UB faculty receive funding to increase access to care for low-income cancer patients and improve success of weight loss surgery

Outside of Wende Hall

Wende Hall, home of the UB School of Nursing. Photo: Douglas Levere

Release Date: March 26, 2018

Portrait of Darryl Somayaji

Darryl Somayaji, assistant professor in the School of Nursing

Portrait of Laura Anderson

Laura Anderson, assistant professor in the School of Nursing

“Nurses are the front line heath care providers and are well-positioned to conduct translational research projects.”
Yu-Ping Chang, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Endowed Professor and associate dean for research and scholarship in the School of Nursing

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Two faculty in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing received new awards to both understand the role that access to health care plays in treatment for low-income cancer patients and survivors, and to decode the brain’s response to food and alcohol following bariatric surgery for weight loss.

Darryl Somayaji, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, received a $50,000 grant from the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Pilot Studies Program to lead the investigation of health outcomes for lung cancer patients and survivors on Medicaid.

The CTSI Pilot Studies Program provides seed funding to faculty to help advance promising new technologies and therapeutics from the conceptual stage to clinical studies.

The study will examine de-identified claims from the New York State Medicaid Data Warehouse and New York State Cancer Registry to determine if health care utilization patterns meet guidelines for timely diagnosis and treatment, and if access to care has an impact on patient mortality.

The research will lay the groundwork for improving health care models and tackling the inequalities of care faced by Medicaid-insured individuals diagnosed with cancer.

The research is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number UL1TR001412. Additional funding is provided by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and several schools and offices across UB.

Investigators include Somayaji; Ekaterina Noyes, PhD, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, and Gregory Wilding, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, both in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions; Peter Elkin, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and Manoj Mammen, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, both in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Laura Anderson, PhD, licensed psychologist and assistant professor in the School of Nursing, was awarded the Innovative Micro-Programs Accelerating Collaboration in Themes (IMPACT) grant from the UB Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development for nearly $30,000.

The award will support her investigation of the factors behind excessive weight regain following bariatric surgery, which occurs in more than 40 percent of patients. The study may also shed light on the controversial phenomenon of addiction transfer – from food to substances – following bariatric surgery.

Utilizing groups of patients who successfully and unsuccessfully underwent gastric bypass surgery, the investigators will study the impact of genetic addiction risk on health outcomes, and will examine brain activity in patients when exposed to cues for food and alcohol.

The study is the first to use electroencephalogram (EEG) signaling – the recording of electrical activity in the brain from the scalp – in post-operative bariatric patients. The activity may provide clues to the reasons some patients succeed after surgery while others relapse.

Investigators hope the results will provide the foundation for larger studies that will ultimately help improve the effectiveness of precision bariatric medicine programs – tailor-made interventions that account for addiction status, genetic vulnerability, and bias toward food or alcohol cues.

Supported by the IMPACT award, which backs preliminary research that fosters unique collaborations across disciplines, the grant will unite faculty from the School of Nursing, Jacobs School and the UB Research Institute on Addictions.

In addition to Anderson, investigators include Elsa Daurignac, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the Jacobs School; and Kenneth Leonard, senior research scientist and director, and Panayotis Thanos, senior research scientist, both in the Research Institute on Addictions.

“We are very excited that two of our faculty received funding to further develop their programs of research,” said Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Endowed Professor and associate dean for research and scholarship in the School of Nursing.

“Both of their studies are inter-disciplinary and translational in nature, and are addressing significant clinical problems directly related to patients’ health and health care delivery. It is especially meaningful and encouraging to have our nursing faculty take the lead on such important projects. Nurses are the front line heath care providers and are well-positioned to conduct translational research projects.”

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