Grantees: Irina Stepanov and Caryn Lerman

Irina Stepanov

Irina Stepanov, PhD

Analytical Biochemist and Cancer Researcher
  • University of Minnesota

Irina Stepanov, Ph.D., researches the mechanisms underlying inter-individual differences in cancer risk in order to inform the development of novel approaches for identifying tobacco users who are at higher risk of developing cancer. In her studies, she collaborates with medical doctors, behavioral scientists, surveillance specialists, epidemiologists, educators, and tobacco control experts to address the complex issues of tobacco use and related exposures.

In her current study, "Nornicotine in smokeless tobacco as a precursor for carcinogen exposure," Dr. Stepanov is investigating the endogenous formation of the potent esophageal and oral carcinogen N'-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) from tobacco alkaloid nornicotine in smokeless tobacco users. The knowledge gained in this study will lead to the development of recommendations for the regulation of nornicotine levels in smokeless tobacco products in order to minimize exposure to NNN in smokeless tobacco users who are unable or unwilling to quit tobacco use.

I have been very fortunate to be mentored by and collaborate with the prominent leaders in tobacco carcinogenesis research. Their example and guidance, along with my personal motivation to contribute to the prevention of suffering caused by cancer, shaped my research interests and direction.”

Co-Principal Investigator:
Caryn Lerman

Caryn Lerman, PhD

  • University of Southern California

Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., is nationally recognized for her research in the areas of cancer prevention, nicotine addiction, and pharmacogenetics. Her work is distinguished not only by its interdisciplinary bridging, but also by its relevance to clinical practice and health policy. Her contributions to cancer prevention include the first empirical data on decision making and outcomes of genetic testing for cancer susceptibility. Her interest in the genetic underpinnings of cancer risk behaviors resulted in work that identifies genetic variants related to tobacco use and smoking cessation treatment response. These studies culminated in the first prospective stratified pharmacogenetic trial in the field of tobacco dependence, with a considerable impact on the application of precision medicine for tobacco dependence treatment.

Dr. Lerman has also created a novel research program that harnesses advances in cognitive neuroscience to promote cancer risk behavior change, laying the foundation for her receipt of a National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award (R35). Her innovative scientific program is likely to have transformative effects on current paradigms for behavioral cancer prevention.

I am passionate about transdisciplinary research to enhance our understanding about how the brain supports or constrains changes in habitual behaviors that contribute to cancer risk.”

* The Behavioral Research Program is grateful to this investigator for providing a Sample Grant Application as an excellent example of grantsmanship. The Adobe Reader is needed to read PDF files. Download Adobe Reader for free.