Women's Health Research at Yale Funds Studies on Partner Violence, Memory and Lung Cancer

The grant–making arm within Women’s Health Research at Yale is funding new research studies for 2005 to reduce domestic violence, examine the link between estrogen and lung cancer, and investigate estrogen’s effects on memory.

This granting structure, The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program at Yale, funds full–time Yale affiliated investigators, focusing on new directions in women’s health and on gender–specific factors in health and disease.

“Improvement in our health depends upon new knowledge that can be translated into practice,” said Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “Yet, research data on women’s health that can inform practice have been in short supply. The studies supported and funded by Women’s Health Research at Yale, including these three important new studies, are designed to uncover new information that will have a clear practical health benefit for women.”

One grant recipient, Carla Stover, associate research scientist, Child Study Center, will evaluate the effectiveness of the innovative Domestic Violence Home–Visit Intervention to prevent intimate partner violence. It was developed by the Child Development Community Policing Program at the Child Study Center and combines enhanced law enforcement, safety planning, community based advocacy, psychological screening and support.

`The study will follow 100 women who reported a domestic violence incident to the police and were assigned to the intervention program or standard police service. The hypothesis is that personal contact between police officers, advocates, and domestic violence victims can increase immediate safety for battered women, facilitate greater connection to other supportive and therapeutic services, and prevent future violent incidents.

Michael DiGiovanna, associate professor of medicine and pharmacology, and a member of the Yale Cancer Center, is studying anti–estrogen drug combinations to inhibit lung cancer growth in lung cancer cells from men and women and then determine if the therapeutic effect is gender–specific.

The combination includes a drug that inactivates a protein known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which has been shown to improve lung cancer survival, and an anti–estrogen drug to turn off the estrogen receptor (ER). In breast cancer, EGFR and ER are known to collaborate with each other to stimulate the growth of the cancer.

Studies have shown a new anti–estrogen pill reduced relapses of breast cancer and lowered the chance of developing lung cancer, DiGiovanna said. Others have found that the ER is present in lung cancers from both men and women, but in the laboratory only the cancer from females was stimulated to grow by estrogen and inhibited by anti–estrogen drugs.

In another research study, Karyn Frick, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, will clarify recent findings from a large clinical study called the Women’s Health Initiative, which suggests that treatment with estrogen and progestin significantly increases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in menopausal women. She will determine whether the effects of estrogen, progesterone and medroxyprogesterone acetate on memory and hippocampal function are influenced by the way in which these hormones are given.

“Elucidation of these issues may ultimately lead to the development of safer and more effective treatments to prevent cognitive decline and dementia in women,” Frick said.

Women’s Health Research at Yale is currently the largest, self–supporting interdisciplinary research program of its kind in the nation. It has supported over 50 innovative research projects that examine the most pressing health concerns for women today and explore sex differences in health and disease. Grant funding was made possible by the initial investment to the program by The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation.

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