm of head and neck cancer survivorship. Her research program is centered on enhancing the quality of life and overall survival of individuals within this population by characterizing predictors and trajectories of symptoms and treatment-related effects, with a specific emphasis on pain, musculoskeletal disorders, and cognition. Dr. Nilsen’s current National Cancer Institute MERIT grant focuses on characterizing trajectories of radiation-induced fibrosis, co-occurring treatment effects, and the clinical and biological factors that impact these trajectories. Her ultimate goal is to develop tailored, patient-centered interventions aimed at mitigating these symptoms and the co-occurring adverse treatment effects that continue to impact survivors of head and neck cancer throughout their survivorship journey. Furthermore, Dr. Nilsen's work focuses on implementing evidence-based practices in resource-limited settings, aiming to deliver equitable, person-centered cancer care. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • head and neck cancer
  • Survivorship
  • Symptom management
  • Treatment-related Effects
Read More about Marci Nilsen
Kyle Orwig

Kyle Orwig

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Research in the Orwig laboratory focuses on stem cells, germ lineage development, fertility, and infertility. Our progress investigating reproductive function in fertile individuals provides a basis for understanding the mechanisms of infertility caused by disease, medical treatments, genetic defects, or aging.  Infertility impacts one in seven couples in the United States and can have a devastating impact on relationships and emotional well-being.  The Orwig lab is ideally located in Magee-Womens Research Institute and Magee-Womens Hospital and is committed to translating lab bench discoveries to the clinic for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of infertility. 

Read More about Kyle Orwig
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
Donna Posluszny

Donna Posluszny

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

poslusznydm@upmc.edu Hillman Cancer Center
5115 Centre Ave., Suite 140
Pittsburgh PA
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.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Adherence to medical regimens
  • family caregivers
  • hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • patient-caregiver dyadic coping
  • psychosocial adaptation
  • Quality of Life
Read More about Donna Posluszny
Melanie Potiaumpai

Melanie Potiaumpai

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 623-7836 potiaumpaim@upmc.edu 580 S Aiken Ave
Suite 610
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

My current research is in the field of exercise oncology. My focus is the development, use, and implementation of exercise for cancer prevention, control, and survivorship. I am also interested in using dissemination and implementation science to expand exercise services in clinical care. I have largely focused on developing and evaluating exercise interventions for their impact on functional and patient-centered outcomes in adults with cancer. I have worked on several clinical trials that have explored the effect of exercise during different time points along the cancer care continuum. Specifically, I have worked with women with breast cancer prior to surgery and adults with hematologic malignancies scheduled for hematopoietic stem cell transplant. I have also worked with a large variety of solid tumor patients during active chemotherapy and chemoradiation therapy. Currently, I am working to expand my research portfolio by concentrating on developing pre-surgical exercise interventions, or “prehab”, that integrate into the clinical workflow to help ensure patient adherence and healthcare provider support.

Read More about Melanie Potiaumpai
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
Yael Schenker

Yael Schenker

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

yas28@pitt.edu 230 McKee Place, Suite 600
Pittsburgh PA
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 goals of care discussions, quality of life, healthcare policy in serious illness, surrogate decision making, informed consent, and the impact of language and cultural barriers on patient-clinician communication. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • clinician-patient communication
  • Goals of Care Discussion
  • Health Care Policy in Serious Illness
  • informed consent
  • language barriers
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life in Serious Illness
  • supportive oncology care
  • surrogate decision making
Read More about Yael Schenker
Kathryn Schmitz

Kathryn Schmitz

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 623-6216 schmitzk@upmc.edu 5150 Centre Ave
Suite 549B
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am an exercise oncology researcher. My work focuses on large clinical trials related to physical activity and cancer, across the cancer control continuum, from primary prevention to addressing the needs of advanced cancer patients. The central mission of my work is to make exercise standard of care in oncology. Therefore, in addition to the efficacy trials my lab conducts, I am also actively involved in national and international efforts related to implementation of exercise for people living with and beyond cancer. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is a vibrant community of science with an enormous network, which forms a tremendous platform from which to conduct both efficacy and implementation trials. The spirit of entrepreneurism at HCC allows innovation in keeping with my central mission. I currently lead 3 large NIH funded trials ranging from primary prevention to advanced cancer patients, all with an exercise oncology focus. In my role as leader of the exercise oncology initiative, my goal is to partner with the clinicians of HCC to discern the best ways to ensure that all cancer patients are informed about the benefits of exercise, supported to become active, and referred to appropriate resources (to include outpatient rehabilitation).  

My work has appeared in JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Oncology, JNCI, and JCO, among other prestigious journals. I am the lead author on the first exercise guidelines for cancer patients and survivors from 2010, and senior author on the update from 2019.  I have won numerous prestigious scientific awards, among them the Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Exercise
  • Implementation Science
  • Survivorship
Read More about Kathryn Schmitz
Susan Sereika

Susan Sereika

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-0799 ssereika@pitt.edu 3500 Victoria St
360 Victoria Building
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am a PhD-prepared biostatistician and have collaborated with cancer researchers, primarily in the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, for more than 25 years in the area of behavioral and biomedical science, particularly symptom science and the possible toxic effects of cancer treatments and their impact on adherence to cancer treatments.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Adherence
  • Cancer
  • Symptoms
Read More about Susan Sereika
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
Paula Sherwood

Paula Sherwood

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-624-4802 prs11@pitt.edu School of Nursing
336 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St.
Pittsburgh PA
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.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • biobehavioral oncology
  • brain tumors
  • caregiver
  • neuro-oncology
  • neurological surgery
  • Quality of Life
Read More about Paula Sherwood
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
Jaime Sidani

Jaime Sidani

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

My research focuses on the intersection of media and health, with a particular interest in investigating how we can use media and technology in ways that promote health. My work has examined the association between social media use and mental health outcomes, the spread of misinformation on social media, and online marketing of emerging tobacco products (e.g. hookah, e-cigarettes). Much of this work uses novel methodologies such as combining in-depth qualitative, quantitative, and social network data. I am currently conducting pilot trials in area high schools to test a media literacy-based tobacco prevention program as well as a large-scale study investigating nicotine and tobacco misinformation on youth-oriented social media platforms. As a part of my research, I utilize community-based participatory methods, especially when working with adolescents and emerging adults. I am also committed to developing the research, presentation, and publishing skills of undergraduate and graduate students by providing enriching mentoring opportunities.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • adolescent health
  • health communication
  • misinformation
  • Social Media
  • tobacco prevention
Read More about Jaime Sidani
Jennifer Steel

Jennifer Steel

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

steeljl@upmc.edu Falkc 4
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

My research interest including designing and testing novel psychosocial and behavioral interventions, including stepped collaborative care interventions, to improve quality of life in those with chronic medical conditions, psychoneuroimmunology, and caregiving.  

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Alan Sved

Alan Sved

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Read More about Alan Sved
Kelly Tan

Kelly Tan

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

krt92@pitt.edu Victoria Building
3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

My current cancer-related research focuses on caregivers or people with advanced cancer, stress response, cancer outcomes and symptom science. I have a currently funded study of LGBT+ Cancer caregivers. 

Read More about Kelly Tan
Lauren Terhorst

Lauren Terhorst

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-383-1141 lat15@pitt.edu 511 Bridgeside Point 1
100 Technology Drive
Pittsburgh PS
Summary

Lauren Terhorst is a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy with secondary appointments in the School of Nursing and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. She is also the co-director of the SHRS Data Center. Her primary area of expertise is related to applications of statistical methodology in health science research. She is a co-investigator and biostatistician on several grants from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). She serves as a reviewer for peer-reviewed journals and national funding agencies. She has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in journals of high impact in health science. She is active in teaching and mentors SHRS students in methodology and statistics.

Read More about Lauren Terhorst
Jean Tersak

Jean Tersak

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

tersakjm@upmc.edu UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Plaza Building, Room 505B, 4401 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. Tersak is board-certified in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. She provides care for pediatric oncology patients and long term survivors of childhood cancer. She is extensively involved in clinical research including the evaluation and treatment of patients with new diagnosis and research in the area of medical late effects and quality of life in childhood cancer survivors.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Clinical Research
  • Late Effects
  • Quality of Life
  • Survivors
Read More about Jean Tersak
Teresa Thomas

Teresa Thomas

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Summary

Dr. Thomas is a leader in promoting self-advocacy among patients with cancer. She has developed a model and measure of how patients advocate for their needs and priorities within the context of their cancer experience – the Self-Advocacy in Cancer Survivorship Model. Currently, her research evaluates the impact of a theoretically-based, patient-centered serious game (a motivational video game) intervention on women with advanced cancer’s self-advocacy skills, symptom burden, and use of health care services (R37CA262025 - NCT04813276). She also works with clinical nurses to understand how nurses can promote self-advocacy among their patients. Dr. Thomas’s other areas of interest include cancer symptom management, caregiver burden, instrument development and testing, and financial distress related to chronic health problems.  

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Patient centered-care
  • Patient self-advocacy
  • Self-management interventions
  • Serious games for health
  • Women’s health
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Meghan Tipre

Meghan Tipre

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 623-3728 tiprem@upmc.edu 5150 Centre Ave
Suite 4C
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

My research interests focus on studying the relationship between environmental hazards and cancer, examining whether socio-cultural, biological, and behavioral determinants may mediate or moderate these relationships. I use a broad toolkit of research methods, including quantitative and qualitative methods, geographic information systems (GIS), and spatial statistics, to characterize risk factors and test hypotheses. 

Research Interests and Keywords
  • GIS
  • Lung Cancer
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Spatial Statistics
Read More about Meghan Tipre
Robin Valpey

Robin Valpey

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

Read More about Robin Valpey
Gijsberta van Londen

Gijsberta van Londen

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

412-692-2382 vanlondenj@upmc.edu Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
300 Halket Street, Room 3526
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

Dr. van Londen is an ABIM-certified 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.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • adherence to self-administered cancer therapies
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cancer survivorship
  • health information technology
  • post-cancer treatment symptom management
  • self-care
Read More about Gijsberta van Londen
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
Susan Wesmiller

Susan Wesmiller

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

swe100@pitt.edu School of Nursing
440 Victoria Building 3500 Victoria St
Pittsburgh PA
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.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Breast Cancer
  • Genetics
  • ovarian cancer
  • Postoperative symptoms
Read More about Susan Wesmiller
Risa Wong

Risa Wong

Program: Biobehavioral Cancer Control

(412) 864-6458 wongrl@upmc.edu UPMC Cancer Pavilion
5150 Centre Ave, 5th Fl
Pittsburgh PA
Summary

I am a medical oncologist specializing in genitourinary cancers. My research interests are in symptom management and quality of life for patients with genitourinary cancers, particularly for patients with prostate cancer undergoing androgen deprivation therapy.

Research Interests and Keywords
  • Androgen Deprivation
  • patient-reported outcomes
  • Prostate cancer
  • Quality of Life
  • Symptom management
Read More about Risa Wong

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