Grants to Expand Work on Improving Women’s Health and Understanding Gender Differences

Five Yale School of Medicine investigators have received new Pilot Project Program grants from Women’s Health Research at Yale. They will study a variety of women’s health areas and gender differences that affect disease and behavior.

The research is expected to advance scientific knowledge to improve women’s health in a number of areas, including depression in young women; osteoporosis and fragility fractures in older women; ovarian function in women who survive cancer treatments; breast cancer, which is among the leading causes of cancer deaths in women; and smoking cessation, which can be particularly difficult for women compared to men.

“This year’s investigators’ studies all are in keeping with our program’s tradition of having a clear commitment to generating new scientific information that can bring practical benefits in improving the health and well-being of women,” said Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.

The 2009 WHRY grant recipients are:

  • Hilary Blumberg, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and director, Mood Disorders Research Program. Her study will examine the role of stress in white matter development in the ventral prefrontal cortex of the brain and a suspected association with depression in adolescent girls. The work holds promise for reducing the development of depression among women and girls.
  • Karl Insogna, M.D., professor of internal medicine (endocrinology). He will determine if inhibiting serotonin production in part of the small intestine, the duodenum, should be pursued as a new way to treat osteoporosis. The ultimate aim is to develop an intervention to reduce or even prevent bone loss and the incidence of serious fractures due to fragile bones that make women much more vulnerable than men.
  • Joshua Johnson, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. He intends to determine the feasibility of using a technology identified in his laboratory to reduce the devastating loss of ovarian function that can result from chemotherapies for cancer.
  • Joann Sweasy, professor of therapeutic radiology. The purpose of her study is to develop a model of human breast cancer that would simulate the human immune system better than previous models. She intends to use the new model to develop more effective, “personalized” breast cancer treatments. The research ultimately could lead to improved outcomes for women treated for breast cancer.
  • Benjamin Toll, assistant professor of psychiatry. He intends to determine which aspects of a smoking cessation “quitline” might be particularly effective for women. As quitlines can reach millions of smokers, this knowledge could bring a substantial benefit in reducing smoking and related diseases among women. While more men than women smoke, the gap has been narrowing, and women can find it more difficult to quit compared to men. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness among both women and men.

The studies by Blumberg and Insogna are fully funded by Women’s Health Research at Yale. Johnson’s study is co-funded by the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences; Sweasy’s study is co-funded by the Yale Cancer Center; and the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at Yale is co-funding Toll’s study.

Women’s Health Research at Yale was founded in 1998 to address historic gender disparities in medical research by supporting and nurturing innovative studies on the health of women and gender-specific aspects of health and disease. Since inception, WHRY has awarded over $4 million in pilot grants to more than 55 Yale investigators.

PRESS CONTACT: Daniel P. Jones 203-764-6610

Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Karen N. Peart:, 203-432-1326