Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC)

hand with earth

Kathryn Pollak, PhD

Program Co-Leader

Leah Zullig, PhD

Program Co-Leader

Program Overview

Cancer Prevention and Control researchers are committed to working with other researchers, health systems, local health officials, and communities to reduce the burden of cancer in the Duke Cancer Institute’s catchment area and beyond by developing methods for and implementing solutions to prevent cancer, optimize outcomes and experiences for cancer survivors and their families, and promote palliative care and symptom management for those with advanced cancer. CPC research spans the continuum of cancer prevention and control research with goals to:

  • Develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate behavioral, communications, psychosocial, and clinical interventions focused on cancer prevention.
  • Optimize cancer care delivery for patients from diagnosis and treatment and improve the health, transitions of care, and end-of-life support for patients with cancer and their families.
  • Support collaboration and education across DCI.

Focus Areas

Focus Area 1: Cancer Prevention (Leader: Nia Mitchell, MD, MPH): Research in this area seeks to prevent cancer by developing methods to promote healthy behaviors, such as quitting smoking and reducing obesity.

Focus Area 2: Control (Leaders: Laura Porter, PhD and Arif Kamal, MD): Research in this area seeks to optimize cancer care delivery for patients from diagnosis and treatment and improve the health, transitions of care, and end-of-life support for patients with cancer and their families.


Leadership bios

Kathryn Pollak, PhD, Associate Director of Population Sciences and Co-Leader of Cancer Prevention and Control. Dr. Pollak is a Professor in the Population Health Sciences. She brings critical behavioral sciences expertise to program leadership. Pollak is a cancer-focused social psychologist who has been PI on 7 R01s in which she evaluates behavioral interventions to promote smoking cessation and improve doctor-patient communication in oncology and other specialties. She also serves as a Multiple PI of the Palliative Care Research Cooperative group (PCRC), the only organization that supports multi-site palliative care trials.


Leah L. Zullig, PhD, MPH Co-Leader of Cancer Prevention and Control. Dr. Zullig is an Associate Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences. She brings critical implementation science expertise to program leadership. Dr. Zullig is a cancer-focused health services researcher and implementation scientist is the MPI on an R01 focused on optimizing the management and outcomes of chronic disease management for individuals with cancer, in a ‘low-touch’, multi-level, implementable intervention.

Scientific Highlights

Racial Differences in Treatment and Survival among Veterans and Non-Veterans with Stage I NSCLC: An Evaluation of Veterans Affairs and SEER-Medicare Populations

Promoting Breast Cancer Surveillance: The EMPOWER Study, a Randomized Clinical Trial in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study

Usability of PCforMe in Patients With Advanced Cancer Referred to Outpatient Palliative Care: Results of a Randomized, Active-Controlled Pilot Trial 

Simulated Costs of the ASCO Patient-Centered Oncology Payment Model in Medicare Beneficiaries With Newly Diagnosed Advanced Ovarian Cancer

Clinical Trials


Nia S. Mitchell, MD, MPH: Feasibility and acceptability of a community-based weight loss program among African American breast cancer survivors (R01AG058725)

  • Compared to the general population, African American women have a higher rate of overweight and obesity, worse breast cancer and cardiovascular outcomes, and lose less weight in standard weight loss programs. We will use qualitative methods to assess the feasibility and acceptability of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), a low-cost, community-based, peer-led, weight loss program with a national infrastructure, to overweight and obese African American women in the local chapter of Sisters Network Triangle North Carolina (SNTNC), a national African American breast cancer support group.

Sophia Smith, PhD:  Using a SMART Design to Optimize PTSD Symptom Management Strategies among Cancer Survivors (R01CA244172)

  • Many patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplant struggle with posttraumatic stress. Our team will construct and refine an adaptive (i.e., individually tailored) intervention to manage posttraumatic stress and improve our understanding of the role of mobile cognitive behavioral therapy for cancer survivors who received a hematopoietic cell transplant.

Laura Porter, PhD:  Coping Together: Couple-based interventions for Cancer” (5R01CA229425)

  • Many couples report difficulties communicating about with each other about their cancer-related concerns, and these communication challenges can lead to deficits in emotional support, decreases in intimacy and relationship quality, and increased psychological distress. This study tests the effects of an intervention designed to enhance couples’ ability to communicate effectively about important cancer-related concerns, delivered via videoconference.

Thomas Leblanc, MD: Randomized Trial of Inpatient Palliative Care for Patients with Hematologic Malignancies Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (5R01CA222014; El-Jawahri, PI; LeBlanc, Site PI)

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a rare hematologic malignancy, with >20,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year and >11,000 deaths. AML is aggressive, abrupt in onset, and associated with poor prognosis, with only a 28% five-year survival. It also causes marked symptom burden, anxiety and depression symptoms, and quality of life impairments, but use of palliative care services is rare in AML, despite the potential beneficial impact on outcomes.  The goal of this study is to demonstrate the efficacy of inpatient palliative care integrated with trans- plant care for improving quality of life (QOL) and mood of patients with hematological malignancies undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) and their caregivers.