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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / November 2021 / Expanding Cancer Screening Research Project Has Roots in UR CTSI-Funded Pilot Study

Expanding Cancer Screening Research Project Has Roots in UR CTSI-Funded Pilot Study

Woman looking at phone with message, "Schedule cervical screening by calling your usual women's health provider"A 2018 pilot study funded by the UR CTSI helped lay the foundation for an expanding research project testing whether a text-messaging intervention can boost screenings for cervical, colon and lung cancers. The pilot study, which focused solely on cervical cancer, and the ongoing research project leverage the Emergency Department (ED) to reach patients who are in need of cancer screenings.

The UR CTSI-funded study, led by David Adler, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Emergency Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center and an investigator at the Wilmot Cancer Institute, provided preliminary evidence that motivational text messages could increase cervical cancer screening rates.

For the pilot, Adler and co-investigator Beau Abar, Ph.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at URMC and a Wilmot Cancer Institute investigator, randomized patients who were in need of cervical cancer screening in Strong Memorial Hospital’s ED to one of two interventions: referral only or referral and motivational text messages.  

Roughly half of the participants were simply informed of their screening status and referred to their healthcare provider or to the UR Medicine Gender Wellness, Obstetrics & Gynecology. The other half received both the referral and a series motivational text messages encouraging them to set up a screening.

Upon follow up, a greater proportion of the participants who received motivational texts had scheduled a screening, which amounted to a 19 percent difference between the text intervention and the standard referral.

Those results, published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, helped Adler and Abar obtain a $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in 2020 to further explore the use of text messages to improve cervical cancer screening rates. Now, that study is expanding to include colon and lung cancer screenings with the help of a University of Rochester Research Award and a URMFG Healthcare Innovation two-year pilot award, respectively.

While their studies are ongoing, Adler and Abar hope this research can lead to better screening rates and earlier detection of these preventable diseases.


The project described in this article was supported by a UR CTSI Pilot Award through the University of Rochester CTSA award (UL1 TR002001) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The UR CTSI Pilot Studies Program provides seed funding for highly innovative research that spans the translational spectrum.

Michael Hazard | 11/3/2021

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