• "We are continuing to lead cancer screening research with cutting-edge pragmatic trials and large-scale screening and surveillance studies across cancer sites."

    Diana Buist, PhD, MPH,
    Senior Investigator and Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

  • The COVID pandemic hasn’t stopped our cancer research team from continuing to work together to conduct research along the cancer care continuum from prevention and screening to survivorship and end of life. 

    The COVID pandemic hasn’t stopped our cancer research team from continuing to work together to conduct research along the cancer care continuum from prevention and screening to survivorship and end of life. 

    Members of KPWHRI's cancer research team collaborating virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • “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

  • “I'm working on reducing cancer through better screening. I collaborate with researchers nationwide on studies that will make screening more effective, patient-friendly, and personalized.”

    “I'm working on reducing cancer through better screening. I collaborate with researchers nationwide on studies that will make screening more effective, patient-friendly, and personalized.”

    Aruna Kamineni, PhD, MPH,
    Assistant Investigator, 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 led to a rich portfolio of studies on breast, colorectal, blood, cervical, lung, and thyroid cancers.

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

Our work in prevention and screening includes:

  • Developing and testing interventions to improve screening uptake and quality of care in breast, colorectal, lung, and cervical cancers
  • Working to decrease disparities in cancer screening and outcomes
  • Identifying the best screening and diagnostic tests and screening intervals
  • Increasing screening uptake in individuals who are overdue for routine screening
  • Comparing cost-effectiveness of cancer screening and care strategies
  • Improving cancer prevention by identifying risk factors and ways to reduce risk — for example, through smoking cessation
  • Evaluating appropriate use of genetic testing among people at high risk for specific cancers as well as testing novel strategies for reaching relatives who may also be candidates for genetic testing

KPWHRI studies also span treatment and survivorship, such as:

  • Improving surveillance strategies for individuals who have a previous cancer diagnosis 
  • Understanding patterns of cancer treatment to promote equitable and patient-centered care and understanding the downstream harms and benefits of cancer treatment
  • Improving treatment outcomes by identifying effective therapies and increasing the continuity of care
  • Identifying factors that affect risk of cancer recurrence
  • Supporting long-term care of cancer survivors, including survivors of adolescent and young adult cancers
  • Developing and testing ways to prevent and reduce cancer-related financial hardship
  • Encouraging thoughtful communication between patients, caregivers, and providers about cancer, palliative care, and end-of-life options
  • Understanding patients’ health and social needs during screening, treatment, survivorship, and end of life

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,” says Senior Investigator Jessica Chubak, PhD. Examples of these networks include:

Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC)
The BCSC identifies strategies that detect 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, colon, 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.

Selected KPWHRI cancer research projects include:

  • A pragmatic trial offering women cervical cancer screening by providing the option to complete home tests
  • Work to improve shared decision-making to inform individuals about the harms and benefits of lung screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT) to decrease deaths from lung cancer
  • Research on second breast events and second cancers associated with breast cancer through studies focused on radiation therapy, breast density, and tumor biology in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and Kaiser Permanente Colorado and Northwest
  • The Radiation-Induced Cancers (RIC) study to evaluate imaging trends in children and during pregnancy with ionizing radiation methods, such as CT, and associations with risk of leukemia and other cancers
  • Studies on medications that cancer patients might take for diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions that may be linked to higher or lower risks of second cancers or cancer recurrence
  • Research on ways to increase effective colorectal cancer screening, including advocacy for and outreach to underserved communities
  • Work to synthesize evidence on cancer screening and preventive counseling topics through partnership with the Kaiser Permanente Evidence-based Practice Center
  • A large suite of studies on improving the health and health care of survivors of adolescent and young adult cancers

Recent publications on Cancer

Lin JS, Perdue LA, Henrikson NB, Bean SI, Blasi PR. Screening for colorectal cancer: updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2021;325(19):1978-1997. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.4417. 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 Aug;300(2):290-300. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2021204581. Epub 2021 May 18. PubMed

Puricelli Perin DM, Christensen T, Burón A, Haas JS, Kamineni A, Pashayan N, Rabeneck L, Smith R, Elfström M, Broeders MJM; International Cancer Screening Network ICSN. Interruption of cancer screening services due to the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons from previous disasters. Prev Med Rep. 2021 May 17:101399. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2021.101399. Online ahead of print. PubMed

Fan X, Wynn J, Shang N, Liu C, Fedotov A, Hallquist MLG, Buchanan AH, Williams MS, Smith ME, Hoell C, Rasmussen-Torvik LJ, Peterson JF, Wiesner GL, Murad AM, Jarvik GP, Gordon AS, Rosenthal EA, Stanaway IB, Crosslin DR, Larson EB, Leppig KA, Henrikson NB, Williams JL, Li R, Hebbring S, Weng C, Shen Y, Crew KD, Chung WK. Penetrance of breast cancer susceptibility genes from the eMERGE III network. JNCI Cancer Spectr. 2021 May 8;5(4):pkab044. doi: 10.1093/jncics/pkab044. eCollection 2021 Aug. PubMed

Golmakani MK, Hubbard RA, Miglioretti DL. Non-homogeneous markov chain for estimating the cumulative risk of multiple false positive screening tests. Biometrics. 2021 May 3. doi: 10.1111/biom.13484. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Researchers in Cancer

Melissa L. Anderson, MS

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Denise M. Boudreau, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2067
Denise.M.Boudreau@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Erin J. Bowles, MPH

Research Associate
206-287-2708
Erin.A.Bowles@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Diana S. Buist, PhD, MPH

Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships; Senior Investigator
206-287-2931
Diana.S.Buist@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

David S. Carrell, PhD

Associate Investigator
206-287-2705
David.S.Carrell@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jessica Chubak, PhD, MBHL

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Yates Coley, PhD

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea J. Cook, PhD

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Marlaine 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)

Nora Henrikson, PhD, MPH

Associate Investigator
206-287-4675
Nora.B.Henrikson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Laura E. Ichikawa, MS

Biostatistician III
206-287-2395
Laura.E.Ichikawa@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Aruna Kamineni, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2922
Aruna.S.Kamineni@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Cara C. Lewis, PhD, HSPP

Senior Investigator
206-442-4076
Cara.C.Lewis@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer B. McClure, PhD

Director of Research, Faculty, & Development; Senior Investigator
206-287-2737
Jennifer.B.Mcclure@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Ellen O'Meara, PhD

Senior Research Associate
206-287-2938
Ellen.S.O'Meara@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Lorella Palazzo, PhD

Research Associate
206-287-2173
Lorella.G.Palazzo@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Gaia Pocobelli, PhD

Research Associate
206-287-2914
Gaia.S.Pocobelli@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Leah Tuzzio, MPH

Senior Research Associate
206-287-2109
Leah.Tuzzio@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rod L. Walker, MS

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Robert D. Wellman, MS

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Karen Wernli, PhD

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Onchee Yu, MS

Biostatistician III
206-287-2389
Onchee.Yu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Weiwei Zhu, MS

Biostatistician III
206-442-5215
Weiwei.Zhu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Yu-Ru Su, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2948
yuru.su@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Brian D. Williamson, PhD

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Noorie Hyun, PhD

Assistant Investigator
Noorie.Hyun@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