Pilot Study Program

The CST offers pilot funding to faculty for innovative and collaborative research focused on the elimination of tobacco-caused and related diseases in Arkansas. Pilot studies are designed to address specific gaps in scientific knowledge, methodologies, techniques, models, and the application of discoveries and interventions to community, social media, or clinical settings. The pilot study program helps faculty compete for extramurally funded grants.

Three pilot studies were funded in 2017 to UAMS faculty in the amount of $15,000. Additional future funding is based on the availability of funds in 2018.


Title: Tobacco product use and health indicators among long-haul truck drivers
PI: Joseph Su, PhD, UAMS
Co-Is:  Hao Wu, PhD, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Karen Yeary, PhD, UAMS

Project Summary: Long-haul truckers have been classified as one of the highest risk occupations in the U.S. because they regularly experience high level of occupational stress. Studies suggested that these drivers are at elevated risk of metabolic syndromes and even cancer. Although it has been suggested that dietary factors, diesel exhaust, and long sitting may contribute to the elevated risk, smoking behavior has not been highlighted. Given many long-haul truck drivers use tobacco products as a way to relief their anxiety and boredom, systematic examination of tobacco product use, including types, frequency, length, and combination use of various tobacco products and their impact on health is in great need. The National Occupational Research Agenda listed one of its intermediate research and activity goals as to reduce smoking behaviors and identify risk factors associated with smoking behaviors in transportation industry. To address these goals, this study aims to adopt theory of planned behaviors to identify factors associated with long-haul truck drivers’ smoking behaviors and exploring potential ways to reduce their smoking behaviors. This study hypothesizes that there is a heightened prevalence of tobacco product use, mental health issues and metabolic syndrome among long-haul truck drivers, and adverse health indicators are associated with the frequent and amount of tobacco product uses. This study will 1) recruit and survey long-haul truck drivers at truck stops to survey the prevalence of tobacco product uses; 2) examine mental and physical wellbeing of long-haul truck drivers and associate them with tobacco product use; and 3) identify other factors that may attenuate the associations observed. The data and samples collected in this study will enable us in a better position with statistical estimates to prepare an R01 grant application to the NIOSH for a larger cohort of long-haul truckers to address the long unanswered questions.


Title: Interaction of lung microbiome and tobacco-related insults in lung cancer
PI: Mohammed Orloff, PhD, UAMS
Co-Is: Mathew Steliga, MD UAMS, Konstantinos Arnaoutakis, MD UAMS, Pebbles Fagan, MPH, PhD, UAMS

Project Summary: Although recent evidence shows microbiome changes in lung diseases, the microbiome of lung cancer is yet to be characterized. There are considerable knowledge gaps in understanding the development and behavior of non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), a LC type, and its subsequent subtypes i.e. lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) and lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC). Our pilot analysis has revealed that genomic alterations within the proliferative and inflammatory pathways in combination with cigarette smoking are associated with lung-related disease. Further, an exploratory study revealed an NSCLC subtype-specific microbiota. Building on our pilot work, we plan to identify the interplay between tobacco, NSCLC-specific microbiota (or its products) and related host inflammatory responses that influence biological processes leading to NSCLC. In Aim 1, we will target a unique smoker population from Arkansas that has higher rates of LC than the national average. We will characterize the lung microbiome of our patients and identify the microbial communities and their activities in NSCLC subtypes and compare normal lung tissues. In Aim 2, we will assess the link between NSCLC-specific microbiota and the previously identified CD36-specific proliferative and inflammatory pathway signatures in LC pathogenesis. To enhance our understanding of NSCLC and immune-related pathways, we will test the hypothesis that the NSCLC CD36-specific disease mechanism share alterations steered by patients’ microbiota predicted by the metagenomics analysis. Our ultimate goal is to test whether the microbiota is associated with the proliferative and inflammatory pathway signatures in NSCLC and whether specific microbes in combination with the host gene (i.e. CD36) can explain progression to NSCLC and its subtypes. Our culminating goal is to identify early LC detection biomarkers, targeted treatments or stabilization of inflammation triggering factors e.g. altered bacterial community or their toxic products. This endeavor may help reduce the health care cost for managing LCs.


Title: Metabolomic Profiling from the Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey
PI: Ping Ching Hs, PhD, UAMS
Co-Is: Joseph Su, PhD, UAMS; Namvar Zohoori, Arkansas Department of Health; Pebbles Fagan, MPH, PhD, UAMS, Eric Siegel, PhD, UAMS

Project Summary: Cigarette smoking is the top cause of preventable deaths in the United States including deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The state of Arkansas has the third highest smoking prevalence rate (24.7%), and the second highest smoking attributable cancer deaths rate (39%) in the U.S. Although quitting smoking reduce lung cancer risk, other prevention strategies including lung cancer early detection are limited because there are no validated biomarkers of lung cancer risk for smokers. Therefore, we propose a novel and robust technology, namely metabolomics, to evaluate the health impact from tobacco product usage. Metabolites of both carcinogens and endogenous cellular pathways can be simultaneously determined using this technology to screen for unknown or unexpected changes in tobacco products.  The specific goals of this pilot feasibility study are to investigate the metabolic profiles, intermediate biomarkers, and their correlation among tobacco users (cigarette and smokeless) using human blood samples from the 2006-2008 Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey (ARCHES), conducted by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Our specific aims are: 1. using robust technology to determine metabolomic profiles for never, current smokers, and smokeless tobacco (ST) users; 2. compare intermediate biomarkers of adverse health outcomes (such as inflammatory markers and lipid profiles) for never, current smokers, and ST users; and 3. identify metabolomics profiles that are correlated with the intermediate biomarkers of adverse health outcomes. This study will provide important pilot data for feasibility, infrastructure and power calculations leading to R01 submissions that can assess and further perform follow-up for the whole ARCHES study (n=1,385) to investigate state-wide metabolomic profiling including smokers who used more diverse types of tobacco products. Ultimately, our project will be able to provide valuable mechanistic insights for tobacco-related diseases and their addictive potential to facilitate research integration into cessation programs and to advance innovative preventive/therapeutic strategies.