• “At KPWHRI, we have access to extensive data on cancer care. I'm using the data to learn how to improve the experiences of cancer patients and their families.”

    “At KPWHRI, we have access to extensive data on cancer care. I'm using the data to learn how to improve the experiences of cancer patients and their families.”

    Erin Bowles, MPH,
    Senior Research Associate, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Research overview

Cancer is complex and can be a devastating diagnosis for individuals and their families. Our researchers work to improve cancer control on many levels, from prevention and screening through treatment and survivorship.

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) has been studying how to provide life-saving breast cancer screening since 1986. In a novel initiative, researchers used a computer-based registry and collaborations with organizations across the U.S. before electronic health records existed and multi-site studies were common. The program ultimately led to a rich portfolio of studies not only on breast cancer, but also on colorectal, blood, cervical, lung, and thyroid cancers.

“Decades later, Kaiser Permanente Washington is just as committed to developing and evaluating innovations in cancer care,” said Karen Wernli, PhD, KPWHRI associate investigator.

The core of KPWHRI cancer research lies in its participation in many collaborative networks and programs. “Collaboration increases the power of Kaiser Permanente studies and helps us learn from different populations and health care settings,” said Senior Investigator Jessica Chubak, PhD. Examples of these networks include:

Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC)
The BCSC identifies strategies that detect aggressive breast cancer early, minimize harms, and reach diverse communities. Results help policymakers and health systems improve breast cancer screening and surveillance outcomes. The Kaiser Permanente Washington Breast Imaging Registry contributes to this national effort and the BCSC Statistical Coordinating Center resides at KPWHRI.

Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR)
The PROSPR national consortium conducts research to improve screening for cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers. PROSPR results will help optimize and tailor screening for different subgroups of the population.

Kaiser Permanente Research Bank (KPRB) Cancer Cohort
The KPRB Cancer Cohort is a national resource for understanding genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that contribute to cancer etiology and survival. Electronic health record data, stored tissue specimens, detailed treatment data, and the ability to follow patients for recurrence and mortality are accelerating progress toward improved cancer care.

Some of the cancer research group’s current studies include:

Past findings include:

Recent publications on Cancer

Gould MK, Creekmur B, Qi L, Golden SE, Kaplan CP, Walter E, Mularski RA, Vaszar LT, Fennig K, Steiner J, de Bie E, Musigdilok VV, Altman DA, Dyer DS, Kelly K, Miglioretti DL, Wiener RS, Slatore CG, Smith-Bindman R. Emotional distress, anxiety and general health status in patients with small pulmonary nodules shortly after their identification: Results from the Watch the Spot Trial. Chest. 2023 Jun 23:S0012-3692(23)00924-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2023.06.022. Online ahead of print. PubMed

Gard CC, Lange J, Miglioretti DL, O'Meara ES, Lee CI, Etzioni R. Risk of cancer versus risk of cancer diagnosis? Accounting for diagnostic bias in predictions of breast cancer risk by race and ethnicity. J Med Screen. 2023 Jun 12;9691413231180028. doi: 10.1177/09691413231180028. PubMed

Sprague BL, Ichikawa L, Eavey J, Lowry KP, Rauscher G, O'Meara ES, Miglioretti DL, Chen S, Lee JM, Stout NK, Mandelblatt JS, Alsheik N, Herschorn SD, Perry H, Weaver DL, Kerlikowske K. Breast cancer risk characteristics of women undergoing whole-breast ultrasound screening versus mammography alone. Cancer. 2023 Aug 15;129(16):2456-2468. doi: 10.1002/cncr.34768. Epub 2023 Jun 12. PubMed

Kerlikowske K, Bissell M, Sprague BL, Tice JA, Tossas KY, Bowles EJA, Ho TH, Keegan THM, Miglioretti DM. Impact of BMI on prevalence of dense breasts by race and ethnicity. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2023 Jun 7;OF1-OF7. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-23-0049. PubMed

Sprague BL, Coley RY, Lowry KP, Kerlikowske K, Henderson LM, Su YR, Lee CI, Onega T, Bowles EJA, Herschorn SD, diFlorio-Alexander RM, Miglioretti DL. Digital breast tomosynthesis versus digital mammography screening performance on successive screening rounds from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Radiology. 2023;307(5):e223142. doi: 10.1148/radiol.223142.  PubMed

Researchers in Cancer

Melissa L. Anderson, MS

Principal Collaborative Biostatistician
206-287-2647
Melissa.L.Anderson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Erin J. Bowles, MPH

Director, Collaborative Science
206-287-2708
Erin.A.Bowles@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jessica Chubak, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2556
Jessica.Chubak@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Yates Coley, PhD

Associate Biostatistics Investigator
206-287-2071
Rebecca.Y.Coley@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea J. Cook, PhD

Senior Biostatistics Investigator
206-287-4257
Andrea.J.Cook@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Marlaine Figueroa Gray, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2620
Marlaine.S.Figueroagray@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2997
Bev.B.Green@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Laura E. Ichikawa, MS

Principal Collaborative Biostatistician
Laura.E.Ichikawa@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer B. McClure, PhD

Director, Investigative Science
206-287-2737
Jennifer.B.Mcclure@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Ellen O'Meara, PhD

Principal Collaborative Scientist
206-287-2938
Ellen.S.O'Meara@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Lorella Palazzo, PhD

Senior Collaborative Scientist
206-287-2173
Lorella.G.Palazzo@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Gaia Pocobelli, PhD

Senior Collaborative Scientist
206-287-2914
Gaia.S.Pocobelli@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rod L. Walker, MS

Principal Collaborative Biostatistician
206-287-2895
Rod.L.Walker@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Robert D. Wellman, MS

Principal Collaborative Biostatistician
206-287-2557
Robert.D.Wellman@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Karen Wernli, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2934
Karen.J.Wernli@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Onchee Yu, MS

Principal Collaborative Biostatistician
206-287-2389
Onchee.Yu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Weiwei Zhu, MS

Senior Collaborative Biostatistician
206-442-5215
Weiwei.Zhu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Yu-Ru Su, PhD

Associate Biostatistics Investigator
206-287-2948
yuru.su@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Brian D. Williamson, PhD

Assistant Biostatistics Investigator
206-287-2024
Brian.D.Williamson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Noorie Hyun, PhD

Associate Biostatistics Investigator
Noorie.Hyun@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Pamela A. Shaw, PhD, MS

Senior Biostatistics Investigator
Pamela.A.Shaw@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Nicole M. Gatto, PhD, MPH

Principal Collaborative Scientist
Nicole.M.Gatto@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Meagan C. Brown, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator
Meagan.C.Brown@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Nora Henrikson, PhD, MPH

Associate Investigator
Nora.B.Henrikson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Affiliate researchers

Wylie Burke, MD, PhD
University of Washington (UW) Department of Medical History and Ethics

Joann G. Elmore, MD, MPH
Harborview Medical Center; UW Department of Epidemiology

Larry Kessler, ScD
UW Department of Health Services

Constance D. Lehman, MD, PhD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; UW Department of Radiology

Kathy Leppig, MD
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington; UW Department of Pathology

Peggy L. Porter, MD
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC); UW Department of Pathology

Emily White, PhD
FHCRC; UW Department of Epidemiology

Rachel Winer, PhD, MPH
Fred Hutchinson/UW Cancer Consortium; UW Department of Epidemiology