Karen Wernli, PhD, is a cancer epidemiologist and health services researcher whose work focuses on incorporating patient-centered outcomes to improve cancer care from prevention to survivorship. Her works spans many types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, lung, and ovarian. Her research strives to answer critical questions at the confluence of patients’ needs and clinical care.
Dr. Wernli recently completed a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) project that compared breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to mammography for women already treated for breast cancer. Called Surveillance Imaging Modalities for Breast Cancer Assessment (SIMBA), the 3-year study used data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) and engaged patients and stakeholders to determine the best information for patient and physician decision-making. Dr. Wernli’s team translated that information into a new decision aid for breast cancer survivors. PCORI has recognized this work nationally and pointed to SIMBA as a model for effective patient engagement.
Dr. Wernli’s other breast cancer projects include a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded study to examine trends and outcomes related to the mandatory notification of breast density that has been enacted in many states. With colleagues at Georgetown University, she is working on another NCI-funded study looking at the best ways to inform women about breast cancer risk and options for managing it. She is collaborating with Dr. Natasha Stout at Harvard University, using national claims data, to study the impact of density legislation on changes in breast imaging tests. Research from these studies has been presented at the American Society for Preventive Oncology, International Cancer Research Network, and International Breast Density & Cancer Risk Assessment Workshop.
In the Clare Project, Dr. Wernli launched a new direction in adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients. Working with colleagues at KPWHRI, she evaluated patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives regarding medical decision making in patients with advanced cancer. Using novel methods, all perspectives were garnered through social media recruitment. With NCI-funding, she has evaluated national claims data of end-of-life care in AYA populations. Future research will build on these initial efforts.
Finally, Dr. Wernli is establishing a patient advisory board among Kaiser Permanente members participating in lung cancer screening. She is also evaluating cancer screening processes through quantitative and qualitative methods.
Dr. Wernli joined KPWHRI in 2009, following post-doctoral training at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She is a member of American Society for Preventive Oncology, Society for Epidemiologic Research, American Society for Clinical Oncology, and American Association for Cancer Research. She is a standing reviewer for American Cancer Society, and routinely reviews grants for the National Institutes of Health. She is also an affiliate associate professor of health services at the University of Washington.
Breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian, skin, and endometrial cancer; screening and surveillance; survivorship; patient-centered care; biostatistics; mammography; mammographic breast density; low-dose CT (LDCT); systematic reviews
Comparative effectiveness research; health outcomes research
Cancer screening and surveillance
Patient engagement, stakeholder engagement, qualitative research methods
Textile workers in ChinaAging & Geriatrics
Schifferdecker KE, Vaclavik D, Wernli KJ, Buist DSM, Kerlikowske K, Sprague, BL, Henderson LM, Johnson D, Budesky J, Jackson-Nefertiti G, Miglioretti DL, Tosteson ANA. Women’s considerations and experiences for breast cancer screening and surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States: a focus group study. Prev Med. 2021 Oct;151:106542. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106542. Epub 2021 Jun 30. PubMed
Zhang D, Abraham L, Demb J, Miglioretti DL, Advani S, Sprague BL, Henderson LM, Onega T, Wernli KJ, Walter LC, Kerlikowske K, Schousboe JT, O'Meara ES, Braithwaite D. Function-related indicators and outcomes of screening mammography in older women: evidence from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2021 Jun 2:cebp.0152.2021. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-0152. Online ahead of print. PubMed
Lee JM, Ichikawa LE, Wernli KJ, Bowles E, Specht JM, Kerlikowske K, Miglioretti DL, Lowry KP, Tosteson ANA, Stout NK, Houssami N, Onega T, Buist DSM. Digital mammography and breast tomosynthesis performance in women with a personal history of breast cancer, 2007-2016. Radiology. 2021 May 18:204581. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2021204581. Online ahead of print. PubMed
Miglioretti DL, Bissell MCS, Kerlikowske K, Buist DSM, Cummings SR, Henderson LM, Onega T, O'Meara ES, Rauscher GH, Sprague BL, Tosteson ANA, Wernli KJ, Lee JM, Lee CI. Assessment of a risk-based approach for triaging mammography examinations during periods of reduced capacity. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(3):e211974. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.1974. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Bowles EA, Knerr S, Leppig KA, Ehrlich K, Gao H, Schwartz MD, O’Neill SC. Characteristics associated with participation in Engaged 2 - a web-based breast cancer risk communication and decision support trial. Perm J. 2020 Dec;24:1-4. doi: 10.7812/TPP/19.205. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Knerr S, Li T, Leppig K, Ehrlich K, Farrell D, Gao H, Bowles EA, Graham AL, Luta G, Jayasekera J, Mandelblatt JS, Schwartz MD, O’Neill SC. Effect of personalized breast cancer risk tool on chemoprevention and breast imaging: ENGAGED-2 trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2021 Jan 14;5(1):pkaa114. doi: 10.1093/jncics/pkaa114. eCollection 2021 Feb. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Callaway KA, Henderson LM, Kerlikowske K, Lee JM, Ross-Degnan D, Wallace JK, Wharam JF, Zhang F, Stout NK. Trends in screening breast magnetic resonance imaging use among US women, 2006 to 2016. Cancer. 2020 Sep 28. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33140. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Haas CB, Nekhlyudov L, Lee JM, Javid SH, Bush M, Johnson D, Gleason T, Kaufman C, Specht J, Stitham S, Wernli KJ. Surveillance for second breast cancer events in women with a personal history of breast cancer using breast MRI: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2020;181(2):255-268. doi: 10.1007/s10549-020-05637-y. Epub 2020 Apr 17. PubMed
Warner ET, Kennedy M, Maschke A, Hopkins MF, Wernli K, Gunn CM. Evaluation of existing patient educational materials and development of a brochure for women with dense breasts. Breast. 2020;50:81-84. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2020.02.001. Epub 2020 Feb 5. PubMed
Mahorter SS, Knerr S, Bowles EJA, Wernli KJ, Gao H, Schwartz MD, O'Neill SC. Prior breast density awareness, knowledge, and communication in a health system-embedded behavioral intervention trial. Cancer. 2020 Apr 15;126(8):1614-1621. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32711. Epub 2020 Jan 24. PubMed
By partnering with patients, KPWHRI researchers developed 2 new interventions to boost lung cancer screening.
New study calculates risk-based approach to detect the most cancers with the fewest exams.
An epidemiologist identifies who is appropriately undergoing this imaging for breast cancer and who is not.
Now’s the time, Dr. Wernli says, to weigh in on lowering eligible age and pack-years smoked.
There’s much confusion about the new disease, but numbers don’t lie. The challenge is finding the right ones.
MedPage Today, Jul 24, 2019