Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC)

hand with earth

Kathryn Pollak, PhD

Program Co-Leader

Leah Zullig, PhD

Program Co-Leader

Program Overview

Cancer Prevention and Control researchers work with other researchers, health systems, local health officials, and community members to develop methods and implement solutions to prevent cancer and optimize outcomes and experiences for cancer survivors and their families. They also promote palliative care and symptom management for people with advanced cancer.

Areas of Focus

Cancer Prevention
Develop methods to promote healthy behaviors, such as quitting smoking and reducing obesity.

Optimize cancer care delivery for patients from diagnosis through treatment and improve the health, transitions of care, and end-of-life support for patients with cancer and their families.

Leadership bios

Kathryn Pollak, PhD, Associate Director of Population Sciences and Co-Leader of Cancer Prevention and Control. Dr. Pollak is a Professor in the Population Health Sciences. She brings critical behavioral sciences expertise to program leadership. Pollak is a cancer-focused social psychologist who has been PI on 7 R01s in which she evaluates behavioral interventions to promote smoking cessation and improve doctor-patient communication in oncology and other specialties. She also serves as a Multiple PI of the Palliative Care Research Cooperative group (PCRC), the only organization that supports multi-site palliative care trials.

Leah L. Zullig, PhD, MPH Co-Leader of Cancer Prevention and Control. Dr. Zullig is an Associate Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences. She brings critical implementation science expertise to program leadership. Dr. Zullig is a cancer-focused health services researcher and implementation scientist is the MPI on an R01 focused on optimizing the management and outcomes of chronic disease management for individuals with cancer, in a ‘low-touch’, multi-level, implementable intervention.

Scientific Highlights

Levin ED, Wells C, Slade S, Johnson J, Petro A, Rezvani AH, Rose JE. Chronic infusions of mecamylamine into the medial habenula: Effects on nicotine self-administration in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2022 Jan 7;416:113574. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113574. Epub 2021 Sep 6. PMID: 34499942; PMCID: PMC8492541. Dr. Rose along with CRDI member Dr. Levin examined neural targets for nicotine reinforcement in rats among high and low nicotine self-administering rates. They found that mecamylamine promoted fewer self-administrations in the “light smoker” rats while the opposite was true for the “heavier smoker” rats. The impact of this work is isolating the medial habenular nicotinic receptors that serve as important precursors for nicotine reinforcement. This can inform future treatments for light smokers. (Levin et al, Behav Brain Residents, PMID: 34499942)

Sweitzer MM, Pacek LR, Kozink RV, Locey E, Kollins SH, Donny EC, McClernon FJ. Reactions to reduced nicotine content cigarettes in a sample of young adult, low-frequency smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2021 Sep;238(9):2429-2438. This team of tobacco researchers in CPC examined how young adult smokers responded to cigarettes that had varying doses of nicotine. They found that young adults preferred cigarettes that had the normal amount of nicotine to low-nicotine cigarettes. This study has great implications given the FDA’s move to reduce the nicotine content in cigarettes as a way to reduce how many young smokers transition to heavier more regular smokers. (Sweitzer, et al, Psychopharm, PMID: 33982143).

Control Focus Area

Rucker AJ, Raman V, Jawitz OK, Voigt SL, Harpole DH, D'Amico TA, Tong BC. The Impact of Adjuvant Therapy on Survival After Esophagectomy for Node-negative Esophageal Adenocarcinoma. Ann Surg. 2022 Feb 1;275(2):348-355. Dr. Tong and her colleagues analyzed the National Cancer database to determine whether neoadjuvant therapy was associated with survival among patients with high-risk T2-4a, pathologically node-negative distal esophageal adenocarcinoma. They found that neoadjuvant therapy did not promote longer survival benefits. The impact of this work is for clinicians to weigh the pros and cons with patients with completely resected pT2-4aN0M0 esophageal adenocarcinoma before offering neoadjuvant therapy. (Rucker et al, Ann Surg 2022, PMID: 32209899)

Check DK, Baggett CD, Kim K, Roberts AW, Roberts MC, Robinson T, Oeffinger KC, Dinan MA. Predictors of Chronic Opioid Use: A Population-Level Analysis of North Carolina Cancer Survivors Using Multi-Payer Claims. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2021 Nov 2;113(11):1581-1589. Dr. Check and her team analyzed predictors of which patients with cancer were more likely to have chronic opioid use. They found that younger and lower-income survivors, particularly those with underlying depression or a history of substance use, were more likely to have chronic opioid use. The implication of this work is for clinicians to be mindful of these risk factors for avoiding substance abuse. (Check et al, JNCI, PMID: 33881543).

Clinical Trials