Innovations in Women's Health

2012 Pilot Grants to Focus on Smoking Cessation, Breast and Ovarian Cancers, and Gender Differences in Aging

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Our Pilot Project Program grants for 2012 target some of the most highly relevant areas of women’s health today. These include smoking cessation, which is more difficult for women than men; breast and ovarian cancers, the second and fifth leading causes of cancer deaths among American women; breast ultrasound screening, which is increasingly being used as supplemental screening in women with dense breast tissue, and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which are more common in women than men. 

“Smoking, breast and ovarian cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease exact a huge toll on the health of women. The investigations by this year’s awardees, like all of our previously funded studies, are designed with the goal of translating new scientific findings in these important areas into real-world benefits for women,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Mazure, Director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. 

Our center’s annual pilot awards enable Yale investigators to generate previously unavailable data on important areas of women’s health. These pilot results are needed for investigators to apply for and obtain larger external grants to continue their research in these areas of women’s health. Since inception in 1998, our center has awarded more than $4.4 million in these “seed” grants, and the results from our pilot studies have generated nearly $50 million in new external grants – confirmation of the value of our research findings. 

The four 2012 Women’s Health Research at Yale pilot grant recipients are: 

  • Irina Esterlis, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry 
  • Peter M. Glazer, M.D., Ph.D. Professor and Chair of Therapeutic Radiology 
  • Regina J. Hooley, M.D. Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Radiology 
  • Flora M. Vaccarino, M.D. Professor of Neurobiology and in the Child Study Center

The Effectiveness of Breast Ultrasound Screening: Connecticut’s Experience Can Inform the Nation

Regina J. Hooley, M.D. Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Radiology

Early detection is the best strategy to reduce breast cancer mortality. Although early detection through mammography screening can reduce breast cancer mortality, it has limited ability to detect cancers in women with dense breast tissue. Because of this limitation, other screening methods, including breast ultrasound, have also been used to detect breast cancer. In 2009, Connecticut became the first state to adopt a law requiring radiologists to inform women with dense breast tissue that they may benefit from supplemental screening with ultrasound, after mammography. Two other states have now adopted legislation similar to that in Connecticut, yet a similar law was vetoed in California, primarily due to lack of data in the rates of false positive results, and concerns regarding rising healthcare costs.

Dr. Hooley will investigate the performance of breast ultrasound in women with dense breast tissue since the Connecticut law took effect. Through her review and analysis, Dr. Hooley and colleagues can determine the usefulness of ultrasound plus mammography in detecting tumors not revealed by mammography alone. As other states and the federal government continue to consider adoption of similar laws, the outcome of this study could inform the medical community, legislators, policymakers and women worldwide about the value and cost-effectiveness of breast ultrasound screening.