University of Vermont Cancer Center Research Programs

UVM Cancer Center programs are organized to facilitate translation of discoveries from innovative basic science and translational investigation to clinical trials. Our programs focus on the biological continuum of cancer control, initiation, progression, and population dynamics with emphasis on translating laboratory discovery to patient care.

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Cancer Population Science (CPS)

Addresses timely questions that are relevant to cancer prevention, early detection and survivorship with a focus in the areas of breast cancer screening, tobacco control and survivorship; additional focus on these in the context of our rural catchment area.

Sprague, Brian & Reblin, Maija

Program Leaders

Brian Sprague, PhD, Director of the Vermont Breast Cancer Surveillance System & Associate Professor Surgery

Maija Reblin, PhD, Associate Professor and member of the Vermont Conversation Lab.

Scientific Program Themes

  1. Ascertainment and evaluation of risk factors contributing to development of cancer; specifically, behavioral risk factors and biomarkers of risk.
  2. Evaluation and development of cancer screening strategies with emphasis on harm reduction.
  3. Investigation and improvement of health-related outcomes and quality of life for cancer survivors.
  4. Ascertainment and improvement of access to high-quality cancer care and cancer prevention for rural populations.

Program Goals and Specific Aims

The mission of the Cancer Population Science (CPS) program is to advance cancer prevention, detection, and survivorship through population science approaches. The program emphasizes scientific exploration to reduce the burden of cancer across all segments of the population and improve health equity across our catchment area. Our research is collaborative and multidisciplinary, spanning basic, clinical, and population science.  The CPS program has developed three thematic aims in cancer prevention, detection, and survivorship that reflect the existing strengths and research priorities of its membership: 

Aim 1: Reducing tobacco use in vulnerable populations and providing evidence to guide tobacco policy. Program members lead observational studies of real-world tobacco use patterns and conduct intervention studies of innovative tobacco cessation approaches. This work generates evidence used by regulatory bodies, public health organizations, and healthcare providers to reduce tobacco use. 

Aim 2: Evaluation and development of cancer screening strategies that maximize benefits while minimizing harms.  Members identify effective approaches for delivering effective cancer screening, with a particular focus on the evaluation of new technologies in clinical practice and risk-based screening strategies that seek to maximize the benefits of early detection while minimizing harms such as false positive tests and unnecessary biopsies.

Aim 3: Develop behavioral interventions to improve the health and quality of life of those at risk for cancer, cancer survivors, and their caregivers.  Program members identify key behaviors associated with health promotion, symptom management, and well-being at all stages of the cancer care continuum and implement interventions at the individual, dyadic, institutional, community, or policy level.

Cancer Host and Environment (CHE)

Encompasses chronic inflammation, obesity, diet, exercise, nutrition, coagulation, immune surveillance and modulation, vaccines, tumor cell niches, metastasis, and symptom management. This program focuses on parameters in the host that promote or impede progression or recurrence, with an emphasis on host conditions that may influence progression to clinically significant disease.

Stumpff, Jason & Anker, Christopher

Program Leaders

Jason Stumpff, PhD, Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

Christopher Anker, MD, Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology

Scientific Program Themes

  1. Mechanisms and Host Biomarkers of Cancer Initiation & Progression
  2. Cancer Therapeutics: Harnessing Host & Tumor Characteristics
  3. Mitigating the Impact of Cancer and Treatment on Host


Cancer Cell (CC)

Basic research in cancer stem cells, DNA damage and repair, genome instability, cell cycle defects, corruption of signaling pathways, redox homeostasis, changes in cell differentiation and cell metabolism, cell motility, and environmental carcinogens. Discovery in this program is directed toward identifying cellular biomarkers with prognostic value and new therapeutic targets.

CC Program Leaders: Yvonne Janssen-Heininger and Seth Frietze (left to right)

Program Leaders

Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, PhD, Professor, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Seth Frietze, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical and Health Sciences, UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Scientific Program Themes

  1. Epigenetics.
  2. Molecular mechanisms of hematological malignancies.
  3. Mechanisms of breast cancer progression and breast cancer treatment response.
  4. DNA damage and repair and its role in carcinogenesis.
  5. Redox signaling in the pathology and therapy of disease.

Program Goals and Specific Aims

The overall aim of the Cancer Cell (CC) Program is to perform basic cancer research and enable important discoveries that positively impact cancer incidence and mortality in Vermont and Northern New England. The emphasis of the CC Program remains in our catchment area and includes: high incidence cancers in the Vermont and Northern New York adult population (breast, skin, thyroid and colorectal cancers), high incidence cancers the pediatric population (leukemia), as well as cancer-related conditions developing from environmental exposures (mesothelioma) in the Northern New England population.

To accomplish our goals, CC research is grouped into three broad thematic areas: Genetic and Epigenetic alterations in cancer, Redox dysregulation and oxidative stress in cancer and DNA damage and repair mechanisms. Each of these themes will study cancer pathways and molecular targets for novel insights, and translate molecular discoveries into improved predictive and prognostic biomarkers that can be developed as clinical diagnostics for early detection of cancer.

Genetic and Epigenetic alterations in cancer will elucidate fundamental genomic mechanisms that contribute to deregulated expression oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, and contribute to cancer phenotypes such as metastasis and drug resistance.

Redox dysregulation and oxidative stress in cancer will identify cellular and molecular signaling events, which promote tumorigenesis and cancer progression.

DNA damage and repair in cancer will investigate structural and molecular mechanisms that contribute to oncogenesis.

Aim 1: Discover novel mechanistic insight into the development and progression of cancer. Program members employ a variety of systematic approaches to comprehensively identify the biochemical, genetic, and metabolic signatures of early and late-stage tumors.

Aim 2: Identify new targets with mechanistic and therapeutic significance. Members employ state-of-the-art genetic and chemical approaches to identify and validate cancer vulnerabilities for biological and therapeutic significance.

Aim 3: Translate molecular and chemical probe discoveries into new chemoprevention, therapeutic, and diagnostic modalities. Physicians, physician-scientists, and basic researchers in the program collaborate to translate mechanistic findings for development of clinical trials.

Monthly Program Meeting Details

CPS Program Meetings: First Wednesday of every month, noon - 1 p.m. 

CC Program Meetings: Fourth Friday of every month, 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.