Cancer Control & Population Sciences

Program Leadership

Kathryn Pollak, PhD
Qingyi Wei, MD, PhD

Kathryn Pollak, PhD, Professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine, brings critical Behavioral Sciences expertise to program leadership. She is also Co-leader of Behavioral Sciences (Focus Area 2). Dr. Pollak is a cancer-focused social psychologist who has been PI on six R01s which investigate behavioral interventions to promote smoking cessation and improve doctor-patient communication both in primary and palliative care.

Qingyi Wei, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Medicine, is Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Co-leader of CCPS and Co-leader of Epidemiology and Population Genomics (Focus Area 1). He is a professor of Medicine and an internationally recognized epidemiologist focused on the molecular and genetic epidemiology of head and neck cancers, lung cancer, and melanoma. His research focuses on biomarkers and genetic determinants for the DNA repair deficient phenotype and variations in cell death. He is Editor-in-Chief of the open access journal "Cancer Medicine" and Associate Editor-in-Chief of  of International Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Genetics

Program Overview

The primary objective of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences (CCPS) Program is to provide an organizational infrastructure that facilitates collaborative research among CCPS members and across the Duke Cancer Institute. CCPS research spans the continuum of cancer control research with goals to:

  • identify environmental and behavioral factors that affect cancer risk as reflected in epidemiologic, genomic, and carcinogenesis research
  • develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate behavioral, communications, psychosocial, and clinical interventions focused on cancer prevention, quality of life for cancer survivors, and caregivers' models of palliative and end-of-life care
  • impact the broader societal contexts of health systems through quality, economic, and policy studies

Learn about the work of the affiliated Center for Applied Cancer Health Policy.

Focus Areas

The specific aim of CCPS is to reduce the cancer burden in the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI)'s catchment area. Of particular note are a large number of investigative leaders who are addressing cancer health disparities and include an international consortium on ovarian cancer in women of African descent, cancer-related exercise and obesity research, tobacco control, palliative care, and outcomes/economics.

Focus Area 1 (Leaders: Qingyi Wei, MD, PhD, and Patricia Moorman, PhD, MSPH): The goal of Epidemiology, Etiology, and Population Genomics research is to further understand the multifactorial etiology of cancer and include intra- and inter-programmatic collaborations in the areas of women's cancers, glioma, prostate cancer, and meningioma where there is an emphasis on genetic susceptibility and the translational implications of the findings. Multiple studies investigate disparities of cancer risk and survival. Three objectives define this focus area: 1) examination of associations between environmental and genetic risk factors and cancer risk and outcome; 2) description of biomarkers of susceptibility to cancer risk and outcome; and 3) translation of findings in the development of risk prediction models and follow-up strategies for improved prevention and outcomes.

Focus Area 2 (Leaders: Laura Porter, PhD, and Kathryn Pollak, PhD): The goal of Behavioral Sciences research is to develop interventions to promote self-management of behaviors that cause cancer and to decrease suffering among those living with cancer. Intra and  and inter-programmatic collaborations are occuringoccurring in tobacco, obesity, and pain management and psychosocial distress. Faculty also have expertise in mobile health (mHealth) interventions that can reach those typically under served by interventions both in our catchment area and beyond. Two objectives define this focus area: 1) prevention through promotion of healthy behaviors; and 2) cancer control through promotion of effective communication.

Focus Area 3 (Leader: Michaela Dinan, PhD, and Yousuf Zafar, MD): The goal of Healthcare Delivery is to optimize cancer care delivery through  multidisciplinary collaborations which take advantage of wide-ranging resources across Duke University, including DCI, Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Fuqua School of Business, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Duke Global Health Institute. Three objectives define this focus area via the framework presented by the Triple Aim: 1) improvement of cancer patients' experiences through patient-reported outcomes (PROs); 2) improvement of the health of cancer patients; and 3) reduction of disparities related to cost of cancer care.

Scientific Highlights

Gary Bennett, PhD, conducted a trial that was the first demonstration of a successful weight gain prevention intervention in the primary care setting called the "maintain, don't gain" obesity treatment approach1. He also conducted an mHealth trial in China which showed significant effect on weight loss.

Laura Havrilesky, MD, MHSc, Michaela Dinan, PhD, and Evan Myers, MD, MPH, looked at costs, effectiveness, and workload impact of management strategies for women with an adnexal mass. They used a microsimulation model to compare five referral strategies and reported on willingness to pay.

Evan Myers, MD, MPH, Patricia Moorman, PhD, MSPH, Jennifer Gierisch, PhD, and Laura Havrilesky, MD, MHSc, analyzed data on costs and benefits for mammography among women aged 40-49. Based on their simulation analyses, the American Cancer Society changed their recommendations stating now that women starting at age 45 get mammograms. 

Thomas LeBlanc, MD, MA, and Arif Kamal, MD, MHS, reported on polypharmacy in patients with advanced cancer and the role of medication discontinuation. This common situation indicates the need to test and implement interventions to reduce polypharmacy for both individual drugs and to combat the cumulative effects of drugs prescribed.

Joel Meyer, PhD, conducted a review on what is and is not presently know about the roles of dysregulated metabolism in environmental carcinogenesis and concluded that there is a compelling need for additional basic research to understand the timing of appearance and subsequent natural history of characteristic metabolic changes as well as their mechanistic underpinnings and specific functional contributions to cancer development and progression.

Laura Porter, PhD, and Frank Keefe, PhD, conducted a randomized controlled trial with couples in which one member was a patient with late-stage GI cancer. They found that a brief, couple-based intervention that specifically targeted communication of cancer-related thoughts and feelings led to improvements in relationship quality and intimacy for couples in which the patient initially reported higher levels of holding back from discussing cancer-related concerns.

Jed Rose, PhD, continues to lead the field in innovative smoking cessation techniques and found that smokers who were not helped by patch alone could be "rescued" by using a combination of Chantix or Zyban+patch treatment. Rose recently was awarded both a P01 and an R01 to examine e-cigarette.

Patricia Moorman, PhD, MSPH, and Joellen Schildkraut, PhD, (UVA) are conducting the largest study of its kind on African American women with ovarian cancer.

Tamara Somers, PhD, Gregory Samsa, PhD, and Frank Keefe, PhD, conducted a pilot study of a mobile health pain coping skills training protocalprotocol for patients with persistent cancer and pain – the first behaviorabehavioral cancer pain intervention to be delivered using videoconferencing. After the intervention, participants reported significantly decreased pain severity, physical symptoms, psychological distress, and pain catastrophizing.

Corrine Voils, PhD, conducted a systematic review of patient and referring practitioner characteristics associate with the likelihood of undergoing bariatric surgery and noted that primary care practitioners who were more knowledgeable about bariatric surgery were more likely to refer patients for bariatric surgery and that this referral is a top predictor of patients considering surgery.

Qingyi Wei, MD, PhD, is conducting research on DNA repair and apoptosis phenotypes and the underlying genetic basis as a susceptibility marker for risk of developing lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and skin cancers cancers in US populations as well as whole exome sequencing to identify disease-specific variants and mutations in Chinese populations for lung cancer cancer and gastric cancer. His research team started to investigate genetic predictors for clinical response of these patients to chemotherapy and radiotherapy using GWAS analyses that are likely linked to these cancers.

Kevin Weinfurt, PhD, was awarded one of six primary research sites for the PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) network, an NIH Roadmap initiative to develop a unified approach for assessing PROs using computerized testing. The Duke network focused on the development of the PROMIS and other PRO tools and evaluation of the appropriate use of these tools in both the clinic and in clinical research as well as development and testing of cancer-specific PRO measures. One such measure, the Sexual Function and Satisfaction scale, was developed and successfully validated.

Yousuf Zafar, MD, and Peter Ubel, MD, are examining the financial toxicity of cancer care and collaborating with Dr. Kathryn Pollak to develop an mHealth app to help patients learn about how to talk to their doctors about the cost of their care.

Yousuf Zafar, MD, with collaborators at the Duke Global Health Institute and funded by NCI, is developing a regional cancer registry in Tanzania. Zafar has completed a study of diagnostic delay in Uganda among patients with Kaposi Sarcoma and he will be studying the role of traditional healers in treatment of cancer in Tanzania.


Clinical Trials