Kelly Shaffer, PhD Awarded a $3.1 Million NIH R37 MERIT Award

February 15, 2023 by

Kelly Shaffer

Kelly Shaffer, PhD

Kelly Shaffer, PhD, an assistant professor in the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, was awarded a 5-year, $3.1 million R37 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop a fully-automated, Internet-delivered intervention to address symptoms of sexual distress and dysfunction among breast cancer survivors. The NCI R37 Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) mechanism, awarded to primary investigators of high-scoring R01 applications with early-stage investigator status, affords the initial 5-year R01 funding period an opportunity for a 2-year extension to pursue additional research aims.

This study will use the Multiphase Optimization Strategy research framework and a factorial trial design to identify the optimal package of intervention components that balances efficacy (improvement of survivors’ sexual concerns) with participant burden (inclusion of only effective components). This study advances intervention science by rigorously testing how sexual health intervention components work through mediation analyses and identifying for whom components work best through moderator analyses. Breast cancer survivors will be enrolled from oncology clinics across the U.S. through a strategic partnership with the Wake Forest Research Base of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP).

Key members of the team include:

  • Lee Ritterband, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Center for Behavioral Health and Technology
  • Wendy Cohn, PhD, MEd, Department of Public Health Sciences
  • Shayna Showalter, MD, Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology
  • Anita Clayton, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences

This project includes a subcontract to Wake Forest (Suzanne Danhauer, PhD, & Emily Dressler, PhD) to support the NCORP collaboration, a subcontract to Fox Chase Cancer Center for the cancer-related sexual health intervention expertise of Jennifer Reese, PhD, and a consultancy with Linda Collins, PhD (New York University) who developed the MOST framework.

For award details, see NIH REPORTER:

Read more about the research ongoing at the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology:


Filed Under: Faculty, Research