Featuring: Rina Fox, PhD, MPH and Bonnie J Spring, PhD
A team of Northwestern Medicine investigators led by Rina Fox, PhD, MPH, research assistant professor of Medical Social Sciences, has received a Cancer and Aging Translational Bridge Award to investigate circadian disruption in lymphoma.
“The proposed project will lay the groundwork for circadian-targeted interventions for survivors of lymphoma and, ultimately, other cancers,” Fox said.
For their project, Fox’s team will be using wearable devices to measure circadian disruption among lymphoma patients at three different timepoints while patients are receiving chemotherapy. The team will also evaluate the relationship between circadian disruption and indicators of accelerated aging in this patient population.
“Circadian disruption is influenced by both behavioral and biological factors, and thus can be targeted by behavioral and pharmacological interventions. Interventions to reduce circadian disruption tend to be highly cost effective and include things like scheduling sleep and increasing bright light exposure at prescribed times of day.
ircadian rhythms can also be impact by exogenous melatonin, which is commonly available as an inexpensive over-the-counter supplement,” Fox said.
The award will support a study coordinator, purchase devices to administer aging assessments, collect and analyze blood samples, and compensate study participants for their time and participation.
The Cancer and Aging Translational Bridge Award supports interdisciplinary research that integrates basic biological, behavioral or psychosocial knowledge or research methods to address accelerated aging due to cancer and its treatments.
In the weeks leading up to the award, 32 Feinberg faculty selected from various disciplines participated in an IDEAS Lab funded by the National Cancer Institute and led by Bonnie Spring, PhD, chief of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine, co-leader for cancer prevention at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and team science director at the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute.
The Lab aims to promote interdisciplinary research collaboration among Northwestern Medicine investigators to prevent, slow or remediate accelerated aging due to cancer and its treatment while improving quality of life for patients.
“The National Cancer Institute has long been at the vanguard of advancing interdisciplinary team science. Their leadership recognizes how challenging it can be to communicate and partner on research that crosses disciplinary vocabularies and modes of thought. I feel very fortunate that the Institute invested in giving Feinberg investigators a jump start on trying to achieve compression of morbidity in the life course of aging cancer survivors,” said Spring, who is also the director of the Center for Behavior and Health.
Additional members of the research team include Faiza Kalam, PhD, MS, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of the project; Kristen Knutson, PhD, associate professor of Neurology in the Division of Sleep Medicine and of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology; Fernanda Heitor-Behdad, MD, instructor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics; Whitney Welch, PhD, research assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Behavioral Medicine; Reem Karmali, MD, MS, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology; and Elizabeth Hibler, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Divisions of Epidemiology and Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention.
This article was originally published in the Feinberg School of Medicine News Center on May 3, 2021.
Rina Fox, PhD, MPH is a clinical health psychologist and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of medicine. She received a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Tufts University, an MPH in Epidemiology from the San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health, and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the San Diego State University / University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.
Bonnie J Spring, PhD is the director, Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM) - Center for Behavior and Health, chief of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine, and professor of Preventive Medicine (Behavioral Medicine), Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
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